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When I first saw the new Primera 2.0 Sport sitting in our driveway for a weekend test drive, I didn't like what I saw. Before we bought our VW Passat in 1997 we had a look at the old-shape estate for a weekend. I was too young to drive that one, but is similarities to a hearse did not endear me to it. Adding the fact that we've had no fewer than three Nissan Micra's in our home for the past 10 years and you could say I've developed a nissanaphobia.
So this did not bode well for this new pretender to the family car throne. This car is very Nissan and in my language that translates as "This is an ugly Japanese car trying to look European". Despite being styled in the UK, this car is just plain ugly. The previous one was non-committal looking, but the headlamps just look plain daft. Add the fact that Nissan have been trying to use up the world chrome surplus of late and we simply get a big ugly car.
The new shape Primera still uses the same platform as its predecessor and this is no bad thing. I can honestly say that the car is superbly engineered for the road. It ride and handles better than any other car in this sector I have driven. The Ford Mondeo is suposedly the king of this, but I didn't think so when I drove a Mundano estate.
The steering is too light in a straight line for my liking, although the compromise is that is seems to respond very well in the twistier of routes. But all of this is spoilt by the clutch. The last time I stalled a car was when I did driving lessons. I stalled the Primera three times in three days. The clutch seems to have been made for a 90 year old woman, it is so light. There is absolutely no feedback as you rev the car. This is a real let-down.
The interior is a little uninspiring and cannot compete with the VW Passat or the new Mundano in terms of quality. The CD player was quite nice though, a superior sound system to that of the VW. There is adequate room in the back, but it isn't spectacularly roomy. The hatchback offers plenty of practicality but looks even less shapely than the saloon.
The engine is undoubtedly strong. The variable valve timing and 16 valve engine offers both performance and no compromise in economy. It responds to the throttle like a quick witted obedient dog. There is no doubting the engineering quality here.
Another thing Nissan offers is reliability. This car is unlikely to break down. But the Primera Sport is not a class car. The sport tag is also misleading with just a few added novelties to attract buyers. It certainly isn't as sporty as the Honda Accord.
So who will buy it? Judging by my weekend only the old man with a need for a hint of sportiness in his life and who doesn't want his car breaking down. It certainly isn't a bad car like the old Mundano or Vauxhall Vectra, but it is by no means the best either.