Nissan Note 1.2 DIG-S

The styling update of the 2017 Nissan Note gives us an opportunity re-discover how suitable this supermini is for Singapore’s roads.

When the Nissan Note was launched in Singapore around 2013, Certificate of Entitlement (COE) premiums were near the $80k mark that resulted in this car selling for around $140k. Today, this sum could buy a BMW 216d Active Tourer…

A softening of COE premiums along with a healthy $10k Carbon Emissions-based Vehicles Scheme (CEVS) rebate sees the sticker price of the Nissan Note lowered to the sub-$90k price point.

At this price point, a strong case can be made for the Note as punters would be hard-pressed to find a better new car for this money.

Rather than being a Cheap-Charlie ASEAN-built model that is designed around last-generation technology, the Nissan Note is built in Japan and is based on the Renault-Nissan Alliance’s global V-platform with Euro NCAP-worthy safety credentials such as Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC), while keyless ignition comes as standard.

Perhaps for local customers, the biggest draw of the Note is how spacious its cabin really is. While it may look like a small car from the outside, its Doctor Who Tardis-like interior offers more rear legroom than any hatchback on sale today. Even when the driver’s seat is adjusted for a 1.8m frame like mine, the seat behind will easily offer another 10cm to spare before the rear passenger’s patella reaches the backrest in front.

Locally, the Note is available in two versions of the three-cylinder 1.2-litre engine. If you’ll pardon the pun, the base Note comes with a naturally-aspirated unit that makes 80hp. However, things get interesting when you step up to the DIG-S model tested here, which stands for Direct Injection Gasoline-Supercharged.

In addition to an Eaton-sourced supercharger, the clever DIG system is capable of some clever valve-trickery to improve fuel efficiency by running on a Miller Cycle that delays the closure of the intake valves until the cylinder is well into its compression stroke and therefore minimises resistance.

Besides a modest power hike to 98hp, the DIG-S Nissan claims lower fuel consumption and CO2 figures of 4.6-l/100km/ 106g/km CO2,  compared with 5.0-l/100km /117g/km CO2 for the base model. The more powerful car’s fuel figure is frustratingly tantalising for punters as it misses out on the $15k tier of CEVS rebate by just 1g/km of CO2!

As the numbers will have told you, the Nissan Note is intended more for eco than evo and to this end, it is only available with a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) which complements the car perfectly with a smooth ride that is unflustered by even the most ham-fisted drivers.

To get the best from the Note, a smooth driving style is recommended and will be rewarded with progress that feels quicker than its on-paper 0 to 100km/h time might suggest. Selecting Eco mode via the button down by the hand brake lever sets the drivetrain in its most efficient setting as well as turning the driver’s instrument panel into light show that encourages frugal acceleration. The more ‘Eco’ your driving is, the broader the turquoise coloured display is. When the engine is shut at the journey’s end, the display flashes a score of 1, 3 or 5 to tell you how efficiently you’ve been driving – the higher the number, the more Eco you are.