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What Car? says

3 out of 5 stars

For Roomy, reliable, cheap to run and well equipped

Against Firm ride and bland styling

Verdict A practical, sporty family car in a plain wrapper

Go for… 2.0 petrol in SE/Sport

Avoid… 1.6 petrol and 2.0 TD

Nissan Primera Saloon
  • 1. It's generally reliable, but electrical problems and suspension failures are possible
  • 2. Saloon is only a little less cash than a hatch, so we'd spend the extra on a more practical hatchback instead
  • 3. SE trim is the one to go for. S spec cars are okay, but entry-level E models lack too much kit
  • 4. 138bhp 2.0-litre petrol is the best all-round engine. Avoid the slow 1.6-litre
  • 5. The Primera is cheap to buy, cheap to service and, if it goes wrong, cheap to repair
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Nissan Primera Saloon full review with expert trade views

It’s often overlooked, but a used Primera makes a fine low-cost family car, provided you can live with the bland styling and aren’t interested in impressing the neighbours.

You can fit a couple of six-footers in the back of this saloon, and it has split-folding rear seats, although the hatchback version is ultimately even more practical. Up front, there’s no shortage of space, most people will find the driving position comfortable and the dull-looking dashboard is easy to negotiate.

It’s all well built and the quality of materials is a cut above the contemporary Ford Mondeo’s. You get a decent amount of kit, too.

So the Primera is very family friendly – and the driver will like it. It’s an involving drive and the petrol engines rev willingly. However, the diesel is short of refinement, the ride is firm and, on a motorway trip, it gets on your nerves.

Trade view

James Ruppert

Automatics can do well, hatches preferred 1.8 Sport or SE best for retail

James Ruppert
Used car guru

There isn’t much of a price gap between the hatch and saloon, so we’d rather take the hatch than this saloon. But, whichever you choose, we’d recommed an SE or Sport version; the entry-level E trim and the GX are pretty basic. SE equips you with everything you need for safe, comfortable family motoring, while Sport adds a splash of aluminium in the cabin and smart alloy wheels.

GT versions are well stacked and have a 150bhp 2.0-litre engine for warm-hatch pace (0-60mph in 8.8sec, 136mph). It’s a good car, but we wouldn’t pay the extra over the standard 138bhp 2.0, which is our pick. With the manual gearbox, it’s perky, eager to rev and quite frugal. Avoid the thirsty, sluggish CVT (continuously variable transmission) auto gearbox, though.

The willing 1.8 is a good second choice and is as easy on the juice as the tardy 1.6. There’s also a tough, fuel-efficient, if noisy, 2.0 diesel.

Trade view

Duncan McLure-Fisher

Not as reliable as you'd think - watch suspension and electrical faults

Duncan McLure-Fisher
Managing Director,
Warranty Direct

No second mortgage required here. The Primera is very cheap to buy these days, especially given the way it drives, handles family life and just keeps on going.

Warranty Direct says Nissans are among the cheapest cars to fix, and scheduled servicing will be easy on the wallet, too. Reckon to pay about the same as you would for most other mainstream family cars, such as the Vauxhall Vectra. Take it to a good independent garage, rather than a franchised dealer, and you can expect to shave a quarter off the labour bill, according to Warranty Direct.

Other running costs are equally tame. The 1.6 and 1.8 petrols are capable of 38-39mpg, the 2.0 petrols 32-36mpg and the diesel around 42mpg. You’re in for average insurance premiums, too – from the 1.6’s group 7 up to 13 for the 2.0 GT.

Trade view

James Ruppert

Automatics can do well, hatches preferred 1.8 Sport or SE best for retail

James Ruppert
Used car guru

Take a bow, Sunderland. The people at Nissan’s factory there built the Primera to run and run, so it’s generally a tough bit of kit and solidly screwed together. A good service history is still very desirable, though.

Claims made by Warranty Direct customers are almost exclusively for electrical, suspension and axle faults. The climate control is an area of particular concern, so give that a proper test because it will be a pricey fix.

Watch out for tyres that have worn unevenly, since that can be a sign of suspension trouble. On the test drive, be wary of clonks and make sure the car tracks straight, corners tidily and has a little give over bumps.

Alloy wheels, where fitted, are known to have a corrosion problem. Also 1.6 and 1.8 models built in 2001 had a fault that caused them to stall. A recall should have sorted it, but check.

Trade view

Duncan McLure-Fisher

Not as reliable as you'd think - watch suspension and electrical faults

Duncan McLure-Fisher
Managing Director,
Warranty Direct
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