Nissan Primera Hatchback 1996 - 1999

Nissan Primera Hatchback 1996 - 1999

Review by it
Monday, May 16, 2016


  • It comes with plenty of equipment and is spacious
  • It is very good to drive
  • It has proven to be extremely reliable over the year


  • Bland and uninspiring styling


The Primera’s bland styling means that most people don’t consider buying it, but as a cheap family car you could do a lot worse. It comes with good engines, especially the 2.0-litre petrol, a spacious interior and provides an involving drive with its supple suspension, accurate steering and excellent body control.

Exterior and Interior

The Primera is pretty dull to look at no matter if you are looking for the hatchback, estate or saloon models. Inside the looks don’t improve much, but there is plenty of space with more than enough head and leg room for all the passengers on board. The seats are all comfortable too and the back row splits and folds to increase the boot space from a generous size to a large open space in all the models. The dash may not be the nicest or most fashionable to look at, but it is well constructed and made out of quality materials. Ergonomically it is well balanced with everything being placed exactly where you would expect it to be and it’s all controls are very easy and straight forward to use. When choosing a trim level we’d go for either the SE or Sport models. The SE adds a lot more kit than the basic standard trim levels such as electric windows, air-con, alloys and extra safety features. The Sport trim adds a little bit of class to the Primera with aluminium styling being scattered throughout the cabin and the addition of sports seats.

Performance and Economy

The entry level 1.6-litre is a capable little unit, but it is nothing more than adequate as it lacks any real power taking 13.6 seconds to get to 60mph. It does achieve 38mpg though which is respectable, but the 1.8-litre records the same economy though making it the better choice between the two engines. It is also quicker by three seconds taking 10.6 seconds to get from 0 to 60mph. The 140bhp 2.0-litre petrol is our top choice as its brisk and responsive going from a standing start to 60mph in 9.3 seconds, whilst still achieving a good 34mpg. There is also the 2.0 TD which is the most frugal of the engines achieving 43mpg. It is noisy though and as slow as the 1.6-litre which negates the few extra miles per gallon you can save by buying it. The manual gearbox is the one to go for in the 2.0-litre petrol engine as it gets the best out of the engine whilst the CVT automatic gearbox saps both power and fuel efficiency. Insurance costs are decent with the entry level 1.6-litre falling into group 7 and the top of the range 2.0-litre in group 12.

Like to Drive

The Primera may be bland looking but thankfully it drives far better than it looks. It has good handling which is aided by plenty of grip. The suspension is supple soaking up all the bumps in the road whilst still providing excellent body control in the corners. The Sport+ trim stiffens up the suspension to give a sharper and more involving ride. However, there is always road and engine noise present in the cabin and this is even more evident at higher speeds.

Faults and Repairs

The Primera has proven to be extremely reliable over the years, but there are still a few things to look out for. The 1.6-litre and 1.8-litre models built in 2001 were subjected to a recall due to a fault that caused them to keep stalling, so make sure that work to fix this has been carried out. The main areas of complaint have been with the electrics, especially the climate control, the suspension and the axle. The alloys on the Primera have been known to suffer from corrosion problems so be sure to check the wheels carefully for this and for any touch up work. Other than that there should be few other problems, but make sure that the vehicle has a full service history before parting with your cash. Servicing and repair costs are fairly cheap with it costing no more than any of its rivals at main stream dealers. However, if you go to a good independent specialist you can reduce it by at least a quarter.