Review: Nissan Primera (2002 – 2006)


Different looking, but a bit smaller than a Mondeo or Vectra.

1.8 petrol version dull to drive. Diesels have same problems as X-Trail.

Nissan Primera (2002 – 2006): At A Glance

I first clapped eyes on the Nissan Primera at the 2001 Barcelona Motor Show. Wow, that's different, I thought. Inside is no less of a shock to the senses. All the main instruments and controls are in the centre. And they require a little bit of learning.

For a start, the Primera doesn't have rear parking bleepers. Instead it has a TV camera that transmits what's behind to the TV screen in front of you. So you can actually see small children, pets, bicycles and low-lying stone buttresses. There are no excuses for a flat cat or bent back bumper with this car.

The screen doubles up as a display for the radio/CD player, for the climate control and for the trip and service computer. There's not much it doesn't tell you. And on the SVE model it trebles up as the display for Nissan's brilliant 'Birdview' satellite navigation system. 

What does a Nissan Primera (2002 – 2006) cost?

What's the Nissan Primera (2002 – 2006) like to drive?

The 1.8SVE is nothing special at all. It's not bad. It handles okay with no nasty surprises. It's goes reasonably well, but no better. Like some members of the opposite sex it just doesn't match up to the promise of its looks. And that's strange, because the bland-looking Primera II was a quick, sensational-handling car, with its multi-link rear suspension fine-tuned on the Nurburgring.

I suppose I put my problem with it down to the steering. It's very light and quite often I couldn't feel what the car was up to through it and ended up chopping my way through a corner rather than following the proper line. Even holding the car on line through a well-known corner it started to drift where an old-shape Mondeo would have held its line. Don't get me wrong. The handling isn't terrible. But this is no modern Peugeot or Ford, and that's a shame.

The other bugbear is the 1.8 engine. It puts out an apparently healthy 116PS at 5,600rpm and 163Nm torque at 4,000rpm, but punchy it isn't. 060 is a really slow 11.5 seconds, top speed is a weak 117mph and, though the combined consumption is supposed to be 38.2 mpg, all I managed was 31.5.

The 138 bhp 2.0 16v with six-speed gearbox is only £500 more, so if you want a petrol engine this is far better value for money. It also drives much better and is more relaxed on the motorway. But to accelerate you have to change from 6th to 5th or 4th. And it isn;t fantastically economical. I only averaged about 31mpg.

If you want economy, it has to be 136PS 2.2 Di diesel, also with six-speed manual box. Its average consumption of nearly 50mpg, strong performance and relaxed cruising at 30mph per 1,000 rpm are worth the price premium and the car is an excellent alternative to the previously class leading Passat 130 TDI PD and Mondeo 130 TDCI.

What's my verdict? There's a lot to like about the Primera 1.8SVE, but as a driver's car it doesn't hold a candle to the Mondeo 1.8LX. The 2.0 litre petrol and 2.2 Di are hugely better cars and much more competitive against the opposition, especially the 50mpg six-speed diesel. For a busy, high-mileage rep, the 2.2Di with Birdview satnav has to be an excellent package.

Engine MPG 0-62 CO2
1.8 16V 38 mpg 12.1–12.3 s 177 g/km

Real MPG average for a Nissan Primera (2002 – 2006)

Real MPG was created following thousands of readers telling us that their cars could not match the official figures.

Real MPG gives real world data from drivers like you to show how much fuel a vehicle really uses.

Average performance


Real MPG

29–44 mpg

MPGs submitted


Diesel or petrol? If you're unsure whether to go for a petrol or diesel (or even an electric model if it's available), then you need our Petrol or Diesel? calculator. It does the maths on petrols, diesels and electric cars to show which is best suited to you.

What have we been asked about the Nissan Primera (2002 – 2006)?

Every day we're asked hundreds of questions from car buyers and owners through Ask Honest John. Our team of experts, including the nation's favourite motoring agony uncle - Honest John himself - answer queries and conudrums ranging from what car to buy to how to care for it as an owner. If you could do with a spot of friendly advice before buying you're next car, get in touch and we'll do what we can to help.

Ask HJ

Heavy steering on Nissan Primera

I've just purchased a Nissan Primera with 39,500 miles on the clock. I’ve noticed the steering is very heavy, especially when turning. What can be done to rectify this?
This model had a pumped hydraulic power assisted steering system. Could be the pump. Could be the rack. First thing to do is check the level of PAS fluid.
Answered by Honest John
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What do owners think?

Our view gives your our opinion, based on driving hundreds of cars every year, but you can't beat the views of someone who lives with a car day-in, day out.

  • 5 star 33%
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  • 3 star 33%
  • 2 star 33%
  • 1 star

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