The original Nissan Primera was rated as a decent car to drive, so despite its bland appearance, it won a legion of followers.
It was facelifted in 1999, then replaced by a radical looking new model in 2002.
My first encounter with the later model was in May 2001. It was the only example in the UK, and Nissan had agreed to bring it to the Fleet Show, a major event organized by my employer.
The new Primera would be hidden from public view (and those of other manufacturers represented at the event), which invited guests – Nissan fleet customers – would be able to take a closer look.
It certainly looked different. Nissan’s designers had succeeded in almost creating a ‘one-box’ design for a saloon.
And most of them came packed with technology.
Entry-level S grade aside (the one with plastic wheel trims that hardly ever stayed on and more frequently seen as a rental car), even the mid-spec versions felt special inside.
SE models had a rear-view camera for reversing where a black and white image of the view behind was shown on the dashboard screen.
Even better, petrol T-Spec models were fitted with adaptive cruise control – up to that point it was a feature only available on luxury saloons and coupés – although bizarrely when a diesel T-Spec arrived in 2003, it came only with regular cruise control.
This is where a radar helps the car maintain a set distance with the vehicle in front with speed set in the cruise control. It would brake if the vehicle in front slowed suddenly or another car jumped in front from another lane.
But unlike its predecessors, the Primera had lost its engaging on-road behaviour. Taller than the model replaced, it was no longer as keen when cornering. The sharp steering responses had gone and body control was sloppy.
A hatchback followed a few months after the saloon and estate launched, but in my eyes it wasn’t as handsome as the saloon. Stumpy looking with strange ‘fins’ designed into the rear light clusters, it was more practical but less appealing.
A facelifted version arrived in August 2004. This model addressed the criticisms of the earlier version with a tauter feel on the road and improved composure.
This felt more like the enjoyable cars in the sector to drive, like the Ford Mondeo, Mazda6 and Peugeot 407.
Equipment levels were improved and a new SX model, with larger alloys and the kind of goodies that give business users car park-cred were included. Colour reversing camera and Birdview sat-nav were all here in the range.
The 2.0 T-Spec from 2004 came with proper luxury car features (along with a like it or loathe it CVT transmission). It was a decent car to hustle on twisty roads.
Yet people still never bought the car in significant numbers, and the range was rationalized before being killed off six months before the arrival of the Nissan Qashqai in 2007. The Primera was available in some other markets until 2008.