Nissan had been selling the Primera in saloon, hatchback and estate form in Europe since 1990. It was a reliable car with a decent chassis, excellent powertrain options and saw Nissan's multi-link front suspension adapted to front-wheel drive for the first time. However, these brilliant characteristics got drowned in the dull bodywork and the Japanese carmaker struggled to find as many buyers as it would have liked even after two generations.
When the Renault-Nissan alliance was formed in 1999, everyone hoped it would usher in a new model that would bring together the best of French design flair and Japanese dependability. And when the new model came out in 2001, it did look much more distinctive than the previous models. But the problem was that it looked a little too distinctive. If the earlier two generations put customers off due to their unimaginative styling, the new model turned prospective buyers away with its over-the-top, radical styling. The lines were so incoherent that it seemed to have been built by putting together different parts penned by a group of artistically challenged five-year-olds. The cabin was also unique with a centrally placed instrument cluster.
And those who looked for hidden Japanese reliability under the clumsy sheet metal were in for disappointment, too. Since this was the first Nissan after the Franco-Japanese union, a host of Renault parts and technology had also made their way into the Primera, making it much less reliable than its predecessors.
Customer disillusionment reflected in sales figures, and Nissan's reputation for dependability took a big hit. The intention behind the redesign was good, but the execution was so bad that it never recovered. The Primera badge was withdrawn from right-hand drive markets like the UK in 2006, while it trudged along in left-hand drive countries until 2008 before being finally killed off.