Nissan Primera Saloon 2002 - 2004

Nissan Primera Saloon 2002 - 2004

Review by it
Monday, May 16, 2016


  • Unusual appearance
  • A spacious and comfortable cabin
  • Economical engines


  • Bland handling characteristics


The 3rd generation Nissan Primera is a product of collaboration agreement between Renault and Nissan that was closed in 1999 in order to exchange technologies, methods and platforms. The new Primera is the first all-new vehicle developed within the alliance. The Primera and Renault Laguna were made from the partnership, althought the Primera is slightly smaller than the Renault's Laguna as they had to make sure the Japanese medium-sized car didn't compete too much.

Exterior and Interior

The Primera is a head-turner. Whether the car is beautiful or not, is something that everyone has to decide for themselves, however, there's no doubt that the Primera is one of those cars that was put on the production line straight from the concept stage without 'normalising' the car or bringing it under the, so called, acceptable standards. It's a very smooth and fluid car with indistinct transitions between the bonnet and the windscreen and between the roofline and the rear end. The Primera tries to deceive you into thinking that it's a single-volume vehicle, something like a stretched mini-van. However, it is actually a sedan with rather good body proportions. Although considered a revolutionary vehicle, it was a bit too revolutionary for the mainstream customers, hence it stayed in the European showrooms only for 4 years (Nissan continued selling the cars in some Asian and Eastern European markets). The interior is less radical, even maybe too far removed for a car with such a striking appearance. There's nothing that can be faulted, but you certainly wouldn't sing its praises either. The materials are ok, and so is the craftsmanship, however, you can notice that the materials used are rather cheap. The dashboard is easy to read and most of the controls are in quite intuitive positions, a sign that the ergonomics specialists have done their job properly. For a slightly more zing to the interior design, you can try to find the top-spec edition that comes with aluminium-themed trim and smarter alloy wheels.

Performance and Economy

The entry-level modification comes with a 1.8-litre petrol engine, and although it has got more than 100 horses, it may feel rather bland. The 2.0-litre petrol is the optimum version. You can choose a manual, auto or even a CVT (continuous variable transmission) edition. The CVT on such a big car is truly unexpected, they usually install CVTs on tiny city cars and perhaps they should stick with it that way as the large 2.0-litre engine clearly struggles with the variable transmission. This leads to the Primera revving higher than normal contributing to wear and to an excessive noise level. To get the most out of the engine, the manual gearbox will be the best option and you can even get an under-10 second acceleration to 60mph. The 1.8-litre engine, that regardless of its sluggish nature is still decent enough for driving in a town, delivers 38mpg. The 2.0-litre in the manual mode will deliver 32mpg. As for the diesels, both are very similar. The only difference is that the older version is a direct injection turbo diesel, while the newer is a common rail. Both will reach around 46mpg, but the common rail version has a slight edge when it comes to power.

Like to Drive

It was clearly built as a family car therefore it is comfortable and sensible. If you try to drive enthusiastically, the suspension and chassis will start to protest as they're not designed to cope with a sporty driving habit, this is a shame because the larger petrol engine coupled with the mechanical gearbox can offer a lovely dynamic character. The car didn't get good reviews from the motoring press and the unpopular looks contributed to the car's fast demise. Within the city, the Primera is pleasant to drive. Our favourite gadget is the rear camera that is hidden beneath the tailgate. It makes parking so much easier plus there are several other fun ways to use it.

Faults and Repairs

Modern day Nissans are cheap to repair and quite reliable too. If you're buying an older Nissan Primera, it's probably a good idea to avoid cars with an automatic gearbox or CVT. The engines are all quite good and don't require expensive repairs. The dashboard with the LCD screen and all the underlying electrical and logical system is prone to throwing tantrums.