The R20 was based on the WD21 Nissan Terrano platform, and came in two body styles differing in wheelbase—a shorter three-door and longer five-door model. For the British market chiefly, a panel van version of the three-door was also made. The vehicle's body, tall compared to most competitors and providing for high ground clearance, was designed by the Italian I.DE.A Institute.
Production of the R20 started in Spain in February 1993 and the Terrano II went on sale in Europe in May that year. The Mistral was launched in Japan in June 1994, at first available in the five-door version only - the three-door Mistral joined in 1995. In 1996, the car was facelifted, gaining round headlights.
In the beginning of 1999, both the JDM Mistral model and the Ford Maverick were phased out, while the remaining Terrano II was facelifted again, gaining a new front fascia more in line with contemporary Nissans, as well as an updated interior. In 2002, yet another facelift took place, giving the model the steering wheel from the Nissan Primera P12. Presented in March at the 72nd Geneva Motor Show the model was hence marketed as simply "Nissan Terrano" in Europe, the previous Terrano being marketed as Pathfinder. The R20 was sold in Europe until 2006, when production in Spain ceased.