Salt (NaCl) and matric stress (polyethylene glycol; PEG 6000) impacts on germination were analysed in two rapeseed (Brassica napus var oleifera Del.) cultivars (Exagone: salt and water stress tolerant; Toccata: salt and water stress sensitive), which had the same imbibition kinetics when incubated in distilled water. Final germination percentage (G) and time to reach 50% G (T50) were affected either by 325 mM NaCl or −0.9 MPa PEG in Toccata but not in Exagone. Cultivars did not differ for protein concentration and protease activity in any germination condition; thus, protein metabolism seems not to be implicated in response to stress. Hydroxurea and cytochalasine-D inhibited germination in Toccata exposed to −0.9 MPa PEG but not in Exagone, suggesting that Exagone tolerance could be due to a lower amount of damaged DNA and lower requirement for DNA replication due to cell elongation rather than cell division for radicle elongation. Soluble sugars concentration increased in salt-stressed seeds from Exagone more than in Toccata and this could have allowed osmotic adjustment and therefore cell elongation despite the presence of external NaCl. Priming treatments with gibberellic acid, kinetin, NaCl and PEG hastened seed germination under control conditions but had no effect or even negative effects on germination under both salt and matric stresses.