In 1981, the Nissan Prairie was launched in the Japanese market followed by its introduction in the European market in 1982. The Prairie was marketed as Multi in Canada, while in the US market it was sold as Stanza Wagon.
In North America, the second generation Prairie was introduced as Nissan Axxess. However, it was taken over by the Nissan Quest, a joint venture of Nissan and Ford, following the poor sales. Nissan Serena replaced the Nissan Prairie in European market.
The third generation of Prairie was launched in the Japanese market as Prairie Liberty, but the ‘Prairie’ name was discontinued leaving behind the Liberty in November 1998. In December 2004, the Prairie was pulled out of the market in favor of the Nissan Lafesta.
First Generation (Series M10 1982–1988)
The first generation Prairie was marketed as Multi in Canada and Station Wagon in United States. It was powered by five inline 4-cylinder engines with an option of manual or automatic transmission. It was offered as front-wheel drive with an option of four-wheel drive as well. It featured rear passenger sliding doors on both sides as well as a folding rear seat. The major competitors of Prairie at that time were Toyota Sprinter Carib and Honda Shuttle.
Majority of the Prairie were five-seater, however, there were some seven-seaters as well. The concept of Nissan Prairie was basically an inspiration taken from the Lancia Megagamma show car from Giorgetto Giugiaro and ItalDesign, revealed in 1979.
In the beginning, the Prairie was equipped with a 1.5-L I4 engine. A 1.8-L engine was added in the lineup in later years.
Second Generation (Series M11 1988–1998)
In September 1988, the second generation Prairie was launched. It was marketed in North America as Nissan Axxess. It was sold in Canadian market for about six years while it remained in sales for only one year, i.e. 1990 in the United States.
The second generation Prairie was offered with a 2.0-L engine which made it inappropriate for the off-road driving, though four-wheel drive was available as an option. Nissan at no point opted to withdraw from the family-oriented minivan market, hence released the Nissan Quest in collaboration with the Ford North America in 1993. The Ford sold Quest as the Mercury Villager. The larger Nissan Serena took the place of Prairie in Europe.
In the Japanese market, Nissan started focusing on the Prairie and eventually offered a Prairie Joy in August 1995 having additional space on the rear with a view to provide better room for third seat passengers and increased load carrying ability. For the second generation, Prairie continued to compete with Toyota Sprinter Carib and Honda Civic.
Styling had always been a weak point for Prairie since its first appearance. The second generation showed no improvement as well, a big reason for poor sales. From May 1997, the Prairie was offered with anti-lock brakes, ultraviolet restricting tinted glass and front and rear passenger airbags.
Third Generation (Series M12 1998–2004)
In 1999, Nissan introduced the third generation Prairie as Nissan Liberty. It was offered in both front-wheel drive as well as all-wheel drive versions. Like previous generations, it also featured rear sliding doors. The engine options available for third generation Prairie were: the SR20DE and the SR20DET engine, coupled with a 4-speed automatic or a CVT transmission.
The third generation Prairie used the platform found in the compact station wagon Nissan Avenir. For the third generation Prairie, the emphasis was given to the comfortable seating and its cargo carrying capabilities.
The major competitors for the third generation Prairie were the vehicles from Toyota and Honda, i.e. Toyota Ipsum and Honda Stream respectively.
On May 7, 2001, Nissan introduced and electrically controlled rear sliding doors. Nissan on June 19, 2001 introduced rear doors that electrically swung up especially for the passengers who use wheelchair. A wide range of appearance packages were also released to enhance the looks of the car. The production was discontinued in December 2004 and Nissan Lafesta took its place in the market.