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2007 Nissan Sentra 2.0S Review

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
2007 Nissan Sentra 2.0S

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

A Fashionable Economy Sedan
By Steve Purdy
Detroit Bureau

SEE ALSO: New Car Buyer's Guide for Nissan

Two weeks ago we reviewed Toyota’s freshly redone Corolla, a conservative, sedate, upwardly mobile sedan that has evolved from compact to midsize. This week it’s Nissan’s entry in that class, the newly redesigned fifth-generation Sentra 2.0 S. With gas prices fluctuating and unpredictable this economical segment of the automobile market is becoming more and more important. Problem is that’s not where the corporate profits are. Margins on these smaller cars are so slim that most manufacturers don’t like to put a lot of resources into their development or into content. I think that may be changing, particularly in terms of content.

Our Los Angeles-built “Super Black” test car this week is a pre-production or prototype model so we’ll need to cut it a little slack in terms of build quality and some other factors. Our experience with Nissans this past year or two – and we’ve had quite a lot of them – has been of first-rate quality of manufacture and design. So we’ll surely give the benefit of the doubt on this one and probably have an opportunity for a re-evaluation later.

At first blush the restyled Sentra looks to be just a smaller version of its larger siblings, Altima and Maxima. The cab forward look that Chrysler pioneered years ago has become cab forward and rearward as exemplified with this Sentra. That is, the cabin, looks like it extends from mid-hood to mid-trunk. The A-pillar slopes steeply forward and the C-pillar, if extended in its logical conclusion would terminate at the rear bumper. The tail slopes distinctly forward and the nose is rounded nicely with large headlight sockets housing multi-reflector halogen lights. It looks distinctly Nissan.

Inside, the front-wheel-drive Sentra does not look like an economy car. It’s plenty roomy both front and back, though the trunk sure is shallow. Ingress and egress are easy. The modern shapes and forms inside do not reflect the traditional organic shapes common with most small cars. In fact, I find the dash and immediate surroundings to be mighty modern and aesthetically distinctive, attractively edgy in fact. Materials are better than expected. Fit and finish are up to high standards. No longer can even an economy car get away with anything less. In all regards I find it a good competitor to the Corolla - except in the engine category.

Sentra’s 2.0-liter, dual overhead-cam, in-line four-cylinder, rated at 140-hp and 147 lb-ft of torque, has the high tech qualities of the competitors but it sure is buzzy. On heavy throttle it makes more noise than the others and intrudes itself on the otherwise serene cabin. Gentle throttle effort is not so intrusive. Acceleration is adequate. Mileage is estimated by EPA to be 29 in the city and 36 highway on this 2,900-pound car, but the built-in data computer said we were getting 27.5 average. This is an Ultra-low Emissions rated engine/transmission combo.

This Sentra is equipped with the optional Xtronic ™ CVT – continuously variable transmission. I would prefer the standard 6-speed stick but for an automatic you can’t beat the CVT for balance between economy and performance. On sustained full-throttle it’ll rev to within a few hundred rpm of red line and stay there as speed increases – rather slowly though I must say.

Handling is good, but nothing special. I wouldn’t try any tricks with it. Suspension is by independent struts in front and torsion beams (semi-independent) in the rear. Front vented disc and rear drums stop the car pretty well. Steering is electronic drive-by-wire. The chassis feels good and tight. After a bit less than a week with the Sentra we have nothing to complain about and nothing to brag about. It’s just a comfortable, competent car derived from a Renault platform. The few little niggles, like the ignition switch and shifter both of which have minor catches preventing consistent smooth operation, we’ll attribute to the pre-production status of this particular test car. Everything else worked and felt just fine.

The 2007 Sentra comes in three iterations: 2.0, 2.0 S and 2.0 SL. Price of entry for the 2.0 is $14,700 and includes 15-inch wheels, power windows and locks, AC with filter, AM/FM/CD with audio input jack and side-impact air bags. The 2.0S begins at $15,600 and adds 16-inch steel wheels, more speakers for the audio system, steering wheel controls, remote keyless entry, trip computer and height-adjustable driver’s seat. The 2.0 SL comes with the CVT, 16-inch aluminum alloy wheels, intelligent keyless entry, Bluetooth hands-free compatibility and leather appointed seats.

Our 2.0 S test car also has the Rockford Fosgate audio package with XM satellite radio, CD-ROM with playback and 6-CD in-dash changer, Bluetooth, leather steering wheel, integrated overhead CD holder, special trunk cargo system, cruise with steering wheel controls, intelligent keyless entry, fog lights, 16-inch alloy wheels, ABS and electronic brake force distribution system. Bottom line on our sticker is $19,885.

Standard warranty coverage is 36 months/36,000 miles with powertrain covered for 5 years/60 months.

I guess my favorite aspect of the ’07 Sentra is the styling and design. It looks really great and would fit in to any upscale garage. If you’re out shopping for an economical little 4-door sedan you ought to have a look at this one.

Steve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights Reserved