Tweaked for comfort

Nissan has taken an inside-out approach to refreshing the Primera range, focusing on the interior of its Ford Mondeo rival and leaving the exterior styling and most mechanicals untouched.The same three-engine range continues, which means 1.8- and 2.0-litre petrols, alongside the 2.2-litre dCi diesel driven here. The 136bhp oil-burner is the motor of choice for almost half of Primera buyers, and it’s easy to see why. Although it lacks the refinement of rivals such as the Honda Accord i-CDTi when pushed, its 232lb ft of torque provides plenty of urge.The sole mechanical tweaks are to the dampers and bushes, but this makes a minimal difference to the driving experience. Comfort is put a lengthy distance ahead of sportiness.A slightly notchy six-speed gearbox and steering that is as light as ever don’t make this a car for B-road satisfaction. Grip levels are reasonable, although you’d be hard pressed to tell from the feedback you get through the steering wheel, but there’s far too much body roll through corners. Sawing at the wheel in an effort to gauge what the front wheels are doing is the norm when pressing on.But that’s okay: the Primera is a fine long-distance car, and although there’s more road noise than in some rivals, engine noise drops at motorway speeds.To leave a car’s looks untouched during a revamp is unusual, but the Primera’s distinctive lines are less than two-and-a-half years old. Nissan says it would have been difficult to enhance the striking styling with fine-tuning, so decided to leave well alone. Instead, it’s the cabin that gets an overhaul, with Nissan responding to customer criticisms. The previously near-useless centre armrest has been jacked up to meet the driver’s elbow, a new centre console will hold a mobile phone, eight CDs and two drinks, and the CD changer is now dash- instead of boot-mounted, meaning the sat-nav box moves to under the passenger seat.The rear-view parking camera, a great novelty that is also pretty useful, has been upgraded to a colour screen on all models bar the entry-level S. Otherwise the funky central dash remains unchanged, with the mass of buttons much easier to get the hang of than you’d think. Ditto the centrally mounted instrument cluster: it doesn’t take long to get used to the big vacant expanse straight ahead where the speedo would normally be and instead to flick your eyes left to take in the dials.The seats offer good lower-back support, but little further up, so your shoulders hover well away from the backrest.Larger rear passengers are reasonably well catered for. The back bench is comfortable, but legroom is limited and the sloping line of the hatchback eats into headroom. The hatchback’s 460-litre boot capacity isn’t vast by class standards, hampered by an angled boot floor.The Primera is, in its latest form, more worthy than ever. It’s well-equipped for the cash, far from boring to look at in what is a generally conservative market segment, and willingly munches long distances without fuss. It still doesn’t offer much driver appeal, but the interior and spec changes are designed to attract the kind of buyer who cares more about comfort and quality than cornering speeds.Paul Barker

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The Apprentice 13 March 2012

Re: Tweaked for comfort

I had a battered old one as a hire car in Corfu last year and grew a tiny bit fond of it over 2 weeks. It was comfortable, reasonably refined and roomy, with an auto box it was very relaxing to spend time in on foreign roads.

Totally agree about the Tacuma though, I (quite seriously!) could make a better working gearbox using Meccano!

rodenal 13 March 2012

Re: Tweaked for comfort

These come close to being the worst car I've ever driven, up there with the Daewoo Tacuma, Though in truth the Daewoo is pretty much untouchable as an overall rotten experience - the MG6 was a high performance, classy riding machine of desire in comparison.