As the years go by, one can see a car design more clearly. And some ashtray concepts are timeless. Today, Nissan’s Primera Mk2, timelessness personified.
This is the P10 Primera, code-name fans. It is one to remember because this version of the Primera hit the sweet spot in terms of its size, tractability, quality and ashtrays. The previous car was the Bluebird, a form of sensory deprivation and the successor nice to look at but disappointing to steer.
When you feel like you might want to smoke during a long trip, it’s nice to know there’s a ashtray to hand instead of a perfidious “smoker’s pack”. The P10 Primera is a car from what we might now salute as the golden age of ashtray design.
And if you have that urge to enjoy a Wuhrmann cigar, say, or a Craven “A”, the P1o has a really well-placed ashtray for the driver. It’s the bench-mark design of pull-out tray, with the lighter positioned neatly to one side. It’s illuminated too.
The placement is as ergonomic as one can get, right in front of the gear lever. Most of the time you’ll be in fifth so the gear lever is out of the way, usually with little need for both hands on the wheel. Further the ashtray has a pretty decent width and depth. I am not sure it’s quite large enough for a cigar larger than a half-corona but the Primera is not a Churchill kind of car anyway, more Petit Upmann – sporty, agile and well-tailored.
There is no fuss about this car. Take a look at the rear ashtray. It’s a lower-hinged pull-out type. The hinge is at the bottom and the ashtray rotates around the same axis as the hinge. There is a small flange which is pretty much the only interruption to the simple box it is set in. That brings me to the overall design of the car interior.
Nissan might have been looking at the Volvo 480 (1985) , Ford Sierra (1982), Renault 18 (to 1986) or Renault 21 (from 1986), Toyota Carina (1984, T150) when designing this car. Cruelly, the Passat was changing over from the B2 to B3 so it’s hard to know if Nissan could benchmark that one. That’s a bit of a higgle-piggle of cars which means that the Nissan people may have had a hard time judging how to advance the interior compared its predecessor.
By 1996 a whole suite of very competent mid-sized saloons were available and the simple, spare interior of the P1o might have seemed more than a bit passé. That misses the point though, that in truth the Primera is super example of the Japanese version of design-seriousness. That rear-ashtray is a case, as are the nice, plain door cards. The front ashtray is also pretty much spot on, a sample of the car’s general rightness. The boot even has complex gas-struts instead of a cheap-skate goose-neck hinge.
When you sit in the car you get the sense of there being no more car around you than you need yet the rear is really spacious with generous legroom. Nissan designed a driver’s car with a professional attitude. For the next generation they threw that out but upped the plastic grades. More car, less driver.