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SEE ALSO: Nissan Buyer's Guide

With the introduction of the fourth-generation Sentra earlier this year, Nissan's makeover from a manufacturer best-known for specialty vehicles to a maker of sedans was complete. The Sentra follows the Altima, introduced in 1992, and the Maxima, redesigned in 1994. The newest Sentra has been extensively reworked and builds on design features and technology introduced in its siblings.

Nissan really made its mark in the U. S. with the now-legendary 510 in 1968. The original 510 was an inexpensive sedan with sports car features and performance combined with family-car practicality. First-generation 510s painted to look like the Trans-Am winning car of John Morton can still be found today. In 1982, the Sentra nameplate replaced that of the 510. The newest Sentra is a very worthy successor to the original 510. It is small and maneuverable on the outside, surprisingly roomy and well- equipped on the inside, economical, and available for a very reasonable price. It is available in four trim levels - a base model, the value-oriented XE, the popular and well-equipped GXE, and the line-topping GLE. We spent a week in the Sentra GXE and found it to be a most enjoyable and useful small car.

Since 1985, all Sentras sold in the U. S. have been assembled in Smyrna, Tennessee.

APPEARANCE: The 1995 Sentra is a very contemporary small car in appearance. Front and rear overhangs are small, and a large greenhouse dominates the design of the car. From the front, the Sentra is definitely a Nissan product, with a wide smiling air intake and body-colored grille. A low hood line and high rear deck lid give the car a wedge shape when viewed from the side. The rear panel has a full-width light treatment. Front and rear bumpers are body-colored plastic moldings.

COMFORT: The large greenhouse and short overhangs of the exterior design promise good interior space. No illusions there. The ratio of interior volume to exterior size is one of the best in its class. Front and rear leg, shoulder, and head room have been increased in the 1995 Sentra, and two real adults can fit in the back seat. The Nissan Sentra GXE offers a nylon velour and vinyl interior with air conditioning, a good sound system, and power-operated windows and mirrors for a very reasonable price. The front seats are designed to decrease fatigue and are very comfortable even when the price of the car is not considered. Instrumentation is basic, adequate, and legible. The steering wheel is adjustable for tilt. Climate control and sound system controls are well-placed and easy to use. Both systems work well to make a pleasant interior environment.

SAFETY: Nissan has not overlooked safety. In fact, the 1995 Sentra meets the 1997 Federal safety standards. In addition to side-door guard beams it features dual air bags, adjustable front seat belt shoulder height, three-point outboard seat belts, front and rear crumple zones, a rigid body structure, energy absorbing bumpers, child-safety rear door locks, and an energy-absorbing steering column

ROADABILITY: The Sentra GXE is a responsive car with a good ride and low levels of wind and road noise. The new body style has less aerodynamic drag and is very well-behaved in strong, gusty crosswinds. A chassis structure with increased rigidity anchors a MacPherson strut independent front suspension and an adaptation of the "Multi-Link Beam" suspension pioneered in the Nissan Maxima at the rear. Our GXE was very quiet at city and highway speeds. Noise, vibration and harshness, NVH, are very well controlled by the rigid body structure, as well as the efficient use of sound-deadening panels, insulation and new weatherstripping. Ride and handling are quite sporty for a car with no sports pretensions, and the Sentra delivers a high fun factor.

PERFORMANCE: Lessons learned from building the V6 engine in the Maxima have been applied to the 1.6-liter twin-cam 16-valve four cylinder powerplant of the Sentra. Reduced friction and mass, and internal redesigns in the engine result in increased power and fuel economy and reduced exhaust emissions. The engine has good power at all speeds and works well with the standard 5-speed manual transmission to provide spirited performance. A four-speed automatic transmission is optionally available.

CONCLUSIONS: In developing the 1995 Sentra, Nissan has profited from its experience with the design and manufacturing of its Altima and Maxima sedans. The Sentra GXE is a small car with many of the features of larger, more expensive cars, and is priced very competitively.


       Base Price             $ 13,449  
       Price As Tested        $ 13,839  
       Engine Type            I-4, dohc, 16-v, smpfi
       Engine Size            1.6 liter/ 97 cid 
       Horsepower             115 @ 6000
       Torque (ft/lbs)        108 @ 4000 
       Wheelbase/Length       100"/170"
       Transmission           five speed manual w/overdrive
       Curb Weight            2400 lbs.
       Pounds per Horsepower  20.8
       Fuel Capacity          13 gal.
       Fuel Requirement       Unleaded regular (87 oct)
       Tires                  P195/70R 13   m+s
       Brakes                 vented disc/drum, ABS optional
       Drive Train            Front engine/front drive
       EPA Economy - miles per gallon
         city/highway/observed     30/40/35.6
       0 to 60 mph                 10.1 sec
       1/4 mi (E.T.)               17.7 sec
       Coefficient of Drag  (Cd)   0.33