2011 Nissan Sentra

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Review: 2007 Nissan Sentra

This 2007 review is representative of model years 2007 to 2012.
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
Rating: 7

Bottom Line:

Slicker, more powerful Sentra is more of a rival to top-selling compact cars.
Pros:
  • Intelligently redesigned
  • Roomier
  • Good fuel economy
Cons:
  • Steering a bit stiff
  • Aimed strictly at mainstream buyers
  • Average highway performance

The Nissan Sentra always has been a no-fuss economy car, although a few high performance versions have appealed to auto buffs. Nissan says it hopes the new, sixth-generation Sentra will be an "aspirational" model, not just an "entry level" auto.

The redesigned 2007 Sentra front-wheel-drive compact sedan replaces a model introduced in 2000. That makes the new Sentra long overdue in a very competitive auto market. Being late to the party is rather odd for Nissan because it's aggressive and one of Japan's largest automakers, right up there with Toyota and Honda.

Nissan understandably has concentrated on larger, more profitable new models, besides its sports car. But keeping an old Sentra around too long has given Toyota and Honda more of an open field to attract coveted younger car buyers to their entry-level cars.

Worth the Wait
However, better late than never, and the sixth-generation Sentra seems worth the wait—although it's a mass-market economy car until a sportier, more powerful SE-R version arrives late in 2007.

There are three trim levels: entry 2.0, midrange 2.0S and top-line 2.0SL. Base prices range from $14,750 to $18,400.

Nissan says its new Versa—one of the best new entry Japanese economy cars—let it move the Sentra up in size (which makes sense) and allowed it to make the Sentra more stylish (which makes no sense).

Sleeker and Larger
However, the Sentra looks sleeker and more substantial than its predecessor. Built on a new Nissan platform, it has a 5.9-inch longer wheelbase and is 2.3 inches longer overall and 3.2 inches wider. It's also 4 inches taller for better entry and exit and additional head room.

Besides being roomier, the new interior has a fair number of comfort and convenience features, including air conditioning and power windows and locks. Newly standard are front-seat side airbags and side-curtain airbags.

Extras include leather upholstery, wireless cell-phone link and keyless starting and locking.

Roomy
Large door handles make it easy to enter the quiet, functional interior. There's good room for four tall adults, or for five in a pinch. Front seats provide more support than one might expect in an economy car, and the back seat is exceptionally roomy.

The speedometer and tachometer can be quickly read, but the fuel and coolant temperature gauges are an odd yellowish color that makes them seem as if pulled from another car.

Clever Trunk Feature
Increasing cargo capacity is a 60/40 split-folding rear seat. A clever removable trunk divider panel creates a hidden truck storage compartment and can be positioned flat on the trunk floor when not used. The panel has hooks to help secure items such as grocery bags.

Cargo volume is up 1.5 cubic feet to 13.1 cubic feet over the 2006 Sentra. Besides routine stuff, items such as snowboards, hockey sticks and bicycles can be hauled.

The large trunk has a wide opening with a lid that moves well up and out of the way on hydraulic struts. But no interior pull-down handle on the lid's inside metal means hands will get dirty on the outside metal—a curious oversight for a car destined to see many shopping centers.

New Engine
Powering the Sentra is a brand new 2.0-liter 140-horsepower 4-cylinder engine. It replaces a 1.8-liter 126-horsepower 4-cylinder and delivers most of its 147 pound-feet of torque at low and midrange speeds typically used in normal driving. The generally smooth engine is on fluid-filled mounts to prevent some of the typical vibration of 4-cylinder engines.

The 2.0 and 2.0S trim levels work with a 6-speed manual gearbox. Optional on those versions and standard on the 2.0SL is a newly designed continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). Nissan calls its CVT the "Xtronic," which sounds like one of the colorful "space age" names given to new features by American automakers in the 1950s.

Previous Sentras (except for high-performance versions such as the 2006 SE-R Spec V) had a 5-speed manual or 4-speed automatic, which were OK a few years ago but no longer are competitive.

Acceleration in town is lively, but is average on highways. The dual overhead camshaft 16-valve engine is a sophisticated, high-revving unit. It gets a little noisy during hard acceleration, but loafs at 2000 rpm at 65 mph with the responsive CVT transmission.

Good Fuel Economy
Only regular-grade fuel is needed, and economy is good at an estimated 28 mpg in the city and 34 on highways with the manual gearbox and 29 and 36 with the more efficient CVT Xtronic transmission.

The electric steering results in less engine power loss and is quick, although it feels a little stiff. The ride is supple with new "ripple control" shock absorbers. And the brake pedal has a linear feel. Stopping distances are short during normal driving.

No Sports Sedan
Handling is average because the suspension is designed more for ride comfort than fast driving on winding roads. The 68 front/38 rear weight distribution makes the Sentra nose-heavy, although that distribution contributes to good straight-line highway stability.

The Sentra has a reputation for being a reliable, long-lived car that costs little to operate, and the latest version should be no different. It's a bonus that it looks and drives better.

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BB01 - 8/29/2014 7:23:56 PM