Nissan Sentra Overview

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The Nissan Sentra small sedan is available in five main trim levels: 2.0, 2.0 S, 2.0 SL, SE-R and SE-R Spec V. All models but the SE-R get a 2.0-liter inline-4 that makes 140 hp. The SE-R has a 2.5-liter four with 177 hp, while the SE-R Spec V has a modified version of the 2.5-liter engine that packs 200 hp. Transmission choices consist of a six-speed manual or a continuously variable transmission (CVT) -- the latter available in all but the Spec V. There's also an "FE+" designation (which stands for "Fuel Economy Plus") for all Sentras except the SE-R trims. FE+ Sentras have slightly better fuel mileage numbers.

The base Sentra comes with only the basics, while the S and SL can be had with a few upscale features not typically seen on an economy car, such as Bluetooth connectivity and keyless start. Thanks to the longer wheelbase on which the car now rides, the cabin is roomy, with ample headroom and legroom for 6-footers. We've found this Sentra to be comfortable, roomy, economical and peppy. The SE-R, especially in Spec V form, provides stirring performance. (It can run to 60 mph in just 6.7 seconds.) It also offers a lot of grip in the corners, though due to the somewhat tall body design, there's more body roll than expected for this type of car.

One downside to the Nissan Sentra is the CVT's lack of versatility -- there's no way for a driver to change or hold ratios on his own. The SE-R with manual shift mode addresses this problem with simulated gear ratios, but for enthusiasts, this is still no substitute for a traditional clutch and stick. In addition, the car's suspension could be more effective at damping out bigger bumps and road undulations.

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