2008 Nissan Note Review

This time I am reviewing my Fiancee’s Nissan Note.  This is the top of the range Tekna spec with
the 1.6 16 valve engine.

The Note from the outside looks quite long, tall and
narrow and you might expect it to drive much like a van.  Once inside however and on the road you find
that the Note handles like a car and the higher than most driving position is
comfortable and offers a great view of the road all round.  The wheelbase is long with the wheels right
into each corner which makes for great stability and a massive amount of
useable space inside.

The Tekna comes with automatic lighting and wiper
systems, alloy wheels, part leather trim, privacy glass, climate control, front
fog lights, flex board system, underseat storage, cooled glovebox, 6 disc CD
changer, auxiliary input and Bluetooth handsfree.

The Tekna has sport seats with part leather trim.  The drivers seat is adjustable for angle,
height and reach.  Annoyingly for this
driver the height and angle adjustment are combined so you can sit high but
with the seat angled downwards or sit low with the seat angled up.  There is also no lumbar adjustment which
could be a problem for some.  The drivers
seat does get a fold down armrest.  The
steering wheel is adjustable for height though if you have hand controls fitted
then this necessitates the removal of the adjustment lever so it would be
important to set the height before the adaptation installer gets their hands on

Speaking of adaptations our Note is fitted with Cowal
Mobility push/pull accelerator/brake, Alfred Bekker steering wheel spinner and
Alfred Bekker easy release handbrake.
These were all installed by KC Mobility in Batley who, as ever, have
done a good neat job which works perfectly.

The rear seat is adjustable too – it will slide backwards
or forwards to give either more legroom or a larger boot space.  With it fully in the rear position there are
almost limo like levels of legroom in the back.
The limo theme continues with the rear privacy glass, keeping the rear
cool and kids protected from glare.  The
windows themselves are also large giving passengers a good view of the outside.  The rear seat can be moved from within the
passenger compartment or from the boot and with passengers in place if you are
strong enough!

Again for the rear passengers there are fold out trays to
hold snacks or toys etc and which also contain drinks holders.  There are large storage nets on the back of
the front seats for books and magazines, there is a central fold out armrest
and 3 headrests.  A word of advice though
– if you have kids and plan to use the rear trays to hold food items on a long
journey it might be worthwhile getting some of those gripper mats that hold
items in place on a car dashboard – the trays have a small lip on them but
items still slide about and off whilst driving…..!

The front passenger seat contains a storage box under the
seat base which is billed as a secure hiding space for valuables but as we all
know you should never leave valuables in the car – thieves do know these
supposed secret hiding spaces too!  The
front passenger gets a decent amount of legroom.

Storage up front consists of a large glovebox, which in
this spec level is cooled by the air conditioning when needed.  On the front of the glovebox is a large slot
with a deep hole which is perfect for storing books or paperwork or a Blue
badge.  In the centre console is a large
space with 2 cupholders and beside the drivers seat behind the handbrake is a
small slot perfect for storing your mobile phone.  There is also a useful shelf on top of the
dashboard which runs the whole width of the car.

The Tekna spec in car entertainment consists of a 6 disc
in dash CD changer with radio and auxiliary input, so you can connect your iPod
or other device which has a 3.5mm headphone jack.  It also includes a Bluetooth handsfree system
which routes calls to your mobile through the car sound system.  This system also displays the caller details
on the dashboard and has a microphone just above the interior mirror.  The phone and sound system can be controlled
from the steering wheel.  One noticeable
downside of the sound system is that it does sound a bit tinny and quite nasty
at higher volumes.

The boot has a large, square opening and on the Tekna
model has the flex board system.  This
consists of 2 boards which form a “false” boot floor level with the rear bumper
so there is no lip.  These boards are
carpeted on one side while on the other there is a waterproof wipe clean
surface.  The boards can be removed
completely to reveal more space underneath (as well as the handle to move the
rear seat) and there are recesses in the “real” floor to hold them there.  The spare wheel and tools are underneath this
“real” floor.

Visibility from the driving position is good, even with a
full load of passengers.  The Note is
easy to position and manoeuvre. This makes parking easy in tight spaces.  Overtaking is easy with the 1.6 and when
hitting the kickdown the engine does have a bit of a growl to it and pulls the
car forwards at quite a pace.

Whilst the Note is good in the city and suburbs it is
also versatile and is comfortable and powerful enough to cope with longer
journeys.  One downside though is that
the 1.6 can be noisy at motorway speeds – a point that has been noticed by
other reviewers.

As regards accessibility the Note’s high driving seat can
make access and egress for some easier, the door opening for all doors is wide
and the boot (contrary to Ricability’s report) will take a folding wheelchair
with the rear seats in the upright position.
A rigid chair will also go in with the rear wheels removed and the
backrest folded down.  The only thing
that is necessary to achieve this is to take the flex boards out, place them on
the floor, remove the parcel shelf and slide the rear seat forwards.  This still gives adequate legroom for rear
seat passengers.

2011 Citroen C3 Review

Continuing the French trend in our choice of cars lately,
my Fiancee recently chose a Citroen C3 Exclusive as her current car through the
Motability scheme.  This is the new 2011
version of this 10 year old design and has been brought bang up to date.

The Exclusive is the top of the range and the 1.6 Auto is
currently available with nil advance payment through Motability.  Being top of the range it comes with various
features including the fantastic Zenith windscreen – a large panoramic piece of
glass which extends to the B pillars, lots of chrome trim on the outside and
alcantara trim inside.

As is usual for us the car has been fitted with hand
controls (Cowal Mobility), a steering wheel spinner (Jeff Gosling) and easy
release handbrake (Alfred Bekker) all installed by KC Mobility of Batley, who
have as usual done a top notch job.  On
this car the majority of the rods for the accelerator and brake have been
hidden behind the fascia underneath the steering wheel, making for a tidy and
comfortable install which works perfectly.

The C3 is very easy to drive with the 1.6 engine
providing plenty of power – it is a small light car.  The auto gearbox, as is common on so many
cars nowadays, can be used as a pseudo manual, but left in auto mode it is very
smooth.  The only downside this reviewer
can find is the steering.  The C3 uses
electric power steering which is incredibly light.  For some people this might be a good thing
and maybe even essential but personally I find it removes any feel for the road
surface.  As is common it is important to
make sure the steering column is set correctly for the driver before the hand
controls are fitted as it is fixed in position once the install is done.

Both driver and front passenger get seats which are
adjustable for legroom, height and angle.
Rear passengers get 3 headrests and full 3 point seatbelts.  All seats are comfortable though bear in mind
this is a small car and doesn’t have acres of space in the rear – tall people
might prefer to stick to the front.

As for features, the C3 is brimming with the latest
prerequisites.  You have as standard on
the Exclusive a CD based MP3 player with built in Bluetooth handsfree for phone
calls and music streaming from compatible phones.  You also get an auxiliary input in the form
of a 3.5mm jack and a USB input for either an iPod or USB stick.

There is full climate control, cruise control, speed
limiter and remote control for the stereo.
All doors have electric windows, automatic on the front and manual on
the rear.  The rear doors also have an
electronic child safety system which prevents the doors and windows being
opened when active.

There is also a trip computer showing details of
estimated range remaining and the current and average MPG figures.  This also has 2 separate sets of trip details
so different sets of figures can be obtained.
Perhaps one of the more unusual features of the C3 is the built in air
freshener which supplies a scent via the centre dashboard vents.  This can be changed by buying the relevant
cartridge from your local Citroen dealer.

I can get my rigid wheelchair in the boot, but this
requires that the rear seat be folded down and the parcel shelf removed.  My folding chair will go in with the wheels
and footrests removed and the back folded down but again this is purely down to
the size of the car.

On the outside the car looks good.  It shares headlights, wings and bonnet with
the sportier Citroen DS3 so does have quite a macho look.  I’m not usually a fan of lots of chrome on a
car but the C3 Exclusive comes with chrome trim at the bottom of the windows,
on the door handles, around the grille and at the bottom of the tailgate and it
does look pretty good.

2007 Vauxhall Astra Review

In 2006, my disability meant that I had my full manual
driving license revoked and I was forced to sell my beloved Vauxhall Vectra.
After I had undergone a full driving assessment I was issued a three year
licence that stipulated that I had to drive an automatic and use hand controls.
I applied for DLA and upon being awarded the higher rate of the mobility component;
I decided to join the Motability scheme.

Being a Vauxhall man through and through, I opted for the
Astra with the Design spec, boasting half-leather interior, a smart ‘Piano
Black’ dashboard trim MP3/CD/radio sound system with 7 speakers, automatic
lights and wipers and an automatically dipping rear view mirror (Vauxhall call
it the Sight and Light Pack).  I also
opted to have Cruise Control installed.
This is all wrapped up in a Sapphire Black paint job.

Having decided on the car, I visited my local dealer
(Evans Halshaw in Wakefield) and spoke to the Motability specialist there.  The order was placed quickly and smoothly and
included the necessary adaptations – a Cowal Mobility push/pull accelerator/brake
and Alfred Bekker steering  wheel knob
and easy release handbrake, the cost of which was covered under the Motability
scheme.  The advance payment for the car
was £199 which I considered to be fantastic considering the level of comfort
and mobility it offered.

My adaptations were installed by KC Mobility of Batley
who were friendly and helpful throughout and explained the controls to me.  The installation is neat and reliable, with
the rods attached to the accelerator and brake pedals concealed behind the

Since taking delivery of the car in April 2007 I have
covered some 26,000+ miles, mostly without problems.  In March 2008 the auto gearbox failed on my
way to work, but the Motability breakdown team soon picked the car up and had a
hire car delivered to me at the office.
I was particularly impressed that the hire car was the same model and
spec as mine, though I was glad to get my own car (fitted with a new gearbox) back
2 weeks later!

Since then the car has been faultless.  The 1.8 petrol engine is quiet and smooth,
whether in city traffic or on the open road.
The power delivery in normal (or “economy”) mode is smooth and
progressive and you tend to only notice the gear changes  because of the changing number on the
dashboard display. This also avoids the need to look down to check what has
been selected.

Press the seemingly innocuous Sport button on the
dashboard though and the character of the car changes completely – the
suspension stiffens, the steering sharpens up and the throttle response becomes
noticeably quicker. Gear changes are held off until higher in the rev range
(almost in the red zone) and the car becomes a beast – in this mode the gear
changes are very noticeable, as is the engine noise.

The engine is the 1.8 16 valve with VVTi (Variable Valve
Timing and injection).  This produces
around 140PS which is more than enough to propel this car at a decent rate of
speed.  This is mated to a 4-speed fully
automatic gearbox.

Getting in and out of the car can be tricky as the seating
position is quite low compared to some, but once inside the driver is faced
with a dashboard and controls that are logical and within easy reach.  There is plenty of leg and head room and a
variety of adjustments can be made to the driving position.  One downside to the hand controls is that
they make it impossible to adjust the reach on the steering wheel once they
have been installed so it is important to get this set correctly before
installation.  The height adjustment on
the steering wheel is still useable.

The car has plenty of space for passengers, luggage and
mobility aids; it can happily transport my fiancée and I , three kids, my
wheelchair and walking stick and a weeks shopping.  The boot can be closed from a wheelchair
position by grabbing the side just below the rear screen and a really neat and
useful feature of this trim level is the full open/close feature – you can open
or close all the windows from the remote key.
This can be useful if you need to grab onto something having placed the
wheelchair in the boot on your way to the drivers door. The car is easily
manoeuvrable with 2.5 turns lock to lock on the steering and great visibility
all round.

The entertainment system in the car (Vauxhall call it
“Infotainment”!) is a great piece of kit.
Though not up to audiophile standards it does boast an MP3 player which
plays CDs with MP3 files burnt on them, which means that depending on quality
you can get some 10 or possibly more albums on one CD. Track information is
displayed on the dashboard and the sound is good quality with plenty of power
behind it – important if you spend a lot of time in your car and like your
music.  I listen to anything from
classical to R&B and whatever I have on it is played well.

The lighting, wipers and rear view mirror are all
automatic, although you can switch the lighting to manual mode if required.  In the auto setting the lights can come on
when you go under a bridge and I have known them to cause confusion at some
junctions with bridges nearby as people can think you are flashing the lights
at them, but it is a useful feature.  The
wipers are quick to respond and adapt to changing conditions.  A neat feature of the wipers is that when they
are in use and you select reverse gear the rear wiper comes on – very thoughtful!  The rear view mirror inside the car dims
automatically to prevent dazzling if it senses that someone behind has main
beam headlights on or badly adjusted headlights.  The exterior mirrors are heated and
electrically adjusted.

Long journeys in the car are comfortable and relaxing,
helped by the cruise control which is offered as an optional extra.  This allows the driver to set a speed between
30 and 120MPH and the car will then maintain that speed unless the brake is
operated or the system switched off.
Whilst cruise control is switched on it is possible to adjust the speed
in either direction incrementally by pressing the up or down button.  If the system has been turned off either
manually or by operating the brake then the preset speed can be regained at the
touch of a button if need be.

All in all I am very happy with the car and can easily
see myself sticking with Vauxhall when it comes time to change next year – I’m
already tempted by the Insignia.