It will be more attractive if features offered in other “advanced” markets are made available in Thailand
Nissan is trying hard to expand its product line-up in Thailand and regain its lost market share.
The company now ranks fifth among Japanese brands in Thailand, behind smaller automaker such as Mitsubishi, achieving only a 6.8-per cent market share during the first quarter of the year.
But things are improving for Nissan, as Q1 sales showed a 13-per cent growth, thanks to the introduction of new products, such as the Note subcompact hatchback.
Well, it seems like Nissan is banking much on the Note, despite the fact that the model is starting to age, and the new March (Micra) that is being introduced in Europe. The current March offered in Thailand is just out of touch with current trends with its Penguin Village retro-ish look, and a smart-looking new model needs to be introduced quickly to secure a large number of eco car customers in the country.
Unlike in other markets with a wide range of engine choices such as supercharged, diesel and “E-Power” hybrid, in Thailand, the Note is available only with a basic 3-cylinder 1.2-litre engine. The two trim levels come with price tags of Bt568,000 (V CVT) and Bt640,000 (VL CVT). A manual transmission is not offered.
The biggest attraction of the Note is the huge interior space and convenience features that will make families happy. The tall roof means that there is plenty of headroom thanks to the boxy design, and the 2,600mm wheelbase allows for lots of legroom as well.
Unfortunately, the Thai-made Note doesn’t come with as many features as its European siblings. For example, the rear seat cushion doesn't have a sliding function, so it doesn’t benefit from a 411-litre luggage area (just 325 litres), and it doesn’t get a flat-floor feature either. But the rear seat backrests are split-foldable, and still, offers huge cargo space when they are down.
A cool feature that should be offered, but is not, is the super Flexiboard solution for the luggage compartment, allowing you to tailor the layout to numerous different compartments (with a waterproof side for wet stuff).
In contrast to what I think is a cool and ultra-modern exterior, the interior takes on a bubble-gummer design with round air vents and quirky-looking door openers. The plasticky materials aren’t too impressive either.
The first thing that catches your attention instantly once on the driver’s seat is the flat-bottomed steering wheel.
“Wow just like a Mercedes-Benz, but it won’t drive the same for sure,” I thought.
And it didn’t.
Utilising the same 3-pot eco car motor (79ps, 106Nm) as the March and Almera with Euro 4 emission (120g/km CO2), the Note takes ages to accelerate (probably over 13 seconds from 0-100km/h), even with the efficient CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission). There’s a hollow torque-less vacuum at low engine speeds when it’s in normal driving mode, and it was driving me nuts. The solution was to press the sport button on the gearshift knob (every time after starting the engine) and things get better, with improved throttle response and pulling power for both city and highway driving.
When in sport mode, the CVT does manufacture artificial rev drops, giving you that automatic gearbox feeling. But it’s pretty crude, often jerking at low speeds when shifting between R and D.
The front strut and rear torsion beam suspension is tuned for local roads and offers decent comfort levels. There are stabilisers front and rear to keep the Note stable at highway speeds too.
Turning circle isn’t so generous, and many times you’ll end up having to back up one extra time to make that simple u-turn.
The Note comes with a modern safety package, with Intelligent Forward Collision Warning, Intelligent Emergency Braking, Lane Departure Warning offered in addition to the regular VSC and Hill Start Assist.
There is also a Moving Object Detection system that monitors and warns of moving objects and people around the vehicle. Makes you think of the Terminator’s attack mode.
Although many of these systems are kind of a nuisance for serious drivers with all its beeping, inexperienced drivers will benefit and learn to keep a safe distance from the vehicle up front as well as brake very smoothly. Otherwise, …beep beep beep!
Cruising along in the Note on the motorway is nice, with the large interior, good visibility and powerful automatic climate control providing a comfy environment.
The infotainment system, supplied by Kenwood, is pretty good and easy to use. You need to set it up properly, otherwise, it can sound really bad. First, switch off the loudness function and then proceed to adjust or bypass the graphic equaliser. Otherwise, the excess loudness boost will mess everything up through those low-cost OEM speakers.
There are two glove boxes (the USB slot is in the top one), and there is a bit of storage space between the front seats. Just minimal though, nothing to get excited about.
The Nissan Note is taxed as an Eco Car but is priced in the same range as the lower-to-mid Honda Jazz models and proves to be a worthy competitor with its high-tech safety package and large interior capacity.
But surprisingly it still seems incomplete – there is still room to fill in terms of engine choices and equipment level. In fact, features offered in other “advanced” markets should also be made available here, and the Note will be more attractive.
Nissan Note 1.2 CVT VL Specs
Engine: 3-cylinder DOHC 12-valve CVTC
Bore and stroke: 78.0x83.6mm
Compression ratio: 10.2:1
Max power: 79ps/6,000rpm
Max torque: 106Nm/4,400rpm
Final drive ratio: 3.7539
Suspension (f/r): McPherson strut, stabiliser/torsion beam, stabiliser
Steering: electrically-powered rack-and-pinion
Turning circle: 10.4 metres
Brakes (f/r): vented disc/drum
Track (f/r): 1,480/1,485
Wheels: 15-in alloy
Tires: 185/65 R15
Fuel tank capacity: 41 litres
Distributor: Nissan Motor Thailand Co Ltd