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Avg. Price Paid:$7,130 - $9,025
Original MSRP: $16,140 - $20,570
MPG: 25 City / 33 Hwy
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2008 Nissan Sentra Performance

This performance review was written when the 2008 Nissan Sentra was new.

The 2.0-liter engine of the Nissan Sentra has limited horsepower, torque and acceleration. According to CNET, the Sentra "is not a performance vehicle by any stretch of the imagination."

"With a measly 140 horsepower on tap from its 2-liter inline four-cylinder engine, acceleration is predictably leisurely." Fuel economy is better than average, but overall performance ratings are low. Autoweb calls the Sentra’s performance "numbingly average." Kelley Blue Book adds that, "despite its power-transmitting efficiency, a CVT-equipped Sentra probably won't satisfy those who demand all-out performance."

Acceleration and Power

The 2008 Nissan Sentra 2.0, 2.0 S and 2.0 SL come equipped with a 2.0-liter engine that delivers 140 horsepower and 147 pound-feet of torque. The SE-R utilizes a 2.5-liter engine that produces 177 horsepower and 172 pound-feet of torque, while the SE-R Spec-V makes use of a 2.5-liter engine that produces 200 horsepower and 180 lb-ft of torque. Most trims have your choice of either a six-speed manual transmission or an optional CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission). However, the SE-R Spec-V comes only with the six-speed manual, while the 2.0 SL and the SE-R come exclusively equipped with the CVT.

The CVT has many reviewers talking, mostly due to its lack of traditional fixed gears. "The design's long-term popularity comes from its smoothness of operation, its simplicity and its ability to improve fuel economy while reducing emissions," says The Auto Channel. Despite low horsepower and torque, many reviewers like the transmission. "Nissan's CVT works very smoothly and efficiently," says Kelley Blue Book. "Although its powertrain is willing, the CVT sedan is a little on the sluggish side -- but more energetic from a standstill."

Several testers were concerned about noise levels while driving. "At idle, the engine is nearly silent and, while some noise appears when pushing hard, most other CVT-equipped vehicles are noisier," says Kelley Blue Book. The majority of reviewers agree the Sentra is surprisingly quiet on the highway, but disagree about the overall noise level throughout the cabin. The Sentra’s engine "has the high-tech qualities of the competitors, but it sure is buzzy," says The Auto Channel. CNET agrees saying that the Sentra doesn't offer anything approaching the performance of some other cars in its price range. "On heavy throttle it makes more noise than the others and intrudes itself on the otherwise serene cabin," they say. "Gentle throttle effort is not so intrusive."

Overall, reviewers agree the Nissan Sentra’s fuel economy is a definite highlight and a redeeming quality to make up for the lack of performance ability. "The Sentra sips gas," says the Detroit News. The EPA gives the 2.0-liter engine an estimated mileage of 24 mpg (miles per gallon) in city driving and 31 mpg on the highway with the manual transmission and an estimated 25 mpg city and 33 mpg highway with the CVT. The EPA gives the 2.5-liter engine an estimated 21 mpg city and 29 mpg highway with the manual transmission and an estimated 24 mpg city and 30 mpg highway with the CVT. The majority of testers uphold this certification. "Among its main competitors, these figures are bested only by cars with smaller engines, and then only barely," says CNET. "The Sentra is generally larger and heavier than these rivals as well, offering as much or more interior and cargo space, so the fuel economy is that much more impressive."

Handling and Braking

Auto Mall USA enjoys the driving experience in the Sentra, but says it seems odd that electronic stability control isn't available and that anti-lock brakes aren’t standard on some trims. Several testers also criticize the Sentra’s steering wheel response and capabilities. "The car is an easy driver," says the Washington Post. "With the occasional exception of the steering, which can be a little springy and imprecise around sharp curves." U.S. News likes the overall handling, "Handling is a high point, with crisp steering and tight, stable maneuverability on curves." However, the Chicago Sun-Times is more critical, "Handling is average because the suspension is designed more for ride comfort than snaking through curves, and the 68 front/38 rear weight distribution makes the front-drive car nose-heavy," the review states.

Standard suspension for the 2008 Nissan Sentra includes independent strut suspension in the front and a torsion beam axle with a rear stabilizer bar in back. The Sentra is also equipped with rebound springs to control movement on turns and ripple-control shocks. "The Sentra's MacPherson strut front suspension and, particularly, the semi-independent torsion-beam rear suspension are unlikely to please sport enthusiasts -- but performance, not construction, is what matters most," says Cars.com. Sentras are equipped with 11.02" vented front disc/rear drum brakes. Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) and Electronic Brake force Distribution (EBD) are available as add-ons for the 2.0 and 2.0 S and come standard on the 2.0 SL, SE-R and the SE-R Spec-V.

Review Last Updated: 2/17/09

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