By KBB.com Editors
Reborn for 2008, the sixth generation of Nissan's popular Sentra grew in scale and stature, going from compact to mid-size status as the result of significant stretches in just about every key dimension. Anchoring the largely-carryover 2008 lineup are 2.0, 2.0 S and 2.0 SL models, while high-performance SE-R and SE-R Spec V variants (see separate review) provide enthusiast appeal. This front-drive four-door boasts more sophisticated styling, improved ride and handling, better fuel efficiency and a greater range of creature comforts than its predecessors -- traits that serve it well in dealing with market challenges from the likes of the Chevrolet Cobalt, Ford Focus, Honda Civic, Hyundai Elantra, Kia Spectra, Mazda3 and Toyota Corolla.
When interior space and serenity really matter, the Sentra delivers in a big way. Those facing long, tortuous commutes will also appreciate the practical charms of its Xtronic Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT). Standard on the 2.0 and 2.0 SL and available on the 2.0 S, it earns even better EPA mileage numbers than the six-speed manual.
Those who prefer crisp handling response or brisk acceleration are likely to be disappointed, although moving up to the SE-R or SE-R Spec V models would dramatically change both elements of the overall performance equation. Stability control is still not available on any variant.
All three trim levels benefit from minor but meaningful upgrades in standard equipment or option packages. The base 2.0 now has a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT), the 2.0 S adds a security system and anti-lock (ABS) brakes, the 2.0 SL gets XM Satellite Radio and all gain daytime running lights.
Driving Impressions With SE-R and Spec V variants to please the enthusiast crowd, Nissan tuned the suspension of its mainstream Sentras to deliver the kind of ride comfort that core buyers clearly...prefer. As a result, all three display a fair amount of body roll during aggressive cornering maneuvers and prominent nose-dipping under hard stops with their capable front disc and rear drum anti-lock brakes. However, this more polished personality also delivers smooth, relaxed in-town commutes and effortless freeway cruising with cabin noise levels that remain commendably low regardless of vehicle speed. Although engine power is hardly overwhelming, it's still somewhat surprising to see that neither traction nor stability control are available on any 2008 Sentra model.
Xtronic Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT)
While it lacks the "sport mode" found on several other Xtronic applications, this seamless automatic is a good match for the Sentra engine and offers EPA fuel economy ratings that are superior to those of the six-speed manual gearbox that's standard on the 2.0 S.
Included as part of the 2.0 SL package, this premium interior trim item adds a definite upscale flavor to the top-line Sentra model.
Designed for U.S. buyers, the Sentra's nicely finished and well-appointed cabin comes in either beige, charcoal or saddle tones with aluminum-look or faux-wood accents. Large doors simplify entry and exit for all seats, and the Sentra offers more space for both people and their carry-ons than most of its competitors -- including a laptop-sized locking glovebox and a 13.1 cubic-foot trunk. Control layouts are good and main gauges easy to read, but the charcoal-and-orange LCD displays for the fuel and temperature indicators and audio and air conditioning readouts suffer legibility problems. Well-contoured front seats are matched with a 60/40 split-folding rear bench that's fit for two average-size adults or three medium-size kids.Exterior
Sharing the edgy design flair that characterizes all current Nissan products, the Sentra's literally high-profile bodywork features a sloping nose and short decklid separated by a tallish roofline and large glass area that ensures good outward visibility. A relatively long 105.7-inch wheelbase results in fairly short front and rear overhangs while prominent shoulder lines transition into softer front and rear contours set off by large, wraparound head and tail lamps. Inside pronounced fender flares, the 2.0 has 205/60 tires on 15-inch steel rims while the 2.0 S and 2.0 SL move up to 205/55 tires on larger 16-inch wheels, steel on the former and alloy on the top-line offering.
The base Sentra includes a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT), front, front-side and side-curtain airbags, power windows and door locks, air conditioning, trip computer and an AM/FM/CD audio system. The 2.0 S -- offered with either the CVT or a six-speed manual gearbox -- adds anti-lock brakes, larger wheels with lower-profile tires, remote keyless entry and steering wheel-mounted audio controls, while the 2.0 SL has leather upholstery, keyless start, alloy wheels, XM Satellite Radio and Bluetooth wireless connectivity.
Sentra extras are largely model specific, with anti-lock brakes, a decklid spoiler and some trim bits heading the 2.0's options list. For the 2.0 S, XM Satellite Radio, Intelligent Key remote locking/starting (automatic only), a Convenience Package with Bluetooth connectivity, Rockford Fosgate premium audio system with six-disc changer and MP3 capability, Moonroof Package and the Divide-N-Hide Trunk System are available. Those latter three items represent the prime upgrades for the already comprehensively equipped 2.0 SL.
All 2.0 Sentras share an identical 140-horsepower version of Nissan's 2.0-liter, 16-valve four-cylinder engine that was co-developed with parent-company Renault. This modern all-aluminum engine replaced the previous 126-horsepower 1.8-liter when the sixth-generation models arrived for 2007. The 2.0-liter makes an impressive 147 pound-feet of torque, and features variable timing on the intake valves that helps enhance its mid-range punch. Acceleration with either transmission is decent if not exhilarating, with a zero-to-60 mile-per-hour sprint requiring about nine seconds. Perhaps the biggest surprise is that EPA fuel economy figures with the Xtronic CVT actually surpass those of the six-speed manual gearbox, in both city and highway mode.
2.0-liter in-line 4
140 horsepower @ 5100 rpm
147 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4800 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 24/31 (manual), 25/33 (automatic)
By Mike on Friday, January 09, 2015
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 40,000overall rating 8 of 10rating details
Pros: "Dependable, economical, well equipped"
Cons: "CVT, Washer Nozzles in the Cold"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 7
"So I have had my Sentra Special Edition for over two years now. The majority of the car I love. Not real keen on the headlights, but that was not a deal breaker for me. I bought the car primarily for the GPS and navigation functions. I didn't want the distraction that would come with using my smartphone. That said, it is your base mode nav, and I probably could have gotten a cheaper price if I would have skipped the nav. My biggest issue with this car is the mismatch between the awesome 2.0 Ltr. engine, and the CVT. Our other car is a Prius, so I was somewhat used to a CVT transmission and expected similar results. After driving the car for close to 40,000 miles now, I would not own another CVT. The above description that you will save gas is very dependent on your driving style and conditions. E.G. if you are the type that likes to punch it and feel the horses under the hood, or you have to hit the gas to merge into traffic, the engine will out run the transmission every time. It will slip and you will find yourself at close to 6,000 RPMs only to be waiting for the transmission to stop whining and catch up to the engine, which will usually happen around 75 to 85 MPH, and only after you step out of the gas to allow it to catch up. Once you are there the transmission performs as expected. The other area with the transmission that you will have to get used to is how it breaks the car's forward motion as you come to a stop. To describe it is like the transmission goes into low gear and you are almost lunging forward as you come to a stop. You almost have to drive it to understand the sense you get. I took mine to the dealer within a month to ask if this was normal, and was told there is nothing wrong with your car. Funny my Prius doesn't lung. There is one additional point you may consider if you live in an area where the cold can get and stay around or below freezing. If so, know that the windshield washer nozzles will freeze, and stay frozen when you are driving. This can be a safety concern, especially when you are driving in snow and ice, or in thawing conditions where your windshield is covered with salt spray, or ice melt. Kinda hard to keep it clean if you can't get windshield washer fluid on the windshield. Otherwise, I like my car. A dealer called my over the holiday to ask if I would trade it in, and I responded no. So that should be some indication of the cars performance. I average around 30 miles per gallon even when I punch it. It handles very well, and can corner extremely tight, so much so it took some getting used to."
4 people out of 7 found this review helpful
By Hal on Thursday, December 04, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 74,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "East driving - comfortable - good acceleration - g"
Cons: "CVT transmission - just not thrilled with it."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"Bought this car used with about 44,000 miles on it, from a dealer's website. The car had been completely detailed, and looked and felt new. I like everything about this car except... the CVT transmission. I still prefer the old standard 4-speed automatic or best of all, the standard 4-5 speed stick shift.I've driven it twice New York to Texas, and once to California and back - comfortable to ride and drive. Good visibility. good mileage at better than 32mpg on the road. Will drive next week to Texas again, return after January 1 2015. Like the current (2012-2014 style changes better than the 2009 style). Looking to trade for a new one, or a low-mileage used car. Years ago, I had a Honda Accord with a 4-speed - was the best car I ever had. Maybe this one will approach that standard."
10 people out of 24 found this review helpful
By cathy on Tuesday, November 25, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 36,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"It hurts my back getting out of it. but it is a great car as far as driving, great gas milage.. I am selling it because it is. to small for a older person."
2 people out of 3 found this review helpful
By Schmidt on Tuesday, November 25, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 36,000overall rating 7 of 10rating details
Pros: "Good acceleration."
Cons: "Rattles, blind spot between front and side windows"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 5
"This is my second Nissan and I will not buy another. It drives well, has good acceleration, but does not heat or cool very fast and has some very annoying rattles. Considering how much I paid for this car, it should not rattle. I bought both brand new. Never another Nissan."
1 person out of 3 found this review helpful
By jed on Wednesday, November 05, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 60,000overall rating 2 of 10rating details
Pros: "It runs well! Has a good sized trunk."
Cons: "Very poor visibility, too many blind spots."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1
"I truly dislike this car for many reasons, but the foremost reason is the poor visibility and numerous blind spots. My second item of dislike is the dashboard. The dials are very difficult to read during the day. The orange glow of the nighttime is not very pleasant either. The floor carpets finally had to be removed from the driver's side due to their constant movement under the accelerator. It has been reliable, however, and that is a plus"
9 people out of 19 found this review helpful
By ImPaul2008 on Thursday, October 23, 2014
I owned and sold this car
Reason: needed larger vehicle
Pros: "Easy comfortable ride - lots of interior space."
Cons: "Trunk only opened manually. Felt all the bumps."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I bought this car at the end of 2008 - just before the gov't began offering tax incentives to buy vehicles ... darn! Kept it for about 6 years. Anyway - I always loved this car, except for the fact that when driving in the city or any area where the roads weren't in great shape, you could feel every bump. Didn't bother me as much at first, but now that I'm in my 60's started to bother me. I also didn't like that despite being 2nd tier trim, the trunk only opened manually - not by the key-less entry remote. I always got great fuel mileage of at least 25 mpg and more on the road. I was always amazed by how much I could fit into the car if need be. For Example, my wife and I bought new kitchen cabinets that were boxed. We were able to fit all the cartons (the cabinets were not completely set up) into the car with a bit of room to spare. The guys at the cabinet store thought we were crazy trying to fit it all in, but then apologized after the fact when they saw how easily it all fit in. The car was great on long trips - very comfortable to drive for long hours. And if I wanted to take a snooze, very comfortable to pull off the road and lay the seats back to relax. A cinch to park - Great vehicle for city driving & parking Carried my large dog comfortably in the back seat. The rear seats folded 60/40 - only they didn't lay completely flat. Had no trouble fitting lumber, etc in the car - and if it was really too long, just kept the trunk open with a flag on the stuff sticking out. Soundproofing was pretty good - didn't hear trucks blaring next to us on the road and could easily carry on conversations and on the phone w/o issue. Great visibility - except for a blind spot or 2 on drivers side back window. Only major work needed was that after 45,000 miles (4 1/2 yrs) - I needed to replace the front struts/shocks which were about $700. The bumps really felt awful at that point, so I should've realized there was a problem. Only other major expense I had was replacing all four tires in 2012, all 4 brake drums in 2012 and the battery in 2013. Also the fog lights went a couple of times and were more expensive than I thought they'd be to have done. Other than that never had to bring it in for any service except for the brakes and oil changes - and warranty replacement of air stem sensors. Minor things began to go shortly after warranty ended, example a couple buttons on the radio - which were impossible to locate. The a/c heater fan, didn't kick in as easily after warranty ended, but still worked fine. Also - had to replace (under warranty) the air stems which let you know pressure was low. Brakes were obviously rusted from the get-go (you could see it from outside). The cheap plastic wheel covers - were especially a problem if I bumped the tires against curb - broke easily. With all the larger vehicles on the road (SUVs) I finally decided to sell the car so I could get something bigger so it was easier to see in front of me, otherwise I'd still have it today. I was able to sell it for $8500 w/o a problem - and that was after having 2 accidents, one of which required frame repair in back which impacted resale value."
11 people out of 22 found this review helpful