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Nissan Primera (1996 - 1999)

5
reviewed by Stephen Hawksworth on 12 June 2019
5
reviewed by Spacelord77 on 29 December 2016
5
reviewed by B234R on 5 January 2015
5
reviewed by amibothered on 1 May 2014
5
reviewed by jdwood37 on 6 January 2013
5

GX 2.0 5 Door

reviewed by mjs11 on 23 October 2011
5
Overall rating
5
How it drives
4
Fuel economy
3
Tax/Insurance/Warranty costs
4
Cost of maintenance and repairs
3
Experience at the dealership
5
How practical it is
5
How you rate the manufacturer
5
Overall reliability

Brilliant, totally underated Driver/owner car

This is the second of three Primera's I own, the first being a P10 2.0 SGX (J-reg,1992) and recently a P11 2.0 GT (R-reg,1998). The first thing I fail to understand is why people always say these cars look 'bland', unless of course if you are talking of the lowest spec versions which too often go much uncared for. If anything this 'understatedness' is the reason why a well-looked after Primera whatever the age/model is such a visual treat, with a timeless calm-yet-sporty elegance about it that other contemporaneous cars (Mondeo, Vectra, Accord, Rover 400) just can't quite command (in my humble opinion of course).
Then there is the reliability: as the HJ reports say rightly, this is usually 100% particularly for the 2.0 litre engined versions. I drove my J-reg Primera in 2005-2007 -2 solid years- running at speed up and down the M40 (Birmingham-Swindon-Oxford) often daily weeks on end (working as a quality inspector at Car plants in these towns) and never suffered a single breakdown: and with only usual maintenance like tyres and the common Primera problems (exhaust pipe, rear brakes wear down easily). I still think this particular car amazing!. I've rested the J-reg at around 150,000 just to preserve it.
Then there's performance: below about 3,500rpm the SR20Di/DE engines characteristically seem under-powered - often get 'left' by smaller or especially diesel-engined cars at the start, so you need to rev the engine beyond 3,500rpm before power spikes up to a steady peak right up to the redline. And these are rev-happy engines (e.g the P11 GT goes all the way to a 9,000rpm redline on the standard tachometer!) and the more fun for it.
Comfort/Handling: The P11 while just about the same size externally, actually is slightly larger inside than the P10 model, probably due to less-curved (slab) sides, and feels more comfortable (SGX and eGT especially have a harder less compliant suspension set up though translates in sportier handling). The GT has the best ambiance as expected, usually with part-leather seats, sunroof and full electrics as standard, and handles the best. Whatever the trim however, all the Primeras have very nice direct steering (quicker rack on GT) , brilliant pedal feel, throttle response, and positioning - actually far better than even other better-rated cars (PEUGEOT, AUDI, VW especially). The only real let down to me is that you cannot get more power as standard than the GT's 150-160HP, yet with a little tuning/modification the standard SR20De and drivetrain can easily handle beyond 200 (e.g 210 -230 with a single turbo, as in Japanese and some Spanish models). Maintenance and major repairs can also cost on the stiffer side, but all parts are available from many dealers and even more cheaply/easier from scrapyards.
All in all, you just got to drive these cars to really appreciate. So much so that to most of us owners, it's been impossible to find better alternatives over the years - the P12 primera never really captured the magic and indeed in a way led to the ultimate decline in popularity of the brand (but also because we in the UK only get the mediocre 1.8 -2.2 dci engined versions: there is a 210-230 P12 'SSS' version in other markets). Nissan needs to go back and distill the original Primera essence or DNA to relaunch it in a better newer version, otherwise they will certainly continue to lose a ready market in the likes of loyal primera owners who can't (and by any means not alone) be caught in the likes of current Nissans like the Juke, Qashqai or Pixo after driving such a fine motor like the Primera, for crying out loud.

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5
reviewed by Millers57 on 29 July 2010
5
reviewed by cavy_andy on 18 July 2010
5
reviewed by danidge on 29 June 2010

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