We purchased our Nissan Primera (5 door 1800 hatchback) in 2004. These now seem to be halcyon days. It was the first time in our lives we had been in a position to purchase a new car (although it did have a genuine reduction in the price at that time). It was the streamlined dolphin like shape of the car and the ice blue colour that my husband fell in love with. We had owned a very reliable second hand Primera previously (an earlier model, pre 'dolphin' shape), as had my parents. This was the secondary reason that we chose to go with Nissan as we believed we were buying something that would require (especially being a new car) very little maintenance. We didn't intend to replace the car until it fell apart, so low maintenance was key. Buying new we assumed would give us a few extra years of low garage bills.
In the early days all seemed well, and a few of our geeky friends were well impressed with the 'computer' type console layout. This includes the sound system, air conditioning/heating, and a range of statistical information, such as current miles per gallon being achieved, automatic service reminders etc. The dash board also obviously contains the speedometer, rev counter and fuel gauge. These are housed in a stylishly curved dash, angled towards the driver. It has all the standard features you would expect, central locking, electric windows, normal standard safety features etc. The car also has an "anti-roll feature thingy" (in my husband's words, he's not terribly mechanically minded). Another plus point is the spacious size of the boot, easily taking several decent sized suitcases for a family of four. The down side of this of course is that it can become a dumping ground. I recently plucked up the courage to muck out the boot, and came across in the deeper archaeological strata, pieces of Roman Samian pottery, along with a pair of shoes I hadn't seen since 2006. Being a hatchback the back seats can be flattened down in order to transport bulkier items, this is accomplished smoothly and is quite simple to do. However the 'dolphin' type shape of the rear door curves in such a way that if you have a 'tall squarish' item that seems to fit, the boot won't close properly. There is more floor space than height, so if you are planning on stacking items an arched construction would be recommended.
On the negative side the visibility through the rear window is very poor on reversing, to such an extent that some models had a rear view camera fitted. From our experience this had proved a tricky feature, as we have nearly come unstuck many times, as the blind spots are quite extensive so extra care is required with this aspect. The ride in the car is quite bumpy for a family car in this price bracket. Don't expect your passengers to finish a can of pop without finding most of it decorating your upholstery. Another disappointing feature of the car is the relatively flimsy way that the hub caps are fitted. Unless they are put back in absolutely the exact way, which is a little bit tricky in practice they look as if they are back on, but in fact will fly off at the first opportunity. This happened when the car had been to a garage for a service, everything appeared as it should, but on my first trip out I arrived at my destination with only one hub cap left (and these had been re-attached by an experienced mechanic not the husband). Seeing as it looked so lonely it made more sense to take that one off too, and give the car what we like to think of as a 'slight off road' look.
The strong point of this car seems to be long distance motorway type driving. The fuel consumption is generally reasonable at around 35 miles per gallon on a straight run. The 1769cc is slightly underpowered for the size of the vehicle, which means that the pickup for over taking tends to be a little on the sluggish side. The seating in the back of the car whilst being ok, for the size of the car does not seem to be particularly spacious.
However none of this was even a small inconvenience in comparison with the horrors that would befall us with this car over the next few years. I don't mean horrors as in the most awful things that can happen to people in car, but the kind of big mechanical problems that beset the unsuspecting car owner.
I'm going to go into these problems in a bit of detail, as although it is not about the specs of the car, it is our personal experience of the reliability of the model, and the responsiveness of Nissan's Customer Services Department, and local dealership network. Firstly, at around 13,000 miles the clutch died, the husband does not claim to be the world's best driver (he is the main user of the car) none of that Jeremy Clarkson grand standing, it's all fairly sedate back and forth to work driving mainly on an easy duel carriageway run. So in the collective belief of everyone we know, and all the worlds of cyber space we enquired in, this was not normal in terms of wear and tear. Then enter the perverse world of Nissan Customer Services, written in tablets of stone, apparently passed down from Moses himself are the words 'a clutch can reach the end of its life at ANY TIME' I replied that I am directly aware of the history of hundreds of cars collectively owned by friends and family, and no one has ever experienced a clutch dying so thoroughly at 13,000 miles. To this Nissan genuinely replied, "ahh but you probably do a lot of reversing up hills". Now please excuse my abbreviated swearing but WTF! All this was to no avail as were my entreaties to the garage from where we bought the car, and our letter to the head of Nissan Uk went un-addressed. To cut a long diatribe short the customer service was abysmal. So much for keeping the bills and stress levels low with a new car!
I almost don't want to go on with this next bit, as we still love the style of the car and don't want to appear to be overly negative. However you have to speak from your own honest experiences, and what happened next drove us to the brink of .... I want to say despair, but I'm reluctant to come over all melodramatic, and as my father in law passed away in the same month as this next disaster leaving us having to chose whether to pay for a funeral or new engine then perhaps despair is the right word.
At first it was like a niggling cough, we thought perhaps 'give it a bit of oil and it will get better', it can't be anything too serious... it's only just had a service; and after all the car at this point was under 5 years old and only had 65,000 miles on the clock. The cough was in fact a slight delay in the ignition when first starting the car. Before I had a chance to get this checked out, just as Christmas was looming large, and my father-in-laws health had taken a turn for the worse; the car decided this was a good time to shut down, and simply wouldn't start. After doing all the normal checks to the battery etc, with the addition of some fervent praying, the car still stubbornly refused to start. Eventually it was transported back to the dealer who after checking out the car invited us into a small room. He placed a large box of manly triple ply tissues in front of us, and proceeded to tell us that the car had suffered a 'fatal timing chain stretch', seeing as a timing chain rather than a belt is meant to last for the life of the car, this came as a bit of a shock. He claimed it was partly due to the oil levels not being kept up. This was not the case, proud of our new car we had ensured that it was regularly serviced at the recommended dealership, with many a routine check with a dipstick (by us) in between.
The estimated cost to fix/replace this was 'only' £1,500 (December 2008 prices). This revelation resulted in a matching pair of nervous break downs, and soul searching as to whether it was worth paying that much to salvage a car that was still under 5 years old, or if we would be better off scrapping it and buying a cheap run around instead (the government scrappage scheme was not in effect the, not that we could afford another new car by then anyway). At the time we were bitterly disappointed with Nissan and weren't sure that we wanted anything to do with the car that had given us nothing but trouble since we bought it, and thought that turning our back on the 'piece of junk' might be the right thing to do. We trawled the internet and found that this seemed to be a common problem (as was the clutch conking out apparently) with our particular model. Nissan still refused to acknowledge this, the car was still under warranty, but Nissan claimed the problems were due to natural wear and tear. Even though the car was only used for work (18 miles away) and shopping.
After ringing every Nissan dealer, and independent garage in South Wales we found that this was about the price they all quoted. Our only hope was at a couple of garages they suggested it might be cheaper to replace the whole engine. When we found a mechanic locally that gave a quote of £750 to do the engine swap we thought we had found salvation. The husband would not have to give up his job for a lower paid one nearer home after all. The car was duly dumped at the mechanics and the transplant went ahead. Once completed we picked up the car, and were presented with a bill for.... £1,500!!!! I felt sick, and the husband visibly paled. The mechanic had taken it upon himself to 'fix' a few other things while he had the guts out, one of these things was the clutch, again! We were left in the excruciatingly embarrassing situation of having to offer the mechanic and the funeral parlour half each of the lump sum that we had got together for the funeral, and beg for a repayment agreement for the rest, as we were unable take on any more debt via credit cards at the time , we felt very bad about this. The mechanic was gracious about it, but the funeral people made us feel terrible and humiliated. For that reason alone we will never ever go near Nissan again, despite the fact that they had seemed in the past to be generally a very reliable car. Their customer support is nonexistent and since Renault have started to provide certain parts (timing chain included) their reliability, (according to reports from friends, the internet, and our own experience) has plummeted.
Also beware regarding the old chestnut of how many mechanics does it take to change a light bulb - The way the car is designed makes it extremely difficult for the amateur to change headlight bulbs, especially on the driver's side. You need small elastic hands to stand any chance of doing it yourself. Luckily for us the model we have was the last of this production which means that the headlamp bulb costs only around £5. Models that came out a few months later have what is 'alleged' to be 'lifetime' bulbs whatever that means, at a cost quoted to me of £300 each! From the notices I've seen on the internet they do blow fairly regularly despite claims that they last 'forever'.
Basic specifications of our car are as follows. Nissan Primera S. Version K01. 5 door hatchback - Petrol. 2 Axle-Rigid Body. First registered May 2004. CC 1769.