Flash Drive: 2009 Nissan Sentra SE-R Spec V
This 2009 review is representative of model years 2007 to 2012.
By Staff of MSN Autos
I've never been a fan of the latest Sentra design, but the styling cues that come along with the SE-R Spec V make this small sedan much more attractive. The sportiest of the Sentra lineup, the SE-R Spec V stands out with 17-inch alloy wheels, performance tires, smoked taillights and rear spoiler. The athletic feel continues inside, with sport seats that are both comfortable and decently supportive. On the road, the SE-R Spec V is quick and has a nice exhaust note, but the ride is pretty stiff. With 200 horses moving through the front wheels, I found torque steer to be an issue under hard acceleration — it took considerable effort to hold the steering wheel in place. Overall the SE-R is a fun car to drive, and with a useful interior space and fuel economy in the upper 20s, this pocket rocket deserves a look. – Perry Stern
The 2009 Nissan Sentra Spec V is a hot rod in the sense that it is a good basic car that incorporates a host of performance upgrades. But, when all was said and done, I thought those enhancements were a bit overwhelming. Make no mistake — the Spec V is fun to drive, with 200 horsepower, a 6-speed manual transmission, sport suspension and bigger brakes. However, all that power creates quite a bit of torque steer. Plus, the tuned suspension is too stiff for the chassis. The good news is that the fuel economy remains respectable at 21 mpg city/29 mpg highway. The upgrades weren't just under the skin; Nissan outfitted the Sentra with a new body kit, rear spoiler, 17-inch alloy wheels, grille and headlights. While these all dress up the stock ride, they still don't overcome the fact that the basic Sentra design is chunky, without a lot of sex appeal. – Mike Meredith
The Nissan team has built a great sports compact car with the Sentra SE-R Spec V. Equipped with a 200-horsepower engine and a 6-speed manual transmission, this car really flies when you punch the accelerator. And you can still achieve decent gas mileage if you are occasionally easy on the gas pedal; I attained 26 mpg in mixed driving. While the ride is firmer than the base Sentra model, the suspension is still comfortable enough for general commuting yet able to carve up mountain roads with authority. The car has nice interior treatments, including quality plastics, race-inspired red stitching and red seat belts. Unfortunately, the accelerator and brake pedals are too far apart to heel-and-toe shift. The trunk space is sizable, but shock strut tower braces prevent the rear seats from folding down. If Nissan could cut 200 pounds off the weight, the SE-R Spec V would be awesome. – Joe Chulick
The Nissan Sentra SE-R Spec V is the most exciting and entertaining Nissan I've driven, and that includes the 370Z and the amazing GT-R. The sport seats offer excellent support in even the most spirited maneuvers and the red seat belts provide a nice splash of color to the dark interior. The 6-speed transmission makes freeway driving a breeze and offers nicely spaced gears for every speed and mood. The engine is peppy and ample for the small and relatively lightweight Sentra. But best of all is the stiff chassis and well-tuned suspension. Traveling over bumps at low speed, the SE-R Spec V felt strong and stiff enough to lift a wheel, yet around corners there's enough compliance to soak up bumps while still providing plenty of feel and great feedback for the driver. The Spec V is a pocket rocket, one of the best cars Nissan makes, and clearly a strong competitor in its class. – Paul Hagger