in 2009 Affordable Small Cars

Avg. Price Paid: $8,155 - $11,029
Original MSRP: $15,350 - $21,160
MPG: 24 City / 31 Hwy
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2009 Nissan Sentra Performance

This performance review was created when the car was new. Some links may no longer point to an active page.

There's nothing remarkable about the Nissan Sentra's power or handling, but test drivers don't find any significant problems either. The 2009 Sentra's most distinctive performance trait is its continuously variable transmission (CVT), which reviewers say switches gears seamlessly, in addition to improving the Sentra's gas mileage. 

  • "Drives well and renews the Nissan imprint on bargain performance." -- BusinessWeek
  • "This more polished personality ... delivers smooth, relaxed in-town commutes and effortless freeway cruising with cabin noise levels that remain commendably low regardless of vehicle speed." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "The Nissan Sentra holds its own in a world of big vehicles. The base 2.0-liter engine puts the Sentra on par with other high-tech four-cylinder engines." -- New Car Test Drive
  • "Nissan's brand character really comes out in the Sentra's drivetrain. The 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine feels a little disinterested at first, but its 140 horsepower soon gets into the act; the 147 lb.-ft. of torque is reasonably generous, too, and Nissan says 90 percent of that shove is available at just 2,400 rpm." -- Washington Times

Acceleration and Power

The 2009 Nissan Sentra's 2.0, 2.0 S and 2.0 SL come equipped with the same four-cylinder engine that delivers 140-horsepower and 147 pound-feet of torque. Sentra trims have either a six-speed manual transmission or the CVT, which has many reviewers talking, mostly due to its lack of traditional fixed gears. And despite the 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."

The EPA says the Sentra gets up to 25/33 mpg city/highway with the CVT.

  • "Smooth four-cylinder engine." -- Car and Driver
  • "The CVT (continuously variable transmission) is now in its third generation, and the technology has improved greatly. The main benefit with a CVT is better gas mileage, a result of less internal friction. With only two ranges, high and low, it's smoother because there's less shifting, though the sound is odd, like the car is winding up like a snowmobile. Floor the gas pedal and the Sentra surges ahead aggressively." -- New Car Test Drive
  • "In general, the 2009 Nissan Sentra is a competent performer. The 2.0 models provide an adequate amount of smooth power, but the CVT tends to keep the revs a bit elevated at highway speeds, and this constant drone can get tiresome on long trips." -- Edmunds

Handling and Braking

Although most say the Nissan Sentra is easy to steer, maneuver and brake, reading between the lines reveals minor reviewer complaints. Consumer Guide implies that the anti-lock brakes could be more powerful; Edmunds wishes the steering wheel had more feel; and Kelley Blue Book writes that the suspension is tuned for comfort, but offers little excitement.

  • "Possesses good road manners." -- Car and Driver
  • "The engine buzzes at full throttle and doesn't completely settle down while cruising." -- Consumer Guide
  • "On smooth tarmac the ride quality is suitable, but when things get rough, the Sentra's short suspension travel tends to be rather harsh. The steering wheel has an acceptable amount of weight to it, but the electric power steering delivers very little feedback to the driver." -- Edmunds
  • "Nissan tuned the suspension of its mainstream Sentras to deliver the kind of ride comfort that core buyers clearly prefer." -- Kelley Blue Book

Next Steps: 2009 Nissan Sentra

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