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The thrill of driving has taken me around the world to discover the best cars, roads and experiences. My aim is to share them with you.

Nissan Note 1.2 DIG-S

Nissan Note 1.2 DIG-S

Nissan Note 1.2 DIG-S

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.

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One unexpected but pleasant surprise about the Note is that it offers a remarkably refined and stable ride for a car of this size.
This is likely due to the fact that its wheels have been pushed as far as possible to each corner to free up interior space but it also translates to a long wheelbase of 2,600mm. To put this in perspective, if Shaquille O’Neal were to lie next to a Note, he would have nearly 30cm to spare before his head or feet lined up with the wheel hub…

On the road, the electrically-assisted power steering feels like it cuts out at around 60km/h but the driver is rewarded with a sweet, positive feel that inspires confidence at expressway speeds. With a kerb weight of just 1,070kg, the Note makes the most of the 98hp and 142Nm of torque at its disposal.

For 2017, the E12 series Note has been restyled at the front end to visually align with newer generation of Nissan models such as the new Pulsar – reviewed elsewhere in this issue – along with the Qashqai and X-trail Sport Utility Vehicles. Around the back side, the Note now gets darkened LED tail lamps.

Inside, sportier-looking a flat-bottomed steering wheel and new seat cover design sums up the changes to the cabin.

With a premium of just $3,000 over the naturally-aspirated Note 1.2 CVT, the DIG-S variant is clearly the one to go for. Besides the a more efficient and powerful supercharged engine, it also comes with factory fitted items such as LED headlamps, which can be set to turn themselves on automatically in the dark, digital climate control and a cool-looking electro-luminescent Combi meter.

Complaints? Minor ones really. While the Combi meter found on the Note DIG-S looks good, it actually lacks a coolant temperature gauge and makes do with just a warning light that unfortunately means your engine has over-heated by the time it comes on. The inability to switch the units on the trip computer from km/l or mpg to l/100km for example is another small annoyance that is unlikely to be a deal breaker or even noticed at all by most owners.

On the other hand, the good news is that there is still plenty to like about the Note such as its value for money and practicality.

By Sheldon Trollope

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Specifications

Nissan Note 1.2 DIG-S

Engine                   1,198cc 3-cylinder supercharged

CO2                        106g/km

Power                    98hp @ 5,600rpm

Torque                  142Nm @ 4,400rpm

Transmission     Continuously Variable Transmission, FWD

0-100 km/h         12.6 seconds (claimed)

Top Speed            172km/h (claimed)

Weight                  1,070kg

Basic Price          $87,800 with COE

Contact                 Tan Chong Motor Sales, 6466 7711, 6479 7711, 6266 7111

 Evo rating: 5 stars

+Space, value and fuel efficiency

- No coolant temp gauge for DIG-S variant

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