A compact vehicle made by Nissan Motors, the Sentra is a re-badged export version of the Japanese Nissan Sunny. This model line was available with 1.3 and 1.5 petrol engines, and a five-door wagon version was also available. In Japan, the Sentra vehicle is renamed the Bluebird Sylphy. The U.S. Sentra ranges in price from $15,000 to $21,000 for the most supped-up version. The original Sentra vehicles were subcompact vehicles, but over the year the vehicle has grown and the Versa replaced the Sentra in the entry-level market. The Sentra was rated by the EPA as a mid-size vehicle due to its interior volume. Numerous countries including Mexico and Brazil continue to sell their versions of the Sunny as the Sentra.
Since 1982 the Nissan Sentra has been a popular vehicle that economy-car shoppers have been volleying for years. The Sentra has been one of the best choices available for periods of time, though the Sentra has lagged behind the segment leaders in terms of image and overall refinement.
The first generation was introduced in 1982 and was the replacement of the Datsun 210. Earlier Sunnys had been rear-wheel drive beginning with the B11, but now they featured the sported front-wheel drive FF layout. The A series (OHV) engine was replaced with the E15 SOHC engine from the Datsun 310 and became the first vehicle in the U.S. to feature the Nissan name solely. All Nissan Sentras in 1983 had the E16 as the only option with 4-speed manual standard with a 3-speed automatic. A few years later a 5-speed manual was also featured as an option.
From 1984 through 1987 a 1.7-liter CD17 diesel was also featured. This version was produced in very small numbers which eventually made it a popular collector item. All Sentra models featured 4-wheel independent suspension and front disc brakes. The B11 featured several models, including the Honeybee which was a holdover from the 210 and was capable of 35 mph, and the Deluxe which featured air conditioning, dual side mirrors and a Clarion tape deck.
From 1986 through 1990 the second generation of the B12-Sentra was unveiled. A variety of body styles were introduced for this generation that included station wagons, 3-door hatchback, 2 and 4-door sedans and the Sport Coupe. All Sentra models except the Sport Coupe in 1987 came standard with the E16 with 69 hp and a 5-speed manual transmission. The following year, all Sentras had the 70 hp which was featured with throttle body injection.
The E-series continued on in the B12 chassis in various parts of the world, meanwhile some received the multi-point fuel injection E16E engine. Some models even received diesel engines, but these models were very rare and only offered in exclusive areas of the world. The only engine option from 1989 through 1990 was the 90 hp, GA16i, a 12-valve SOHC version of the later GA16DE. While 4-wheel disc brakes were an option in some parts of the world, the B12 carried over a radically modified 4-wheel independent suspension from the B11. Though not all classes were available every year, this was the beginning of the model classes which became standard through the 2003 model year. The 'E' was the low level economy model, the 'XE' was the base model, and the 'GXE' was the top level 4 door sedan, the 'SE' was the sport coupe while the 'SE-R' was the top of the line performance model.
From 1987 through 2003 the GXE was featured with a body colored bumper, manual remote control, aero side mirrors, tachometer, standard 13' 175/70/R13 alloy wheels with AC and variable intermittent wipers. The only thing the GXE didn't feature was a standard cassette deck or power windows, locks or mirrors. The SE model featured dual mirrors, AC, tachometer, power door locks and windows in various markets, along with electronic fuel injection in several markets. At the time, back seats only came with lap safety belts while shoulder belts didn't exist until much later models.
The final chassis to feature a station wagon model, the B12 model was sold as the 'California' in various Asian markets. The four-wheel drive versions of the station wagon were even more rare and were available as an option in both 1988 and 1989. These four-wheel drive versions featured an electrically-activated 4WD single-range transfer case to drive the independently-suspended rear wheels. The Nissan logo had previously been placed on the ride hand side of the front grille was moved to the center in 1988.
A sportier version of the Sentra was the sport coupe, a model that shared only few of the body panels with the standard model. The Sport coupe was only available with the E16i or GA16i, it didn't receive Nissan's CA18DE that was featured in the Sunny ZX Coupe. All Sport Coupe models featured dual sway bars, a tachometer next to the speedometer, and dual remote-adjust mirrors, while the SE model featured AC and rear speakers.
The B12 models have always been known for their great fuel economy and for the reliable nature. They are considered by many fans to be fantastic low budget project cars due to their ability of their parts to be easily interchangeable with other Nissan models. Another version, the Sentra Classic, a four-door sedan was introduced in Canada until 1993. The Sentra Classic replaced the Nissan Micra 3/5-door hatchbacks, which at the time were discontinued and were sold only in Canada.
Produced from 1991 through 1994, the B13 Nissan Sentra Coupe was also called the Nissan Sunny and the Nissan Tsuru. The B13 was the original vehicle to offer Nissan's exclusive then-new SR20DE engine in the sporty two-door SE-R model. The Sentra SE-R model was set various subcompact speed records for the time with 140 hp at 6400 rpm and 132 lb•ft of torque at 4800 rpm. The Sentra SE-R could reach 0-60 mph in 7.6 seconds and could also reach the quarter-mile in 15.8 seconds. This vehicle came with 4-wheel disc brakes along with a MacPherson strut independent suspension. The Sentra SE-R also featured improved handling with a viscous limited-slip differential which was standard equipment.
The fuel injected 110 hp 1.6 L GA16DE engine came standard on the Nissan sedan, and was available on the base model, E, XE, GXE, SE, SE-R and the Limited Edition. Both the GXE and Limited Edition featured power packages such a power windows, locks and mirrors, while the XE, SE and SE-R were featured with standard or optional sunroof and alloy wheels. The four door Nissan models came with front motorized shoulder seatbelts.
The fourth generation of the Nissan Sentra was called the B14. The independent rear loss was deleted for 1995 and therefore caused several steps backwards for the Sentra. For this year all engines in the B14 lineup came with timing chains.
In this same year, the two-door Sentra was renamed the 200SX and brought the sporty SE-R model along with it. The Nissan sedan received all of the performance parts in 1998 with the Sentra SE. The SE-R and the SE sedan both came with the same 2.0 liter SR20DE engine.
Several trim variations were offered for the fourth general B14, the Base, XE, GXE, GLE, SE and also a few SE Limited Base and XE that came with 13' steel wheels and hubcaps. Before 1998 several GXE models also featured 13' wheels. The GXE upgraded to 14' alloy wheels in 1998 and GLE models came with 14' alloy rims. The GXE also received rear seat trunk access, rear headrests, additional fabric on doors and seats instead of vinyl, a grip-assist on the passenger side, power windows, locks and mirrors.
Several packages were included on the GLE, SE, and the Special Edition that featured leather, rear spoiler, moonroof and keyless entry packages. Every other trim besides the SE and SE-R featured the GA16DE that offered 1.6L, 114 hp, while the SE and SE-R received the SR20DE. Less powerful than the SR20DE, the GA16DE engine was quite impressive in comparison. Until 1997, the 200SX SE-R arrived featuring a leather wrapped steering wheel along with a shift knob and Limited-Slip-Differential. Not offered to other Sentras of this generation, the 200SX also featured the option of a telescoping steering wheel.
A slight update was featured for the 1998 model year that redesigned the rear light assembly, mostly the reverse indicator lights. In this same year, the front grille was updated from horizontal bars to a large plastic mesh. The following year the grille was updated yet again and transformed into an oval hole between the headlights. A Limited slip differential was not offered again for the 1998 200SX SE-R. The fourth generation was the last year built in Smyrna, Tennessee.
The fifth generation of the Sentra was produced from 2000 through 2006 and the model finally made its leap into the 'compact' class for 2000, the class that had been originally dominated by the Altima. In 2001 the Altima moved to the mid-size class while its wheelbase remained unchanged from the prior generation.
The B15 Sentra emerged into the market very different from its earlier siblings that were constructed very similar to their Japan-market B-series Nissan Sunny twins. Since production was no longer done at Smyrna, Tennessee, construction moved to Aguascalientes, Mexico while the Smyrna production line was retooled to build the Nissan Xterra. The top of the line Sentra was dominated by the '00-'01 Sentra SE which featured the SR20DE with 145 hp and 136 lb•ft of torque. The Sentra SE remained in this spot until the SE-R rejoined the lineup in 2002.
The 1.8 L QG18DE QG18DE replaced the 1.6 L GA16DE. The new generation was completely upgraded from the prior generation and showed more bells and whistles than previous models. The fifth generation showcased a brand new interior with much better quality plastics and more comfortable seats. New body-side moldings and clear headlights were also added to the exterior.
A brand new Nissan SE-R was introduced in 2002. This new model got rid of its SR20DE and replaced its 2002 model with the Altima's more torque-like but lower-revving QR25DE. The Nissan SE-R was available in either a base model with a 5-speed manual transmission or the optional 4-speed automatic. The 175 hp SE-R Spec V came with a 6-speed manual transmission with a helical Torsen limited slip differential.
Unfortunately the Spec V suffers a relatively slow 7.4 second 0-60 mph time due to extra-short gearing that made 60 mph unattainable in second gear, but it was capable of a 15.4 second quarter-mile. Both the Spec V and the SE-R received sportier-looking headlights with black that surrounded the silver reflectors along with standard fog-lights.
For 2004 the Sentra received a small face lift. The 2003-2006 SE-R Spec V received new gearing that allowed it to reach the quarter mile in a time of 15.2. From 2004 to 2006 the SE-R came only in automatic transmission and was able to reach the quarter mile in only 16.0 seconds. The Spec-V and the SE-R kept the updated headlights and also received ‘smoke-out' break lights. 1.8 L models lost their front stabilizer bar as Nissan was attempting to cut costs.
The B15 Sentra featured the SE-R, the SE-R Spec V trims, the 2003 Sentra 2.5LE and the 2004 Sentra 2.5S with the QR25DE. The exterior and interior of the lower trims were very similar to the GXE, 1.8S and now included transparent head lamps, lighter colored taillights, beige-shaded interior cloth and a softer suspension than the SE-R's. The 2.0L and 1.8L automatic from 2000 through 2006 used the RE4F03B transmission. The RE4F03A transmission was used in the 2.5L 2.5S, SE-R automatics.
In January of 2006, Nissan unveiled the sixth generation of the 2007 Sentra at the 2006 North American International Auto show. The EPA now classified this generation as a mid-size sedan and the Sentra was now larger than the B15 model. The Nissan Versa stepped into the entry level role that was originally filled by the Sentra.
For the 2007 model year, Nissan introduced the SE-R to the North American market. Unveiled with two versions, the SE-R came in base model and SE-R Spec V. Both models received four-wheel disc brakes instead of the standard Sentra's disc/drum setup, 17' alloy wheels and very unique interior and exterior trim. The base model and SE-R Spec V were both powered by the 2.5 liter QR25DE engine. While the base model was rated at 177 hp at 6000 rpm and 172 lb•ft (233 N•m) at 2800 rpm and came with Nissan's exclusive X-CVT continuously variable transmission and steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters.
Rated at 200 hp at 6600 rpm and 180 lb•ft (244 N•m) at 5200 rpm, the SE-R Spec V came with a 6-speed manual and optional limited-slip differential. The SE-R Spec V was capable of 0-60 mph in 6.4 seconds, and could reach the ¼ mile by 14.9 seconds. The Nissan Spec V also received red front seat belts, larger front brakes and a stiffer suspension. The base model was priced at $19,400 and the SE-R Spec V was listed at $19,900.
Today the Nissan Sentra is facing a harder struggle than when it originally was introduced as many automakers now offer specialized performance models that compete directly with the SE-R. Thankfully though, the Sentra remains a solid choice due to its high fuel efficiency, performance variants and low upkeep costs.By Jessica Donaldson