Nissan Primera P10
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 1
The Primera may have been a Nissan in name, but for all intents and purposes it was a European car. The Primera, a car only loosely descended from the Tokyo Show car of the same name, was designed not just with Europe in mind, but with a specific focus on what the European consumer wanted.
Although it sold in Japan, and in the USA where it rounded-out the bottom of the Infiniti line-up as the Infiniti G20, the Primera's target market was Europe. With that in mind, a large proportion of the car's development work was carried out in UK and on the Continent and the bulk of production, including one model that will not be built even in Japan, took place at Nissan's UK plant.
The Primera, for Nissan, was of major strategic importance and vital to the viability of Nissan's future European operations. It was also the fourth element in the four part "Project 901" that also spawned the 300ZX, the Infiniti Q45, and the Skyline GT-R. Like those cars, the Primera was designed to put Nissan on the map, not just as another manufacturer, but as builder of the finest cars in the world.
While the other members of Project 901 were obviously glamorous, high-tech flagships, the Primera was an ordinary family saloon with little techno-wizardry. It was a middle-of-the-road four-door, five-passenger family saloon, originally available only as a notchback, but this was joined later by a five-door model built only in Europe, and then shipped back to Japan (like the Australian Pintara wagon).
The Primera matched or bettered every car in its class for packaging and design, marking a major advance over all its predecessors. However, Nissan's trump card was what lay under the skin. Power came from a range of then new engines comprising the 80.9 kW/6000rpm throttle body injection (TBI) SR18Di and the 110.3 kW/6400rpm multi-point injection SR20DE.
All of these engines featured twin chain-driven overhead camshafts operating four valves
per cylinder. The larger displacements used forked rocker arms that ran two valves
off each cam lobe, and the 1.8-litre motor featured the added sophistication of needle roller cam followers, while the 2.0-litre engine had sodium-filled exhaust valves
The Primera saw Nissan's multi-link front suspension applied to front-wheel drive for the first time. The 2.0-litre petrol engine received a power upgrade in 1992 which gave the then ZX, (later renamed the GT) 150 bhp from the standard 2.0-litre engine and a top speed of around 219 km/h (or 137 mph). In addition to noise countermeasures, Nissan put a lot of effort into tuning the quality of the sound that remained, to produce what they called a "clear sound". One reason for re-adopting chain drive for the camshafts was that, although belts were quieter, the quality of the noise of chains was nicer. On the road the new engines were commendably free from flaws, and although none of them set any new standards they were smooth and refined, with a good spread of torque and no periods of boominess, and even when extended towards the redline.
The car understeered gently, increasing gradually under power, while abruptly lifting off in mid-bend produces the desired tightening of line, or tuck-in, without any abrupt tail-out trickiness. It was not quite as "sporting" as a Peugeot 405, but it did reward the driver more than an Opel Vectra, making this a driver's car for the family man. The Primera was also well equipped, well designed, and superbly engineered. It lived up to the aims of Project 901, and with it, and products like it, Nissan was ready to take on the European makers on their home turf.
The Primera Range
The Primera range came in six trim levels at launch: L, LS, LSX, GS, GSX and eZX. The 1.6-litre engine was available in L, LS and LSX trim and the 2.0-litre 115 bhp (86 kW; 117 PS) engine was available in LS, GS and GSX trim. The ZX model had a 2.0-litre 150 bhp (112 kW; 152 PS) engine. From 1992 onwards, the range was facelifted and new L, LX, SLX, SGX and eGT trim levels replaced the original naming scheme. A 2.0-litre diesel version was available from 1992. All the models were rather basic, and had the 1.6-litre petrol engine only. LX was slightly plusher, but 2.0-litre petrol and diesel versions were also available.
The SLX was the mid-range model, and this also had a choice of 1.6 and 2.0 petrol, or 2.0 diesel engines. The SGX trim level was the luxury specification version; powered by the 2.0-litre 115 bhp (86 kW; 117 PS) engine. The eGT was the sporting version, with a 2.0-litre 150 bhp (112 kW; 152 PS) engine. Engine power was slightly increased in mid-1994 with the 1.6 model now producing 102 bhp (76 kW; 103 PS) and the 2.0 model, 123 bhp (92 kW; 125 PS).
From 1994, the range received another facelift, and the trim levels were (almost) the same; although Equation replaced the basic L as the entry-level trim; like its predecessor, it had a 1.6 petrol engine, but there was no diesel option. A rare T4 AWD option was available with 150 bhp (112 kW; 152 PS). At this time, SE also replaced SGX. A new "hot hatch" version, the SRi joined the line-up from 1994, and this had a choice of 1.6 or 2.0-litre petrol engines.