The all-new 2007 Nissan Sentra is the sixth generation of a car that has been a best-seller around the world. Unlike the first five generations, the '07 Sentra was designed primarily for the needs of North American buyers. That's quite a commitment to the belief that the U.S. is where it's at, for this market.
But we want our small cars big, so the Sentra moves into that territory. Those who want truly small cars have other options: the Nissan Versa, Honda Fit, Toyota Yaris, and all-wheel-drive Suzuki SX4, to name a few.
The Sentra is aimed at Echo Boomers, those kids of Baby Boomers. So if the Sentra is the second car they've owned in their lifetime, it might be a step up in size. Nissan believes that these folks virtually live in their cars, so in designing the new Sentra, they've tried to create a "mobile backpack."
The cabin is more spacious, and is finished like a more expensive car, with wonderfully supportive seats in either cloth or rich leather. One thing the Sentra doesn't have, surprisingly, is a fifth door: no hatchback model, only the sedan. But at least the 60/40 rear seats fold flat, opening up the trunk space, creating a large flat cargo area, or a cozy space for two Echo Boomers to sleep. There's an all-new aluminum 2.0-liter engine, more powerful and fuel efficient than before, to go with the new chassis and body. It's mated to either a wonderful six-speed gearbox, or an optional new CVT, continuously variable transmission. If you like a manual gearbox in a car like this, the six-speed transforms the feel of the Sentra, and it's the way to go; but if you just want to forget the car has a transmission, the CVT is the call.
There are three models of Sentra, the 2.0, 2.0S and 2.0SL. Each uses Nissan's brand new 2.0-liter four-cylinder aluminum engine, making 140 horsepower and 147 pound-feet of torque. The standard transmission in the 2.0 and 2.0S is a sporty six-speed manual, but a new high-tech and fuel-efficient Nissan Xtronic CVT is available for those two models ($800) and this Continuously Variable Transmission comes standard on the 2.0SL.
Standard equipment with the Sentra 2.0 ($14,750) includes cloth seats, air conditioning, halogen headlamps, 15-inch steel wheels, remote manual mirrors, four-way adjustable manual front seats, 60/40 split fold-down rear seats, power windows, power door locks, electric power steering, and AM/FM/CD with four speakers. Cruise control is unavailable. Anti-lock brakes are optional ($250).
The 2.0S adds 16-inch steel wheels, six-way manual driver's seat, power mirrors, remote entry, a six-speaker sound system, illuminated steering wheel audio controls, and vehicle information display. ABS is still optional, and at least Cruise control is available.
The 2.0SL adds leather interior, 16-inch alloy wheels, ABS with brake force distribution, keyless ignition, cruise control, and Bluetooth hands-free phone technology.
For all models, foglamps ($270) and rear deck lid ($210) are optional. A clever original feature called the Divide-n-Hide trunk (a secret space behind the rear seats) is optional with the 2.0S and 2.0SL, as is satellite radio wiring.
Safety equipment is extensive on all models, including dual-stage front airbags, front side airbags, full length curtain airbags, active front seat headrests, and a tire pressure monitoring system. It seems odd that anti-lock brakes aren't standard, and electronic stability control isn't available.