SEE ALSO: Nissan Buyer's Guide
SPECIFICATIONS Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price $ 14,299 Price As Tested $ 15,697 Engine Type DOHC 16-valve 1.8 Liter I4 w/SMFI* Engine Size 108 cid/1769 cc Horsepower 126 @ 6000 RPM Torque (lb-ft) 129 @ 2400 RPM Wheelbase/Width/Length 99.8"/67.3"/177.5" Transmission Four-speed automatic Curb Weight 2674 pounds Fuel Capacity 13.2 gallons Tires (F/R) P195/60R15 H-rated Brakes (F/R) Disc (ABS)/Drum (ABS) Drive Train Front-engine/front-wheel-drive Vehicle Type Five-passenger/four-door Domestic Content 40 percent Coefficient of Drag (Cd.) N/A PERFORMANCE EPA Economy, miles per gallon city/highway/average 26/33/30 0-60 MPH 9.5 seconds 1/4 (E.T.) 17.5 seconds @ 80.5 mph Top speed 110 mph * Sequential multi-port fuel injection
Nissan seems to be reinventing itself and it's entry-level Sentra is an example. It comes in either base XE, sporty SE, the California-only CA version or as our tester for the week, the mid-trim GXE.
OUTSIDE - The new Sentra is Nissan's first small car to be designed at the company's California-based studio, Nissan Design International. There is nothing earth-shattering about its looks but it takes styling cues from its larger siblings, the Altima and Maxima. Rather, Nissan took a conservative approach and deliberately styled Sentra without flash, just as many other car makers do with their high-volume small and mid-sized cars. It's over six inches longer and about an inch wider and taller than the previous model, but it looks much bigger. The wheelbase remains the same at 99.8 inches, but the overall structure is 30 percent stiffer in torsional rigidity. Our test GXE is the volume model and comes standard with 14-inch wheels and attractive wheel covers, along with a choice of eight exterior colors, five of them being new hues.
INSIDE - While the exterior was designed in California, the interior was created in Germany. Sentra grew inside, which is an aspect small car owners appreciate, and the company spent most of its time and engineering skill on roominess, comfort and convenience. The rear seating area grew by two cubic feet, which pushed it past the volume minimum set by the EPA to classify compact cars as compact. Even with the extra space, however, five riders inside makes for close quarters. Four aboard will be just fine on longer trips. By adding lots of insulation where it counts most, such as inside the roof pillars and body cavities, the engineers gave the Sentra a low interior noise level. Its front bucket seats are nicely bolstered and covered in durable velour cloth, while the texture of the materials that make up the dashboard and door panels looks and feels of high quality. Standard XE interior features include air conditioning, cruise control, a 100-watt stereo system and power windows, door locks and outside mirrors.
ON THE ROAD - Replacing the previous 1.6-liter standard engine in XE and GXE models is a new 1.8 liter dual overhead cam unit that produces 126 horsepower (nine more) and 129 lb-ft of torque (19 more). New features such as direct ignition, a single-roller timing chain, variable valve timing and micro-finished crank and camshafts have really helped its efficiency. A 32-bit engine control module teams with a special swirl-control valve to improve combustion during warm-up times, which is when engines pollute the most. This new powerplant meets stringent requirements and is certified as a Low Emissions Vehicle, or LEV. A special California-only version uses unique emissions systems to qualify it as a Super Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle, or SULEV. A redesigned five-speed manual transmission comes standard on all but the CA models, while an improved four-speed automatic is optional.
BEHIND THE WHEEL - Sentra is built using unibody construction on a new "global" platform that uyilizes high-strength, safety-minded Zone Body construction. The first zone is an energy absorbing crushable zone, and the second is a safety restrain zone that is made to transmit the least amount of crash energy to the passenger compartment. Sentra development time was reduced because the company had teams working on it worldwide, so cost savings came as a result of platform sharing with other Nissan cars in other countries. The front strut suspension and rear Multi-Link Beam suspension team well together to give Sentra a stable, predictable ride and very good handling characteristics. New this year are re-tunbed stabilizer bars front and rear, along with a new front subframe with stiffer bushings for improved ride comfort. Braking is handled by front disc and rear drum brakes with a four-channel, four sensor anti-lock braking system (ABS) offered optionally.
SAFETY - Dual airbags, side-impact door beams standard; ABS optional.
OPTIONS - Convenience package (60/40 split rear seat, remote keyless entry, cargo net, valet key, rear auxiliary power port), $150; Luxury package (15-inch alloy wheels, 180-watt stereo, lighted vanity mirrors, overhead storage console, map lights, engine immobilizer system), $649.