New Car Review

1998 NISSAN SENTRA SE

by Matt/Bob Hagin

nissan

SEE ALSO: Nissan Buyer's Guide


SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 16,749
Price As Tested                                    $ 18,716
Engine Type               DOHC 4-valve 2.0 Liter I4 w/SPFI*
Engine Size                                 122 cid/1998 cc
Horsepower                                   140 @ 6400 RPM
Torque (lb-ft)                               132 @ 4800 RPM
Wheelbase/Width/Length                   99.8"/66.6"/171.1"
Transmission                              Five-speed manual
Curb Weight                                     2617 pounds
Fuel Capacity                                  13.2 gallons
Tires  (F/R)                                     P195/55R15
Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/disc (ABS)
Drive Train                  Front-engine/front-wheel-drive
Vehicle Type                       Five-passenger/four-door
Domestic Content                                        N/A
Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                              0.33

PERFORMANCE

EPA Economy, miles per gallon
   city/highway/average                            23/31/29         
0-60 MPH                                        8.4 seconds
1/4 Mile (E.T.)                     16.5 seconds @ 84.1 mph
Top speed                                           109 mph
     * Sequential multi-point fuel injection

(Bob Hagin's affinity for small, quick Nissan sedans goes back three decades and he likes the fact that the company makes econoboxes that are fun to drive. Matt Hagin likes the new Nissan Sentra SE for about the same reasons.)

MATT - These new Nissan Sentra sedans are neat little family cars that give good economy from their 1.6 liter four-banger engines. They offer reasonable performance even when they're carrying the optional four-speed automatic transmission instead of the standard five-speed manual due to a variable valve timing system in the engine that gives good low-end torque without sacrificing top end power or economy. The Sentra can be had in Base trim, a somewhat upscale XE trim, through the fancier GXE to the luxurious GLE model. But the SE version is something special. It's a definite pocket-rocket and provides really good performance for a reasonable price. About the only things that the SE shares with the other more prosaic Sentra models is the body shell and the basic hardware pieces.

BOB - The SE that the company gave us is a new version of the Sentra this year. In truth, it's more like Nissan's 200 SX sport coupe model with a couple of extra doors and a fairly comfortable seat in back for kids. It has a lot of performance amenities that the other Sentra models don't have and the differences start at ground level. It rides on low-profile 195/55R tires mounted on alloy 15-inch rims while the more prosaic models roll on 13 or 14 inch wheels that mount more mundane skins. And where the standard rear brakes on the other cars are drum units, the SE carries disk brakes both front and rear. It has sway bars on both ends where the others only have them in back and the SE spring rates and shock absorber settings are tuned for nimble handling.

MATT - The engine in the SE is altogether different from the one used in the other four Sentras too, Dad. Where the 1.6 liter engine has an iron block and an aluminum head, the SE uses the all-aluminum SR20DE powerplant that's used in the 200SX. It's a totally different design and even the bore and stroke are different. It puts out 140 horses which is 25 more than the smaller engine and tops out at 7100 RPM. Like the other Sentras, it comes standard with a five-speed manual gearbox but the four-speed automatic is also available in the SE. The rear suspension is a five-link system with a beam axle that's not as sophisticated as a full independent but it seems to get the job done.

BOB - The SE that we tried had an anti-skid brake system for an extra $500 and I think that ABS ought to be included as standard equipment even if it does bump the price up a bit. As long as it's working right, ABS is a real boon to safety and ought to be on every new car. I could have done without the power-operated sun roof but I have to admit that I'm getting used to driving vehicles like this Sentra that come with power-operated windows and door locks and the remote door keyless entry system is pretty handy, too. Your brother Brendan appreciated the fact that he could use the tilt system to avoid having the steering wheel rub against his knees. Having a family as big as ours is handy when it comes to checking out driving positions on the cars we get. Hagins range in height from barely five feet to six-foot-four.

MATT - Tom wouldn't be able to do much boat towing with the Sentra since it's only rated at being able to pull 1000 pounds. I'd like to see the fuel tank a little larger but with its capacity of just over 13 gallons and a highway milage rating of 31 MPG, it could hypothetically go just over 400 miles on one fill-up.

BOB - I consider the Sentra SE the perfect type of car for a family guy who isn't in a high tax bracket but wants a four-door that can be driven with more than a little gusto when the spirit moves him. Then he can put the kids in the back and go grocery shopping.

MATT - That statement is somewhat factually as well as politically incorrect, Dad. Mom and all the other women in the Hagin family have never been accused of being feint-hearted when it comes to "spirited" driving.

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