Nissan Primera 2.0 LX Diesel Hatchback
The Primera is being quite heavily pushed on the TV at the moment, We've all seen the man slalom round the supermarket, or engrossed in a Arcade driving game, or with a mobile phone playing a ridiculous tunes at inopportune moments. I always find these adverts strange as they focus entirely on the plonker who drives the oppositions car and only in the last few second give you a brief glimpse of the Primera its self.
And now I know why, Its just so dull looking. Its not that it's ugly, its not that it's outrageously off the wall, it's just so bland as to be completely anonymous. Parked up near a marvelous metallic maroon Peugeot 406 you could help but overlook it despite its bright red paint work, and add on body addenda. The small wheels dont help, but even with larger ones ensconced under the arches it wouldnt set your heart racing.
First thing to do is get in the thing and to do so in your hand
you have the cheapest key Nissan could possibly have made and still manage to call it a
key. The finger end is really quite tiny and affords little leverage. Compare this to the
swish key sets found on most new vehicles and you begin to worry about things like cost
cutting and build quality.
The first impression of the car is how low it feels, with the seat down you really do feel as if your sat on the floor, and externally the deep front and rear valances exaggerate its low stance. For those of a shorter stature there is height adjustment on the seat along with a raft of other adjustment to fine-tune the position.
The seats are not the most padded in the world but they are comfortable and do at least have large side bolsters on base and back to hold you in place
The interior is at least an improvement on the exterior. Neatly
designed and laid out with reasonable quality materials. All the controls are within easy
reach, and all function nicely. The cloth used for the trim isn't exciting but then again
it's not gaudy either. Nissan has thankfully moved a long way from the jazzy twee
interiors of early Japanese cars. The dash binnacle is a masterpiece of understatement, it
has all the usual dials and readouts but each dial uses only a minimal amount of
graduation marks and it registers very easily on the eye.
In days of old Datsuns were renowned for being
Nissans have changed some what, sure it has all the basic good stuff Front and rear electric windows, electric mirrors , manual sunroof, PAS, ABS etc, but all the useless noddy stuff is thankfully relegated to the mists of time. In their place has come some real build quality and design excellence, a much better mix as far as Im concerned.
I must admit I was expecting a somewhat larger car than this. Legroom in the rear looks quite tight, and shoulder room in the front is a bit limited. Whether you see it as small for its class or merely nicely compact is down to you. The boot is a decent size as long as you not trading from a Mondeo. At least the hatch back layout offers a good range of versatility. Perhaps these cars would suit someone who occasionally needs Mondeo size but can live with Escort compactness most of the time.
Driving this at least allows me to check out the state of
Japanese technology in the Diesel department. We know that they are the masters of the
Petrol engine but how are their oil burners.
|First impressions are not to good the Heater plugs
need good a while to warm up in this example at least. And once the engine starts at
tick over it makes no disguise of the power source under the bonnet. Start it revving
though and it smoothes out nicely, the exhaust chirping in with a nice rasping sound.
The engine is a two litre diesel with a claimed 75bhp peak, unfortunately they appear to be lazy bonsai horses, that dont want to do any work at the lower ranges of the rev range.
I have a simple test of real top gear power, it involves a stretch of road on the way home, where you negotiate a left hander onto the motorway at around 30mph, and then bury the throttle as you run up a long but slight incline. The point being to have gathered enough speed to switch across 3 lanes into right hand side before the lanes split. Even my shoddy old 1800 turbo diesel crests the rise around 70mph but the Primera would be pushed to make 60mph. The paucity of torque is only exacerbated by the long leggedness of fifth gear
Luckily you are rescued by a short and slick gear change which is so pleasant in use that it takes a while to realise how weak the engine is in flexibility terms.
Of course long top gears and low power outputs can give excellent fuel figures, and on paper the Primera can be really economical, but if you start accessing the gearbox to help you along , then those high official MPG lies are going to start looking a very long way away indeed.
Whilst this may not be the pick of Nissans crop in terms of Motive power units, It doesnt detract from the Primera's good side namely its handling. From the pilots point of view it really is a sweet car to drive. Granted the steering is a little wooden and devoid of feedback, but it is nicely weighted never heavy but never overly light. This is though supposed to be a mainstream saloon, so live wire steering was never going to be on the menu.
What the steering cant detract from is the basic correctness of the chassis, the suspension is a nicely judged balance of ride and road holding, erring slightly on the firm side. At slow and medium speeds the Primera can but chucked around like a super-mini and it displays plenty of grip with nary a twitch at either end. Even better is its unerring stability at speed where it runs arrow straight holding its line perfectly no matter what dips, rises, cambers and puddles it is forced to run through.
And believe me it has run through some real heavy downpours recently, where the sheer thickness of the blanket of water on the road had my knuckles tightening as I approached them, but the Primera simple shot through without a twitch finding its way either to my tightly gripping hands , or my tightly clenched backside.
ABS was invented for monsoon season in Manchester and Nissans ABS is as good as everybody elses version, Nissan scores extra marks though for a brake pedal you can actually press and use to stop hard without the ABS cutting in. Some of this maybe down to the good grip generated by the chassis, but much is also down to the set up of the ABS sensors which dont insist on nannying you by constantly modulating the brakes under even the lightest pedal pressure.
Well the Nissan is going back now but Its certainly opened my eyes to Japanese cars. Despite its dull looks it really is a very nice car to drive. I can only imagine that the petrol versions are much the same only better. If I ever worked constant night shift or I get turned into a Vampire I would definitely consider one, but whilst I can still go outside in daylight, or Nissan get round to a major facelift I just could not cope with its dull looks.
If you believe beauty is only skin deep and not have your attention distracted by the seductive bodywork of the car next to yours then this would be the car for you.
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