2011 Sentra New Car Test Drive
The Nissan Sentra is a compact sedan that offers much more than a first impression might suggest. It's bigger than it looks, so it opens up to a roomy interior. It offers a commendable level of features, sophistication, safety and technology. And it's fun to drive, so just because you're saving money on gas doesn't mean the commute, or the vacation trip, has to be boring. Finally, it's stylish in a way that looks more expensive than the window sticker indicates.
The Sentra, available as a four-door sedan only (there is no hatchback or two-door model) was designed for the American market and American buyers. The spacious cabin is finished like that of a more expensive car and it has comfortable and supportive seats. There's a 60/40-split rear seat that folds flat, opening up the trunk space and creating a large flat cargo area that's handy for hauling long items.
The Sentra is fun to drive, with a level of performance and handling that's a pleasant surprise in a compact sedan. It's powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder of 140 horsepower, which is matched to a very nice six-speed manual in the base car, with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) optional in the base car and standard on all other trim levels. It is EPA-rated at 24 mpg City, 31 mpg Highway with the manual and a very thrifty 26/34 mpg with the CVT.
There are two high-performance versions: The Sentra SE-R has a 2.5-liter engine with 177 horsepower and the CVT; its fuel economy figures are 24/30 mpg City/Highway. The even higher performance SE-R Spec V has the 2.5-liter engine, but upgraded to 200 horsepower and fitted with a six-speed manual; it is EPA-rated at 21/28 mpg City/Highway. The SE-R models also have suspension modifications for sharper handling. Even though they offer higher levels of power and handling, they're easy to live with, offer all the advantages of the standard Sentra and still deliver good fuel economy.
For 2010, Nissan Sentra gets several upgrades. Headlamps and taillights are new. 2010 Sentra 2.0 models have new grille and front-end designs. Inside are revised seat upholstery and door trim, for 2010, and freshened instrument panel accents and illumination. There have also been changes to the options, including new Technology and Navigation Packages; the Navigation Package includes XM NavTraffic Real-Time Traffic Information. The upper-end 2.0 SL has standard Vehicle Dynamic Control (electronic stability control) and Traction Control. 2010 Sentra models also get new wheel designs and other detail exterior changes.
The Nissan Sentra represents a solid value. It's roomy inside, the engine is modern and competitive, and the chassis provides good handling and a comfortable ride. We like the continuously variable transmission. All told, if you're in the market for a compact sedan that offers a lot of value in a lot of areas, the Sentra deserves your attention.
The Nissan Sentra comes in six models: 2.0, 2.0 S, 2.0 SR, 2.0 SL, SE-R, and SE-R Spec V.
The 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 is a high-tech and fuel-efficient Nissan Xtronic continuously variable transmission (CVT), but a six-speed manual is available with the base 2.0.
The Sentra 2.0 ($15,420 with manual transmission, $16,600 with CVT) 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 and electronic stability control are optional as a package ($510). Other options include a read deck-lid spoiler ($210), floor mats ($110), an auto-dimming mirror ($125), splash guards ($140), and interior accent lighting ($300).
The 2.0 S ($17,160) 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. A Convenience Package ($850) for the 2.0 S includes a leather-wrapped steering wheel, Bluetooth wireless cell phone link, power trunk release, and Intelligent Key keyless entry and ignition. Optional for the 2.0 S is Vehicle Dynamic Control with Traction Control ($370), plus the features available for the 2.0.
The 2.0 SR ($17,160) is equipped identically to the 2.0 S, but has a sportier appearance, with a sport grille, unique front and rear fascia treatments, side sill spoilers, rear decklid spoiler with integrated brake light, smoked headlights and taillights, driving lights, exhaust tip, and SR badging on the rear deck.
The 2.0 SL ($18,560) gets leather upholstery, leather-wrapped steering wheel, Intelligent Key, Bluetooth hands-free cell phone link, XM Satellite Radio, and alloy wheels. Options include a Premium Package ($700) with moonroof, illuminated visor vanity mirrors, cargo net and hooks; a Premium Plus Package ($850) with all of the above plus heated front seats; a Technology Package ($880) with a 340-watt eight-speaker Rockford Fosgate AM/FM radio with six-disc CD/MP3 and a RearView Monitor; navigation ($400); and leather ($700).
The SE-R ($19,580) 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. Optional with the SE-R is the SE-R Upgrade Package ($2,050) with moonroof, dual visor vanity mirrors, XM Satellite Radio, RearView Monitor, Intelligent Key with keyless ignition, and the 340-watt Rockford Fosgate audio system.
The SE-R Spec V ($20.080) comes with the 2.5-liter engine tuned to produce 200 hp and 180 pound-feet of torque, and a six-speed manual gearbox. The SE-R Spec V has a performance suspension and W-rated P225/45R17 tires. It deletes the folding rear seat. Optional is a Spec V Upgrade Package ($2,200), which is identical to the SE-R Upgrade Package except that it also includes a Helical Limited-Slip Differential.
Both SE-R models include Vehicle Dynamic Control, Nissan's electronic stability control system, which includes Traction Control; anti-lock brakes; Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD); AM/FM/CD/USB audio unit with six speakers, 160 watts and a 4.3-inch color display; and a leather-wrapped steering wheel.
Safety equipment includes 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.