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Next Nissan e-Note to be belated Pulsar successor

Right Note: Nissan Australia has been without a mainstream hatchback since 2017, but they may change soon as the next-generation e-Note looks increasingly likely to join its range.

Nissan set to re-enter small-hatch space in Australia with next-gen hybrid e-Note

5 Nov 2019


NISSAN Australia is preparing to return to the mainstream passenger-car segment it abandoned two years ago with the introduction of the third-generation Note hatchback.


But there is a catch: pencilled in as a 2021 model, the yet-to-be-revealed redesign is set to surface only as the hybrid e-Note variant in Australia, meaning it will employ a petrol engine and an electric motor shared with the Leaf battery-electric vehicle (BEV).


Unlike most other hybrids like the Toyota Prius, however, only the motor will drive the wheels, in place of a conventional transmission, meaning that the engine is there to power the motor and recharge a battery pack only. Nissan calls this system ‘e-Power’.


While Nissan Australia managing director Stephen Lester would not confirm the arrival of the next e-Note to Australia, he did say a decision is imminent and will be announced in the not too distant future.


“Finding a product that fits the market has to also be easily positioned… there is no point in having a car in any segment that cannot be positioned properly,” he said.


“We don’t have a car under $25,000 and that represents 35 per cent of the market, and we still don’t have a passenger car other than the Leaf, which is $50,000. And at that price, even though that car is amazing, it doesn’t fulfil entry-level components.


“The next Note certainly satisfies the components that fix that. Whether it is e-Power or not has yet to be determined, and even whether it ends up being Note at all we’ve not yet decided.”


That said, Mr Lester is convinced that Australia is ready to embrace the high economy and low emissions benefits of Nissan’s patented hybrid system, while there is a strong chance that e-Power might end up being the dominant powertrain in all future models.


“I think e-Power would go very, very well in Australia,” he said. “And at the moment, though a decision has been made whether we exclusively go with e-Power in Australia, we certainly believe the combination of e-Power and full EV as we see in the Leaf today is certainly a potent and formidable opportunity that consumers are gravitating towards at a quicker rate than previously anticipated in the market.”


The existing e-Note, launched in Japan two years ago and based on the Honda Jazz-style, second-generation E12 Note first seen in 2012, has been a runaway hit for Nissan in its home market as it is seen as an easy and accessible step from a normal internal-combustion engine to a BEV without the complexities of more traditional hybrid systems like Toyota’s.


It is expected that the E13 Note will debut sometime next year in Japan, with a larger body rumoured, bringing more interior space and greater cargo-carrying capability.


Whether the series, which started 15 years ago overseas, retains the angular, near-monospace silhouette, is not yet known.


What has been revealed by the company is progress in the areas of perceived quality. As previewed to the Australian media at various technology workshops Nissan held after the motor show in Tokyo last week, the cabin will embrace a bold, fresh simplicity with significantly improved design and better materials and trim.


Accompanying a big lift in multimedia and driver-assist technologies, the result should match Europe’s best, according to one Nissan spokesman.


Both Note generations have employed the Renault/Nissan Alliance’s B/V light-car platform in the past and an evolution of that as found in the European Nissan K14 Micra and Renault Clio is expected to also underpin the redesigned version. This means a MacPherson strut-style front end and a torsion-beam rear suspension system.


Whether the e-Note also carries through with the current E12 model’s 1.2-litre HR12DE e-Power three-cylinder petrol engine and EM57 electric motor remains to be seen.


Nissan says e-Power-powered models carry a circa-$4000 or 300,000 Yen premium over their ICE counterparts, meaning that the e-Note in Australia could launch with a price tag of around $25,000, taking into account that even the next-generation Note will probably be slightly smaller than the Toyota Corolla. 


According to Nissan global head of product planning Ivan Espinosa, the next e-Note will be a global model priced to succeed.


“The beauty of e-Power is, in some markets where EV infrastructure is not ready or where the customers don’t have access to EVs, e-Power will allow customers to effectively experience EV driving… the behaviour is very close to an EV,” he said.


“I can’t comment on price (of the new model), but of course you can be sure we will be very competitive. We want to democratise the technology, to have it in an accessible way for consumers.”

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