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2007 Nissan Sentra SL Review

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SEE ALSO: New Car Buyer's Guide for Nissan

Model: 2007 Nissan Sentra SL
Engine: 2.0-liter DOHC I-4
Horsepower/Torque: 140 hp @ 5100 rpm/147 lb.-ft. @ 4800 rpm
Transmission: CVT
Wheelbase: 105.7 in.
Length x Width x Height: 179.8 x 70.5 x 59.5 in.
Tires: 16-inch
Cargo volume: 13.1 cu. ft.
Economy: 29 mpg city/36 mpg highway
Price: $18,400 (base)

The Good News – The new Sentra is bigger than the car it replaces, has more power, and is quieter. Plus, it has unique storage areas that enhance its practicality.

The Bad News – Not a whole lot, except the small door storage areas are next to useless.

After 24 years and five generations in the United States market, the Nissan Sentra has proved itself a worthy competitor for cars like the Ford Focus, Chevrolet Cobalt and Toyota Corolla. More than 3.8 million Sentras have been sold through the 2006 model year, making it Nissan’s second-best selling car.

Now Nissan has introduced the sixth generation Sentra and it’s a fine example of what a small car should be. While it’s not as large as the Altima (more on that at a later date), it has decent size that makes it comfortable for oversized drivers and passengers. It also has decent power from a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine and a smooth-shifting continuously variable transmission (CVT) that is the envy of those I drove many years ago.

The sixth generation Sentra has been specifically designed for the North American market. It is built on the Renault-Nissan Global C platform that also includes the Renault Megane in Europe and the Nissan Lafesta and Serena minivans in Japan. Manufacturing will be in Nissan’s Aguascalientes plant in Mexico (that’s not particularly important, I just wanted to write Aguascalientes). This plant also produces the new Versa, as well as the Nissan Platina and Renault Clio for South America.

Styling of the Sentra departs from the previous generation in ways other than size. On the inside, for example, there’s a new instrument panel layout and the gear shifter has been relocated to the bottom of the center stack where it’s almost a part of the dash.

Since I’m a habitual drinker in the car (coffee or water), cupholders and their location are important to me. The center cupholders that serve the front passengers are fully adjustable. You can move the center divider to create two equal cupholders or one large cupholder and everything in between. If you’re not interested in carrying water, the large setting also creates a good cubby hole.

The trunk has a unique divider that creates a hidden storage area behind the rear seats. With the divider up, you can keep valuables behind the seat where anyone looking in the trunk or inside the car can’t find them, yet they are easily accessible. Even with the divider, the trunk is a good size for a compact car, at 13.1 cubic feet.

Well, how does the new Sentra drive? We had an opportunity to take it over more than 150 miles of interesting hilly, winding roads east of Oakland, California. While we had amazing vistas of San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge, we also had the challenge of some tough roads that were ideal for evaluating a car like this.

On Interstates and Freeways, the engine was relatively quiet for a four-banger. There was certainly enough power to keep up with anything else on the highway and pass whenever we wanted. When we left the highway and encountered the twistys and hills, I was impressed with how well the engine rose to the challenge. It was a bit buzzier when I kicked in the accelerator, but it certainly wasn’t a sound that was a problem.

Equally, the CVT transmission shifted smoothly, even with some of the challenges we placed on it. We were often “shifting” from a lower gear to a higher one and vice versa as the road made its many convolutions. I said to my passenger that I thought the roads were ideal to evaluate the vehicle.

The Sentra is equipped with a new independent front suspension with offset coil springs and digressive valves on the struts that vary the damping. This offered a compliant ride that was comfortable on highways and stiff enough on the twistys to make handling comfortable.

The Sentra also uses electric power steering that is tuned for a strong on-center feel. What I liked most was that I never removed my hands from the 10 and 2 o’clock positions on the wheel during the entire run, which indicated that when I had hard turns I could do them without having to worry about where my hands were going to be.

I liked the solidity of the Sentra, and it’s something you notice in the first mile you drive it. This is a car that’s well put-together and wants you to know it.

2006 The Auto Page Syndicate