Fleet News

Nissan Primera 2.2 Di SE



BEAUTY is in the eye of the beholder, as the oft-quoted saying goes. This has always made me smile, because it is usually quoted by someone who, how shall we say, perhaps wasn't at the front of the queue when good looks were handed out.

Luckily for me, this saying hasn't been quoted at me because I have the body of an Adonis and facial features which make me the spitting image of George Clooney!

But even so, I can sympathise with those people who haven't been blessed in the looks department.

The reason I mention this is because I have just spent a week in the company of the new Nissan Primera, a car which breaks the mould in terms of car design in the upper-medium segment.

Inside and out it resembles nothing else on the market and some unkind souls could indeed say it was a touch on the ugly side.

Well, not me, because I think the new-look Primera not only makes it stand out from the crowd but also addresses the key criticism of the old model, the fact that it was bland to the point of being boring. So, hats off to Nissan for being bold enough to do something a bit different.

The Primera range has just gone on sale, and we have opted to test the 2.2-litre turbodiesel in mid-range SE specification. Up against it is the 'daddy' of the sector, Ford's Mondeo, now replete with an excellent common rail diesel engine (something notably lacking when the new Mondeo went on sale).

We have also chosen Renault's excellent Laguna in 1.9-litre dCi Expression trim because it sets the benchmark for P11D price, CO2 emissions and combined fuel economy.

Hopefully, everything should be crystal clear so far - you know a little about the Primera and something about what it is competing against.

Well, I'm glad you're clear because it is at this point that I start to get confused (something which is not difficult to do).

You see, the Laguna's 1.9-litre diesel engine is the pick of the bunch here in terms of figures and helps it to a convincing win in running cost terms, although the Mondeo's TDCi engine is the best in terms of driving enjoyment.

But Nissan and Renault are now allies with a shareholding in each other, yet the new Primera is stuck with a larger 2.2-litre engine which cannot compete with the dCi on economy or emissions. So why on earth didn't someone at Nissan-Renault HQ decide to put the Renault lump under the Primera's impressive snout?

I'm sure someone will write in and put me straight about engineering difficulties, etc, but in these days of automotive consolidation this would not only have saved money but would also have given the Primera a very good chance of taking the running costs crown in this company.

It has the joint best residual value estimate here, a competitive monthly rental rate and the second lowest servicing, maintenance and repair costs but that high fuel bill (relative to the opposition) keeps it in third place.

However, even with a 2.2-litre engine the Primera still performs well, coming in at just a few fractions of a penny more per mile to run over a three-year/60,000-mile fleet operating cycle.

Fleet verdict

WHILE the Primera finishes third in our selected trio here, it still puts up a strong fleet case for itself.

The Laguna's 27.49ppm easily wins this contest on running costs but the Primera is pretty close to the benchmark for the sector, the Ford Mondeo, (29.67 pence per mile compared to the Mondeo's 29.51ppm).

The Primera is also very well built and feels quite Germanic inside and out (echoing the current trend of trying to mimic the Volkswagen Passat in the upper-medium sector). Add in a generous list of standard equipment and the Primera makes a strong case for itself.

So if you can bring yourself to break away from the norm and drive something a little different, you won't be disappointed in the new Primera. After all, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Behind the wheel

THIS is where things get interesting. Settle yourself behind the Primera's wheel and things are quite different from the normal dashboard layout you would expect from an upper-medium console.

Ahead of you there are no instruments, just some high-quality two-tone facia plastics. However, turn your eyes slightly to the left and you will find the usual speedo, rev counter and fuel gauges mounted in the middle of the facia, with all the dials tilted towards the driver.

It's an unusual arrangement but after a few miles it becomes second nature to glance across to find out what speed your are doing.

Just below the instruments is the main control unit, jutting out of the dashboard and housing the audio and heating controls, as well as the excellent satellite navigation system fitted on our test model.

If sat-nav is not fitted, the monitor (colour on SE spec models upwards, black and white on the two lower grades) is used for the gadgety rear-view camera.

A camera is mounted above the rear number plate and gives you a great view behind when reversing -indeed, I felt compelled to dance a little jig while my father sat in the car to test out the system. I know it's childish but I bet every Primera driver will try it at least once.

On the move, the Primera's 2.2-litre diesel engine is fundamentally the same unit as found in the smaller Almera range but it feels different. Allied to a six-speed manual gearbox, the engine has oodles of torque low down, meaning progress is quick as well as being economical.

Ride and handling are geared more towards comfort than driving enjoyment and while the Primera is not dynamically equivalent to the Mondeo and Laguna here, it offers a supremely comfortable and quiet driving experience. Racking up the motorway miles in a Primera is going to be an effortless business, and allied to the huge cabin and large glass area, it is a pleasant place to spend your day while driving for work.

Driving verdict

Quiet, comfortable and spacious, with enough toys to keep even the most ardent gadget freak happy, the Primera is sure to find its way on to many company choice lists. While it may not offer a driving experience as satisfying as the Mondeo and Laguna, it will be the choice for drivers wanting to stand out from the crowd with unusual styling, both inside and out.

Second opinion

COMPARING the new Primera with its predecessor, it becomes obvious the two cars are chalk and cheese.

The old model was, to put it politely, quite dull to look at inside and out but was reckoned to be a great car to drive. With the new Primera, Nissan has reorganised its priorities, instead concentrating on looks and space rather than driving dynamics. In this company the Mondeo is still the driver's choice thanks to an excellent chassis set-up and the added bonus of an superb common rail diesel engine (at last) which brings it on a par with Renault's great dCi unit in the Laguna. Steve Moody

CO2 emissions and fuel consumption data correct at time of writing. The latest figures are available in the Fleet News fuel cost calculator and the company car tax calculator.

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