Fleet News

Nissan Primastar

VANS are not sexy. And most of the time they are strictly utilitarian in form and function. They are just not that exciting.

But there is one van I have driven that genuinely excites me, rings my bell and pulls my strings, and that is the Vauxhall Vivaro/Renault Trafic – which now also comes as rebadged as the Nissan Primastar.

The Primastar is the latest van to join Nissan's rapidly improving LCV line-up and will account for about 2,000 sales a year, half of which will be fleet, while the other half will be small business users.

For drivers who do not get to handle a van very often – rental customers being the most obvious – the Primastar is the ideal form of commercial transport. To start with, it has rear parking sensors as standard on the SE – a specification no other LCV can boast without paying for it as an optional extra. This will help eliminate many of those silly bumps and scrapes to the edges of vans that can cost money in repairs and at resale.

For somebody like me who has no spatial perception of how to back a van into a gap, parking sensors are a godsend. I imagine there are many others like me.

The other advantage of the Primastar is its user-friendliness. Like its Renault and Vauxhall cousins, the cabin is positively car-like. The seat adjusts in all directions, and the steering wheel adapts for rake and reach.

With the gearlever sprouting handily from the dash rather than the floor and all buttons – Renault in origin – within reach, the cabin is positively ergonomic, and is extremely comfortable on long journeys.

Noise is also suppressed very well and boom from the rear is very nearly non-existent, even with no cargo aboard.

But comfort and ergonomics are not really the main considerations when it comes down to choosing a van. Practicality and price are the two watchwords. And it is here that Nissan has stolen a march on its two relatives. The Primastar comes in at £12,180 ex-VAT, for the E version, which is marginally cheaper than the Vivaro or Trafic. This model doesn't get the idiot-proof parking sensors, but does get power steering, immobiliser, remote central locking and driver's airbag.

Along with the sensors, the SE comes with electric windows, twin passenger seat, Thatcham ultrasonic and perimetric alarm and a full steel bulkhead. This all costs an extra £530 ex-VAT.

The Primastar uses versions of Renault's dCi common rail diesel engine, a 81bhp 1.9 dCi engine for the 2.7-tonne version and a 98bhp version for the 2.9-tonne model. The 81bhp model comes with a five-speed box, while the 98bhp has six gears. As well as giving the 98bhp much more pull – 175lb-ft of torque at 2,000rpm compared to 139lb ft – and flexibility, it also matches the less powerful unit for fuel consumption. Both achieve 38.2 mpg on the combined cycle.

There is one other trim level after E and SE. The Access comes with a top hinged rear door and is designed to cater for the growing home delivery market. There will be a long wheelbase Primastar next year and a wider range of engines, although there are no high roof versions in the line-up, and it is this lack of body style flexibility that will stop it from selling much larger numbers. But Nissan is pretty proud of what it has got, and it has every right to be, because the Primastar is a tidy, well put together vehicle.

As for servicing, all Primastars come with a three- year/60,000-mile warranty, and 18,000-mile service intervals.

Nick Andrews, Nissan's LCV fleet sales manager, said the firm was in the process of setting up 60 Nissan Business Centres that would cater specifically for commercial fleet needs, with a dedicated fleet sales manager at each dealership. As well as expert personnel, Andrews said the centres would have out-of-hours servicing to minimise downtime and courtesy vans if needed.

Verdict

If I had to spend my working life in a van, there are very few vans (in fact only two, and guess what they are) that would do the job like the Primastar. Refined, comfortable, stylish and practical, the Primastar takes passenger car qualities and applies them to the commercial market.

##Primastar 2002--none##

Primastar fact file
Model Engine/bhp GVW Price (£ ex-VAT)
E 1.9 dCi/80 2,700 £12,180
SE 1.9 dCi/80 2,700 £12,710
Access 1.9 dCi/80 2,700 £12,710
SE 1.9 dCi 2,700 £13,210
Access 1.9 dCi 2,700 £13,210
SE 1.9 dCi/98 2,900 £13,610
Access 1.9 dCi/98 2,900 £13,610

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