The new Primera, however, represents a bold change at Nissan from a middle-of-the-road, take-no-risks attitude to something far more ambitious.
Nissan executives describe the new car as the 'cornerstone of the company' in Europe - particularly in the fleet market. Nissan will be aiming its new creation at user-choosers - a target group that looks for flair and individuality in a car as well as reliability and good driving characteristics.
They will find all of these qualities - and more - in the new Primera.
David Murfitt, Nissan fleet sales director in the UK, is optimistic about the new Primera. He said: 'We are competing in new areas of the market with this car, where the current model cannot compete.'
Nissan has spent time with fleet managers, asking them what they need and heeding what it heard.
At launch next spring will be a 1.8, 2.0-litre CVT-M6 automatic petrol versions and a 2.2 Di diesel, with saloon and estate at launch.
A hatchback and six speed 2.0-litre model will follow in the summer. Top models will feature satellite navigation, rear view camera, rain-sensing wipers, mobile phone integration, the Premium audio system and 17-inch alloy wheels.
The Primera sedan deceives the eye and looks smaller than it is. The boot-to-bonnet line creases gently a couple of times and the lack of definitive 'here starts the bonnet and here begins the boot' points seems to fool the eye into believing it is more compact.
It also looks much better in the flesh than in pictures. The creases around the body are sharp and dynamic. The wagon is perhaps even better looking. But it is inside where the new approach is most keenly delivered.
The N-Form central console takes the experience further away from the conventional. Key features, including speedometer, rev counter and fuel gauge, are now in the centre of the dashboard, along with a screen underneath.
It is here that the whole Primera project could succeed or fail — but the risk-taking has been worth it. It works because of its innate logic and good common sense, which makes it a usable tool, rather than technological gimmick.
On the road, the Primera is a comfortable car built for cruising long distances, although we found the seats were too high and felt as though they had been blown up with a foot pump.
Nissan admits the seats are high but says the car is supposed to have a high seating position for better visibility, something of a watchword with the interior.
The estate feels much heavier than the sedan and seems to roll slowly on its springs in long curves. The sedan feels sharper and unfussed, although both are perhaps not as involving as the outgoing model.
As for engines, both petrol and diesel felt good. The diesel's variable nozzle turbocharger, which gives a flatter torque curve, irons out some of the roughness of Nissan's 2.2-litre common rail engine. (December 2001)