2003 Sentra New Car Test Drive
The Nissan Sentra is practical and frugal, roomy and comfortable. It looks handsome and solid. The sporty SE-R models are terrific cars, fun to drive, with responsive suspensions and a bigger engine that's strong and smooth.
With prices starting at just $11,799 for the XE, the Sentra is a good value. Perhaps a better value is the GXE model, which comes loaded with popular equipment for just $13,749.
For 2003, the Sentra GXE is available with the SE-R's bigger, more powerful engine. For its part, the 2003 SE-R gets bolder styling in front. There's a killer stereo available, making these cars a great choice for people who want more than basic transportation in their lives.
The Nissan Sentra comes in a range of trim levels: the basic Sentra XE ($11,799); the more luxurious GXE ($13,749); the sporty SE-R ($15,999); and the track-tuned SE-R Spec V ($16,999). New for 2003 is the Sentra 2.5 Limited Edition.
XE comes with a 126-horsepower 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine and a short list of standard equipment that nonetheless includes power front disc brakes, a rear window defroster, dual remote-control mirrors, front air bags, power steering, a tilt steering column, 14-inch tires and intermittent windshield wipers. Options offered on other models are not necessarily available on the XE.
GXE adds air conditioning, power windows and locks with remote keyless entry, AM/FM stereo with four speakers and CD player, an eight-way adjustable driver's seat, a 60/40 split fold-down rear seat, rear heater ducts, and a digital clock. Fog lights and a rear spoiler are optional.
An automatic transmission ($800) is available. Side-impact air bags and antilock brakes come as an optional package ($749). Nissan scores an A for creativity in naming option packages for the GXE: The Road Hugging Package ($499) adds 15-inch aluminum wheels, 195/60HR15 tires and fog lights. The Road Trip Package ($359) adds cruise control, a 180-watt CD stereo with seven speakers, map lights and an overhead sunglasses bin. The Synergy Package ($999) combines the Road Trip and Road Hugging packages and adds a rear spoiler, illuminated vanity mirrors, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob.
SE-R brings a sporty personality into the Sentra. It offers great handling and there's lots of power available from the 2.5-liter engine. Rated at 165 horsepower, the engine uses compact balancers keep the power delivery smooth. The SE-R also comes with 16-inch alloy wheels with 195/55 performance tires, special body trim, a rear spoiler, special cloth seats with eight-way power for the driver, cruise control, a 180-watt audio system, sports suspension, four-wheel disc brakes and titanium-colored gauges that glow orange at night.
The SE-R Spec V uses low-restriction exhaust to boost output to 175 horsepower. To this, it adds a six-speed manual transmission, a helical limited-slip differential, 17-inch wheels with 215/45 Z-rated high-performance tires. The Spec V comes with a hot lava-red interior featuring sport seats and black and silver accents.
SE-R and SE-R Spec V options include the Audio Fanatic Package with a 300-watt nine-speaker Rockford Fosgate audio system ($549), an in-dash 6-disc CD player ($399), and a power sunroof ($699). An automatic transmission is offered for the SE-R, but not in the Spec V.
New for 2003 is the 2.5 Limited Edition, essentially a GXE model powered by the SE-R's 165-horsepower engine, and stopped by four-wheel-disc brakes. Automatic transmission, ABS, and side-impact air bags are standard. Think of it as a high-performance luxury model.
All Sentras are four-door sedans with front-wheel drive. For 2003, all California-certified 1.8-liter Sentras meet SULEV (super low-emission vehicle) and zero-evaporative emission standards.