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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Primera EQ: A Japanese Car With Euro Style

For Nissan, the letters "EQ" represent something extremely important. They have nothing at all to do with the Euro-currency that nobody can be bothered with, but do concern Europe. EQ stands for "enjoyment" and "quality" and is the company's internal codename for its new star -- the 1997 Primera. It's a car that Nissan expects to deliver sales success right across the continent.

Replacing the current Primera -- less impressively referred to as P10 -- the new car goes on sale from September. With Nissan's Euro-ambitions still strong, it is vital for the Japanese giant to have a major player in the family-car segment of the market, which accounts for in excess of 3 million car sales a year in Europe. That's almost a quarter of total sales, so it is no surprise that Nissan is keen to push the newcomer as even more "European" than the current model, which has topped half a million sales since its launch six years ago and has won dozens of awards, including a second place in the 1990 Car of the Year competition.

Built in Britain at Nissan's Sunderland factory, the new Primera faces tough competition. Cars like the Ford Mondeo, Opel Vectra, Renault Laguna and Peugeot 406 are not easily brushed aside. As with the current Primera, there will be five-door hatchback and four-door sedan models, both tailored to European rather than Japanese demands, even though the sedan sells in Japan as well.

At first sight, this car looks substantially like the current model but first impressions can be misleading. Although the changes are evolutionary rather than revolutionary, this is a completely new car. Every body panel has changed, the window-line is higher and the front sports a new two-part grille. The hatchback is the first Nissan passenger car to be styled entirely in Europe, in this case by designers at the company's Brussels styling studio.

When the design team began to work seriously on the project, the key words they worked with were "sleek," "sporty," and "solid." The result, in styling terms at least, is a car that wins no prizes for innovation but is not offensive either.

One aspect of the current car that Nissan was adamant about keeping was its handling ability, for which it enjoyed an enviable reputation. In fact, the new model will be promoted even more heavily than the old with regard to handling. There are several reasons why the company is confident enough to make claims about being best in class when it comes to the driving experience. The new Primera features multi-link beam suspension at the rear, making it the first Nissan with a multi-link arrangement all round. Developed from the system that made its debut in the QX executive sedan and has since appeared on the Almera, the suspension is designed to ensure a big improvement in both comfort and control.

Longer than the present model by 30 millimeters, the Primera has more room inside, especially in the rear, where knee room increases by 35 millimeters. That may not sound like a lot, but it makes a noticeable difference. New front seats give more support than before and are more comfortable, and the facia has been completely redesigned to be both more attractive and ergonomically satisfying. Nissan engineers spent many days freezing in Northern Finland to ensure that heater performance -- a problem with the current car -- was not only up to standard but to a much higher standard.

An unseen advantage of the new suspension -- or at least unseen until you open the trunk -- is that there is much less intrusion into the luggage space, increasing stowing capacity. Two large standard size suitcases can be stacked in the sedan, with the hatchback better still.

No one can launch a new car these days without safety being near the top of the list of attractions and the Primera is no exception. Nissan executives point to safe and secure handling, improved anti-lock brakes, and head lights that are brighter by an astonishing 70 percent.

Security against thieves is provided by an array of new features. The cars includes the latest Nissan Anti-Theft System, and deadlocking is now automatic. Further security comes from the lack of an external lock on the front passenger door -- this is a car you open by remote control.

Under the hood, the 1.6-liter and 2.0-liter gasoline engines used to date have been modified to improve throttle response and fuel economy. The 1.6 benefits from the latter, with official combined average consumption of 6.9 liters per 100 kilometers. Performance doesn't suffer, either -- this is still a 180-kilometers-per-hour car with the potential to accelerate from zero to 100 kilometers in just 12 seconds.

There's no doubt that the new Primera is an improvement on the old and this is clearly the company's "most European" car.

But this may actually be a drawback, since there will be those who decide the car is too European, too much like other cars and sometimes it pays to be different. Still, research and customer clinics show that many motorists like the car -- all Nissan has to do now is persuade them to buy it.

Paul Chadderton is motoring editor of Auto Express in Britain. He contributed this article to The Moscow Times.