I remember seeing the concept car upon which this car was based. They included it at the 2000 London Motor Show though it was originally unveiled in Paris. Nissan intended to make a car as bold as the previous version had been blandly, if neatly styled.
Automotive Intelligence said this: “The Fusion concept is based on an ambitious philosophy. The brief to the Nissan designers was to develop an innovative style which adds strong emotional involvement to the traditional technical excellence of Nissan’s products; and to integrate western taste and Japanese roots, interpreted in a modern and even futuristic way.”
I feel it’s worth a giggle to quote the rest of the PR steam that described the exterior: “Their answer is a monosilhouette shape that smoothly encompasses bonnet, cabin and boot. The traditional emphasis of saloon car design has been almost entirely left behind and is replaced with a fluid and aerodynamic new profile dominated by the cabin. Little interrupts the profile of the Fusion. A sense of tension is achieved along the length of the bodyside through subtle sculpturing of all the main panels and through a stretching of the bonnet and boot best seen in plan view.
In marked contrast to the soft bumper sections, other applied elements – wheel arches, door openings, the rocker panel – all appear to have been integrated into the smooth central mass. This technique, known to architects, furniture and product designers as ‘constructivism’ is one of the key themes of the Fusion. The side panels’ design is very smooth and at the same time delivers a sense of power. The design of the 18″ wheels aims at reinforcing that feeling.”
Judging by the timing of the show car’s release and the actual launch of the production car, this “concept car” was probably styled after the production car. The main shapes are the same but the bumpers and details differ enough to give the impression – the impression- of something wild and conceptual. This is probably another example of the sort of show car that is there to soften the blow of the shock of the production design.
The brief description is that the 2001 Primera’s shape is focussed on blurring the three main volumes of the traditional saloon as much as possible. While the exterior and interior struck a futuristic note, the chassis concept was a step back. Car called the earlier car one of the sharpest handlers in the class, which is some compliment given the accepted excellence of the Mondeo and the Xantia. Peter Nunn wrote in Car that the car scored “highly for comfort, stability and refinement but you miss the immediacy and poised, grippy handling of the current Primera. Different kind of car, you see.”
A 2.5 litre motor was available in other markets but not in Europe where a 1.6 and 2.0 petrol and a 2.2 diesel could fill the engine bay. Despite its general competence, the market for C-D class saloons spelled trouble for the Primera. Nissan intended selling 18,000 units but by 2004 it was managing 10,000 but also selling 10,000 X-Trails (they imagined selling 4,000 of those annually). By and large, the Primera is a good second hand-buy. The worst Honest John has to say is that the 1.8 litre unit is dull to drive. The interior is also a bit small for the class.
I have driven one of these, in its estate car format and the lasting impression this car left me with was that it really ought to have been a Lancia. I say this because my idea about Lancia was that it ought to have embodied modernity and comfort which is what this car is about. The striking interior, one of the most radical since the Fiat Multipla, is the kind of thing I’d expect from an ideal version of Lancia, rather than the mock-wood Italian-Rover styling they served up in cars such as the Lybra which a similar size.
The combination of overt modernity and comfort would have neutralised the criticism that such a Lancia would have been staid or viewed as “old person’s car” leaving Alfa Romeo to combine retro styling with aggressive performance and ride characteristics. Such a car would not have claimed sales from the 156, finding an entirely different clientele.
Nissan gave up on the Primera in 2006, after having revised the car very thoroughly..