Primera P11 Buying Guide
This Nissan Primera was released in 1990 and is produced up until this day. This buying guide focuses on the P11 chassis Primera which was produced from 1996 until 2002. The P11 car received a facelift in 1999 but the car remained mechanically identical. The Primera was available with may different engines but this guide will focus on the 2litre models which can with the legendary SR20DE unit which is the direct relation of the SR20DET as used in the Pulsar and Sunny GTIRs as well as the S14 and S15 200SX.
Primera Buying Guide – Background
When the Primera was released it was hailed by the motoring press as the best handling car in it’s class and also among the fastest. The P10 is slightly favoured by the purists because of its lighter weight. The P12 chassis has been a backward step in many eyes as it is no longer the involving driving machine it was in P10 and P11 form. For the P12 Nissan have gone for a more up market audience and have placed luxury and gadgets ahead of the driving performance.
Primera Buying Guide – Engine
The SR20 engine is very strong and very reliable. Look out for leaks where the bell housing meets the engine block. A lot of oil can be lost through here depending on how bad the leak is.
The top end should be silent with the minimum of tappet noise. The tappets are hydraulic and are self adjusting so should be relatively quite. No need to go for a car that sounds like a bag on spanners because there are so many good ones out there.
As with all engines, get a friend to look for smoke on start up and also check for smoke under full power. The SR20DE will do well over a hundred thousand miles without any problems if looked after well. Check the oil on the car your looking at, it should not be black if the car has been cherished.
Service history is probably rare now due to the value of the car and the cost of main dealer servicing. So be sensible and ask for any receipts for work or parts that the owner may have.
The Primera GT has a different ECU with a higher rev limit (7200rpm) versus 6800rpm on the normal 2 litre models. It also has more aggressive cams. These 2 things give the engine 150bhp from the factory as opposed to 137bhp for the normal 2 litre models.
To see which ECU your car has simply check the rev counter. On the GT models the redline is at 7200rpm on normal models in is at 6800rpm.
Huge range of possibilities here for Normally Aspirated and Turbo fans. Check out G20.net to get an idea of the potential power available
Primera Buying Guide – Body
Rust can be an issue on neglected cars. Check around the rear wheel arches, the bottom of the doors where the drain holes are. If the car has a rear wing it is normal for the boot to rust where the wing is mounted. A good check around the rest of the car and panel joints to check for rust is also recommended including in the engine bay. The GT models came with deeper front and rear bumpers and side skirts. This kit transforms the look of the car. No corrosion is expected under the side skirts.
Cars of this age will have stone chips on the front, it’s up to you how much you can live with. Check the fog lights have not been broken, if so bring this into the negotiation of the selling price along with every other fault that the car may have.
Sunroofs can leak but it is very hard to spot if you are viewing the car in the dry. Check the headliner for any water marks.
The wheels wear well but obviously check for kerbing. The PCD on the Primera is 4×114.3 with a 42mm offset. This rules out the likes on Enkei and Rays wheels but there are still many wheel options available. 18inch wheels will go on with no problem.
Primera Buying Guide – Interior
Depending on the model the trim can vary. Full leather, half leather and cloth were all available, with the GT getting half leather bucket seats. The interior should wear very well with no holes
Check the plastic fitting are all in one piece. The centre arm rest/cubby hole cover between the front seats can break off.
Apart from these things the Primera interior is very very hard wearing
Primera Buying Guide – Brakes
The brakes on the 2 litre models are more than adequate. Fit a set of high quality pads such as Roesch, brake lines from Goodridge and DOT5.1 fluid and they will cope with everything you can throw at them including light track work.
The only thing that needs checking is that the handbrakes works. Sometimes the handbrake feature seizes leaving you without a handbrake although the rear brake will still work. Rear brake calipers, reconditioned are around 90GBP plus VAT on exchange basis
Primera Buying Guide – Gearbox
Very reliable if running normal power outputs. Should go into each gear cleaning with a nice mechanical action. Clutch should bite at the bottom of the pedal travel, if it’s at the top it could be near the end of its life. Clutches are very cheap from the likes of Valeo
Stronger clutches are available form Clutch Masters and Spec Clutch
Primera Buying Guide – Suspension
A knocking from the front suspension is normal as the bushes wear out. It depends how bad it is, you may be able to drive it for many thousands of miles, it may need changing soon. If the car has a new MOT then they should be alright at least until the next inspection. SuperPro do suspension bushes to replace these item and also have the added benefit of giving you camber adjustment on the front. Only toe is adjustable at the front
At the rear nothing is adjustable
Good quality performance suspension is thin on the ground. Bilstein make replacement dampers for the Primera and Eibach and H&R make sports springs
Primera Buying Guide – Electrics
Check EVERYTHING works especially the air conditioning. Make sure the air coming out of the air conditioning is very cold. The Primera air con systems have been known to leak which can be time consuming and expensive to fix.
Check the sunroof works, the dash lights are all working including the ones for the milometer, rev counter etc. There are no known problems here but it is worth checking all the same.
Wipers can develop a problem where the intermittent wipe doesn’t work. This can be expensive to fit if it’s a solenoid
Primera Buying Guide – Running Costs
Typical fuel economy is between 28 and 40mpg. Tyres are 195/60-15 which are not the cheapest size but not the most expensive either. Part are not expensive
Primera Buying Guide – Prices
The GT models are becoming rarer and rarer now. The cash for clunkers scheme has definitely not helped keep them on the road. This is a crying shame as they are one of the most involving front wheels drive cars you can buy especially up against today’s modern cars with their electronic security blankets and increased weight. There are thankfully many non GT 2litre models still in circulation but they are desperately ugly. They should be fitted with the GT body kit which transform the car from bad to beautiful.
For the GT prices start at 900GBP and go up to 5000GBP depending on the condition of the car and how modified it is. Prices are pretty much at rock bottom now and we forsee the prices only increasing as the become rarer and more appreciated.
Non GT models start at 600GBP and go up to 1995GBP for absolute mint low mileage examples.
Primera Buying Guide – Summary
In short the Primera is a fantastic all round car with super low prices and super high reliability. If you can get past the chronic image problem and you will have super comfortable and involving transport on a shoe string