Eric described the Sentra SE-R pretty accurately, particularly his note that the CVT lends the car a very strange character. I must admit, though, that it was refreshing to drive such a peppy CVT-equipped car. But surely the SE-R would be much more enjoyable to drive with a manual transmission, whether with our test car's 177 hp or the Spec V, stick-shift-only edition's extra 23 horses. Unless your daily commute is darkened by constant gridlock, the Spec V's extra $500 would be money very well spent.
I also wasn't impressed with the SE-R's ride, which was quite rough on some of Michigan's worst frost-heaved roadways. The seventeen-inch SE-R wheels that contribute to the harsh ride are quite attractive, though. Otherwise, the SE-R doesn't look different enough to cosmetically stand up to the more serious sport compact players on the market.
Inside the car, the SE-R-specific cloth seats are attractive and comfortable, particularly after a long day of walking around the Detroit auto show in old dress shoes. Rear-seat and trunk space are deceptively large, too, making the Sentra a good small-family hauler.
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor