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DRIVEN: Nissan Primastar



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Why should a UK light commercial vehicle operator consider a Nissan Primastar instead of a Renault Trafic or Vauxhall Vivaro? After all, they're the same short wheelbase panel van, built at the IBC plant in Luton and with few differences other than badging.

Nissan's answer: Primastar's basic prices are slightly cheaper, and neither of the others has rear parking sensors as standard fit.

Of course, Vauxhall has its own perceived USPs (not least of which is a larger dealer network) and has introduced aftermarket sensor kits for £84.25 plus VAT and fitting. Vauxhall and Renault have been guarded about championing their respective models since simultaneous launch last autumn, due to their cosy development and manufacturing partnership.

Similarly, Renault is not in the least condescending to Nissan, which it owns, and which also runs the Barcelona plant where left-hand drive Trafic/ Primastar is being churned out at the rate of 64,000 a year in a variety of formats.

Customer choice is, therefore, a badge thing, with model/engine line-up and aftersales support secondary.

The real question is why anyone should consider any of these clones (collectively van of the Year 2002) when there's the much-lauded Ford Transit about.

That's easy enough to answer, too, if the driving experience is the key acquisition factor: the cross-badged Alliance cabins are less van-like and, therefore, better to drive. The Primastar went on sale last month and is expected to clock up 2000 sales in its first year, compared with Trafic's 4500 total and Vivaro's 5500 or so. Vauxhall and Renault expect a 10 per cent increase next year.

Strengths: Spacious interior and good visibility
Weaknesses: Limited engine choice and no diesel option
Opportunity: Medium MPV market growing
Threat: Plenty of established rivals
The USP: Sensibly-priced family-mover
Prices: £11,995-£13,425 OTR (excluding VAT)
Segment: Medium panel van
Engines: 1.9dCI 82bhp (2.7t); 1.9dCi 100bhp (2.9t)
Transmission: 5-spd manual (80bhp); 6-spd manual (100bhp)
Torque:190Nm @ 2000rpm; 240Nm @ 2000rpm
Efficiency: 36.0-38.2mpg comb
Trims: E, SE, Access
Payloads: 1023kg-1216kg
Rivals: Ford Transit, Vauxhall Vivaro, Renault Trafic

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