Nissan made rash claims about the previous Primera – for instance, its interior styling – but this model feels fresh and modern with a cabin that has space and plenty of sweeping lines.
The big players have raised the stakes so high in the D-sector that it increasingly becomes a tough challenge to make a major impact. Nissan does though have a car that deserves to be considered for itself – lithe and more sporty than plush – rather than for any economic argument.
The CAP residual forecast (only slightly more than a quarter of the starting price is likely to remain after three years/60,000 miles) is depressing. Nissan has gained much from Renault's remarkable rescue programme but Primera trails Laguna by some margin when it comes to retained value.
Primera and its like spend much of their time cruising on motorways and the Nissan does this smoothly, quietly and without fuss. On other roads, the suspension is tuned more for handling than smoothing out bumps and the ride is a little too hard on rough surfaces. The five-speed manual box is as crisp as the Japanese tradition dictates and the 1.8-litre engine responds freely to a change to a lower ratio.
In this sector manufacturers need an exceptional advance in quality, power or refinement – as GM has achieved with Vectra – or equipment that makes it stand out from the rest.
The Primera's TV show on the dashboard screen when reversing never fails to grab the attention of passengers, especially with its battlefield-style night vision which is used increasingly now daylight hours are shortening.
In the previous report, editorial assistant Jane Ward commented on the temptation to watch the screen rather than what is happening on either side. I agree – I prefer the radar-style beep used by other manufacturer because it allows fine judgement in tight parking places while you check the cabin and door mirrors.
A panel in the centre of the fascia displays information on the audio and ventilation/air conditioning systems, as well as the satellite navigation. It is is easy for the driver to read with a sideways glance but is too dominant in a neatly arranged fascia.
Overall, the Primera is a likeable car with pleasantly clean styling that gives kerbside style and generous cabin space and a modern personality. So far, with 3,796 miles behind it, the Nissan has behaved impeccably. It felt a better car after a fortnight than it did at first.
Company car tax bill 2002 (22% taxpayer): £52.98 per month