2008 Sentra New Car Test Drive
The Nissan Sentra was completely redesigned and re-engineered for the 2007 model year. Some think the second year of production is the sweet spot for a new car, and that's where the Sentra is now.
The Sentra may be classified as a compact, but it's not that small. The truly small cars are subcompacts: Nissan Versa, Toyota Yaris, Honda Fit. The Sentra is larger and roomier than those cars and competes with compacts such as the Toyota Corolla and Honda Civic. Sentra comes only as a four-door sedan (no hatchback is offered) and all models are front-wheel drive.
This latest-generation Sentra was designed for American buyers. As a result, the cabin is spacious and it's finished like a more expensive car, with wonderfully supportive seats in cloth or leather. The 60/40 split rear seat folds flat, opening up the trunk space and creating a large flat cargo area. It's enough space for two to sleep back there, or haul long items.
High-performance Sentra SE-R and SE-R Spec V models have joined the lineup for 2008. The high-performance Sentra SE-R and the higher performance SE-R Spec V feature a 2.5-liter four-cylinder tuned to 177 horsepower and 200 horsepower respectively. These SE-R models have suspension modifications for sharper handling. The SE-R models have more power and better handling, but they're easy to live with and offer all the advantages of the standard Sentra.
Sentra 2.0 models come with an aluminum 2.0-liter engine and a choice between a wonderful six-speed manual gearbox or a CVT continuously variable automatic transmission. These cars are good values. They're roomy inside, the engine is modern and competitive, and the chassis provides good handling and a comfortable ride. Sentras with the 2.0-liter engine are EPA rated at 25/33 mpg City/Highway with the CVT, 24/31 mpg with the six-speed manual. Nissan is a leader in CVT, or continuously variable transmission, design, and we've been happy with them.
For 2008, there are no significant changes to the Sentra 2.0-liter models.
The 2008 Nissan Sentra comes in five models: 2.0, 2.0 S, 2.0 SL, SE-R, and SE-R Spec V.
Sentra 2.0 models come with Nissan's 2.0-liter four-cylinder aluminum engine, making 140 horsepower and 147 pound-feet of torque. The standard transmission in the 2.0 and 2.0 S is a sporty six-speed manual, but a high-tech and fuel-efficient Nissan Xtronic CVT is available ($800); this Continuously Variable Transmission comes standard on the 2.0 SL.
Sentra 2.0 ($15,750) comes with cloth seats, air conditioning, interior air filter, tilt steering wheel, remote manual mirrors, four-way adjustable manual front seats, 60/40 split fold-down rear seats, power windows, power door locks, electric power steering, AM/FM/CD stereo with four speakers, auxiliary audio input jack, theft-deterrent system, and P205/60R15 tires on steel wheels with wheel covers. Anti-lock brakes are optional ($250). A Sunroof package ($750) includes a sunroof and illuminated visor mirrors. Alloy wheels are available ($350).
The 2.0 S ($15,980) adds a height adjustment for the driver's seat, power exterior mirrors, remote keyless entry, cruise control, illuminated steering wheel audio controls, a six-speaker sound system, vehicle information display, and P205/55R16 tires. ABS with electronic brake-force distribution is newly standard for 2008. The 2.0 S is also available with the CVT ($16,780), which adds Nissan's Intelligent Key keyless access and ignition. A Convenience package ($650 manual, $850 CVT) for the 2.0 S includes a leather-wrapped steering wheel, Bluetooth wireless cell phone link, overhead CD storage, power trunk release, and Nissan's Divide-n-Hide trunk with a hidden storage compartment, cargo nets and hooks. For 2008, ABS with electronic brake-force distribution is standard. Available for 2.0 S models and above is a Rockford Fosgate Audio package ($750) with a 340-watt Rockford Fosgate AM/FM radio with six-disc CD/MP3 changer and eight speakers. XM Satellite Radio ($150) is optional. A rear deck lid spoiler ($210) is optional for all 2.0 models.
The 2.0 SL ($18,680) gets leather upholstery, leather-wrapped steering wheel, Intelligent Key, Bluetooth hands-free cell phone link, XM satellite radio with three months of service, and alloy wheels. The Divide-n-Hide trunk is optional ($150).
The SE-R ($19,680) features a 2.5-liter four-cylinder that makes 177 hp and 172 pound-feet of torque, and it is mated to a CVT. The SE-R comes with a sports suspension, a rear spoiler and P225/45R17 all-season tires. Intelligent Key ($250) and XM ($150) are optional. The SE-R is available with a limited-slip differential ($400).
The SE-R Spec V ($20,180) comes with the 2.5-liter tuned to produce 200 hp and 180 pound-feet of torque, and it links to a six-speed manual gearbox. The SE-R Spec V sports a performance suspension and W-rated P225/45R17 summer tires. It deletes the folding rear seat.
Safety equipment is extensive on all models, including dual-stage front airbags, front side airbags, full length curtain airbags, active front seat headrests, and a tire-pressure monitor. Antilock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution are standard on all but the 2.0 S, where they are optional. Electronic stability control isn't available.