New Car/Review

1999 Nissan Sentra SE

By Matt/Bob Hagin

Nissan Full Line factory footage (16:43) 28.8, 56k, or 200k

SPECIFICATIONS

     Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 17,239
     Price As Tested                                    $ 19,276
     Engine Type               DOHC 16-valve 2.0 Liter I4 w/MFI*
     Engine Size                                 122 cid/1998 cc
     Horsepower                                   140 @ 6400 RPM
     Torque (lb-ft)                               132 @ 4800 RPM
     Wheelbase/Width/Length                   99.8"/66.6"/170.0"
     Transmission                              Five-speed manual
     Curb Weight                                     2622 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                            23/31/28         

     0-60 MPH                                        8.5 seconds
     1/4 Mile (E.T.)                     16.5 seconds @ 84.5 mph
     Top speed                                           105 mph

     * Multi-point Fuel Injection

(Matt Hagin says this week's test vehicle, the Nissan Sentra SE, is as fun to drive as when it first came out a few years back. Bob Hagin feels the same way and says that by producing the Sentra SE, Nissan shows that it hasn't forgotten its small-car roots.)

BOB - The Nissan Sentra SE is a successful little machine, Matt. And going on the premise that it's foolhardy to mess with successful, Nissan has pretty much changed the '99 version in only small ways. We tested virtually the same car in '98 but this year the Sentra has a new grill and three new colors. The SE is a genuine sports sedan and it has several performance extras that the lesser Sentra versions lack, starting with the rubber. On the SE, the skinny economy skins have been bypassed for R-rated 195/55 rubber that's mounted on 15-inch alloy rims. The other models roll on 13 or 14-inch wheels and use lots less "sticky" rubber. The SE also profits from having disc brakes at all four corners, an attribute that the other ones lack. The handling is also improved by the addition of a larger-than-standard sway bar in front and an additional one in back. The spring rates on the SE are stiffer and the shocks are set for a tighter ride.

MATT - This SE version of the Sentra is a practical family car too, Dad. It gets better than average economy from its 2.0 liter engine and it provides sports car-like performance without resorting to "trick-stuff" like a variable valve timing system. Nissan has trimmed back on its model offerings for '99 and now offers the Sentra in only three trim levels instead of the five of years gone by. The Base trim and the luxurious GLE are gone so now the econobox model is the XE, with the fancier GXE next up the line. The SE is definitely a hot-rod compared to the other two versions of the car. All Sentras share a common body shell and basic hardware pieces but the powerplant in the SE is the 2.0 liter four cylinder that was used in Nissan's now-defunct 200SX sports coupe. The other two, the XE and the GXE, use a smaller 1.6 liter engine which is OK but it doesn't have the kick of the two-liter.

BOB - The ancillary units on the SE give a more sporting attitude too, Matt. It has additional bodyside cladding and a spoiler on the trunk lid. The dashboard sports a pair of large, white-faced dials and they house a tachometer and a speedometer. The two front bucket seats are pretty well designed and provide good side support when the car is tossed around but if three adult tried to cram themselves in back, they'd have to avoid breathing very hard. Kids would be OK, however. The SE has lots of high-class fancy stuff as well. It's easy to get used to remote outside control of the doors locks and the convenience of power windows are almost a necessity now days. And an auto maker would have a hard time putting out a car that didn't offer air conditioning, at least in this country.

MATT - As it was last year, our SE has an anti-lock braking system for an extra $500, but I think that a sports-oriented car like this one would do well to make it standard equipment. The cost would go up a bit but it would be worth it in the long run. I know that you aren't in favor of a sun roof of any kind, Dad, but I use it a lot to get sunshine and fresh air without blowing my kids out of the back seat. Tilt steering is another plus in a family sedan since it allows a great variety of drivers to operate a Sentra in comfort. Sentra's towing capacity is only 1000 pounds which isn't enough to pull our ski boat. We'll have to wait for the company to give us one of its Pathfinder sport/utility vehicles or a Frontier pickup before we can do that "evaluation" on a Nissan. The Sentra is better relegated to people-hauling. The fuel tank size is 13 gallons and with careful driving, this will give the car a range of around 400 miles before it's ready for a refill.

BOB - The Sentra SE a great car for a family that can't afford both a sports coupe and a vehicle to go to Grandma's house on Sunday.

MATT - True in most cases, Dad, but I'm sure you recall that Grandma always came to our house. She didn't want our gang messing up her place.

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