2009 Sentra New Car Test Drive
The Nissan Sentra, which was completely redesigned and re-engineered for the 2007 model year, continues into 2009 with only minimal changes. Among those things which are new for 2009: A slightly restyled trunk lid, new cloth seat selections, automatic door locks are made standard, MP3 capability on the 2.0 S and 2.0 SL trim levels, a new Premium Plus Package for the 2.0 SL, and three new exterior colors.
The Sentra may be thought of as a compact, but it's not that small. The truly small cars are subcompacts: Nissan Versa, Toyota Yaris, and 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 to haul long items.
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. For 2009, SE-R models have a new Premium Audio Package and two new exterior colors.
Sentra 2.0 models come with an aluminum 2.0-liter engine and a choice of 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.
The 2009 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 high-tech and fuel-efficient Nissan Xtronic continuously variable transmission (CVT), but a six-speed manual is available on the 2.0 S for $800 less.
Sentra 2.0 ($16,730) 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 read deck-lid spoiler ($210) is optional for all 2.0 models.
The 2.0 S ($16,960) 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 standard. The 2.0 S is also available with the CVT ($17,760). A Convenience Plus Package ($850) for the 2.0 S with CVT includes a leather-wrapped steering wheel, Bluetooth wireless cell phone link, overhead CD storage, power trunk release, and Intelligent Key keyless entry and ignition. Options for the 2.0 S include XM Satellite Radio ($150), a Moonroof package ($750), and alloy wheels ($350).
The 2.0 SL ($19,660) 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. Optionally available is an Audio Package ($700) with a 340-watt Rockford Fosgate AM/FM radio with six-disc CD/MP3 changer and eight speakers. The Divide-N-Hide trunk is optional ($150).
The SE-R ($20,660) 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. Both SE-R models offer an optional Premium Audio Package ($850) and an SE-R Upgrade Package ($1,000).
The SE-R Spec V ($21,160) comes with the 2.5-liter engine 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 tires. It deletes the folding rear seat. A helical limited-slip differential is optional ($400).
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, where they are optional. Electronic stability control isn't available.