Introduced in 1982, the Sentra has long been a strong entry for economy car shoppers. The Sentra has rarely been a class leader, but has always been a strong seller. There have been times during that run, however, when the Sentra was the best choice in its class. Sentra is facing an even tougher crowd of competitors these days, but the Sentra manages to remain competitive thanks to a variety of models, excellent fuel economy, and low maintenance costs.

The base Sentra is just that, a very base model. It is however, a very good inexpensive entry level economy car. There are several increasingly sporty models reaching their pinnacle at the SE-R Spec V, which provides a significant amount of performance in a small package.

All Sentra modes except for the SE-R include a 2.0 liter 140 HP, four cylinder engine. The SE-R is powered by a 177 HP 2.5 liter four cylinder. The super high performance SPEC V uses the same 2.5 liter engine, but raises the power to 200 HP. All engines can opt for the standard 6 speed manual transmission or a CVT, except for the SPEC V in which only the manual transmission is available.

Bodystyle: Sedan
Engines: 2.0L I-4, 2.5L I-4
Transmissions: 6-speed manual, continuously variable transmission (CVT)
Models: 2.0, 2.0 S, 2.0 SR, 2.0 SL, SE-R, SE-R Spec V

The 2011 Nissan Sentra receives a host of revised option packages as well as new standard equipment. The list of new packages includes the SL Value Package, SL Audio Package, and Visual Audio Package, which is available on the 2.0 S and 2.0 SR. Navigation is now standard in the SE-R Upgrade Package, while ABS and stability and traction control are standard on the 2.0.

Using a long 105.7-inch wheelbase, short overhangs, and large door openings, the Sentra sports a stubby appearance. In addition to last year’s new headlamps, taillamps, and front fascia, the 2011 2.0 S and 2.0 SL get an SE-R-style rear spoiler.

The Sentra possesses a five-person interior with 97.7 cubic-feet of passenger volume. The trunk, at 13.1 cubic-feet, offers generous cargo space, which can be enlarged via an oversized pass-through and a 60/40-split folding rear seat.

Motivating the Sentra is a 2.0-liter, 140-horsepower I-4 mated to a six-speed manual or CVT. The suspension is comprised of front struts and a rear torsion beam. The high-performance Nissan Sentra SE-R and SE-R Spec V up the ante with larger 2.5-liter I-4s, delivering 177 (SE-R) and 200 horsepower (Spec V). While both boast sport suspensions and larger brakes, the Spec V touts a limited slip differential.

Every Sentra is equipped with front, front-side, and side curtain airbags. Moreover, all Sentras get front-seat active head restraints, while the 2.0 SL, SE-R, and SE-R Spec V receive stability and traction control.

2.0 (CVT): 26 mpg city/34 mpg highway
2.0 (manual): 24 mpg city/31 mpg highway
SE-R: 24 mpg city/30 mpg highway
SE-R Spec V: 21 mpg city/28 mpg highway

  • Peppy 2.5L engines
  • Paddle shifters
  • Spec V interior accents
  • Budget price tags
  • Buzzy 2.0L
  • Notchy six-speed
  • Rear torsion beam
  • Forgetful styling

Affordable, reliable, but competitively subpar

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