2007 Nissan Sentra: First Drive

07sentra

Yesterday I drove a few versions of Nissan's all-new 2007 Sentra sedan in and around San Francisco, and all I can say is it's so much better than the outgoing model, comparisons are pointless. The previous, fifth generation, was the stinker of the compact-car class, but this one is a solid competitor for the likes of the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla. It starts to hit dealerships in the middle of this month. Detailed pricing will be announced in a week or so but is expected to start around $15,000.

In the first block behind the wheel I noticed what would establish itself as a defining attribute: a remarkably quiet cabin. We're talking library quiet. Church quiet. More-expensive-car quiet. I and passengers in the front and back chatted away at all speeds, with nary a "What?" The most noticeable sound was from the tires, but only on some road surfaces at higher speeds, and it was never excessive. As for the engine noise, it encroached sometimes when accelerating, but it depended on the transmission.

Sentraslctrstack210

The car offers a six-speed manual or an optional continuously variable automatic transmission teamed with a larger, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. The manual is decent, but the tall, long-throw shifter isn't a high point unless you consider its location: high and forward on a center dashboard extension. I have no problem with this placement, but I know from other vehicles that some people consider it a deal-breaker. The six-speed allows a quick launch, and it seems easier when operating this transmission to keep the engine speed down and the noise to a minimum under gentle acceleration.

The CVT, which is also used in the Versa subcompact, seems to let the engine rev higher and make more noise, even under comparably gentle acceleration. It responds reasonably quickly to demands for more power, but there's some rubber-band effect between the pedal and the speed increase. In this class, the Dodge Caliber's CVT is quicker and better overall. Nissan has two other CVTs — for engines larger than 2.0 liters and 3.0 liters, respectively — that also perform better than this one.

Sentraback

What it does best is the technology's reason for being: gas mileage, which is an estimated 29/36 mpg (city/highway), even better than the manual's 28/34. (For perspective, though, the Civic's fuel economy is better with a conventional five-speed automatic.) Overall, the power is more than workable, but the car's no rocket, despite horsepower and torque increases over the previous generation. A sporty SE-R version is likely to turn up the juice considerably when it comes out in spring 2007. (Look for its introduction at the Los Angeles auto show at the end of November.)

The SE-R also should firm up the suspension and improve roadholding. The regular Sentra 2.0, 2.0 S and 2.0 SL are tuned more for comfort, and they deliver. This is impressive ride quality from any perspective, and especially in the compact class. The handling is decent, with some body lean. The electric power steering works well, with plenty of boost for parking but a firmer feel once you get moving.

Sentrafrontseatsslands

The new Sentra is larger by more than 3 inches in width, 2.3 inches in length, 4 inches in height and 5.9 inches in wheelbase. This makes for almost 9 cubic feet more cabin space. The dashboard seems low and far forward, which gives the cabin an open, roomier feel. The only drawback is that the A-pillar is also far forward where it can block your view. The driver's seat has a height adjustment and can be  either manual or powered. The steering wheel tilts but unfortunately doesn't telescope. The quality of the materials is mostly very good, with soft, low-gloss surfaces. Some trim pieces on the SL are convincing faux metal, but there's plenty of the other kind, too, like most cars these days. The locking glove box is simply ginormous, large enough for a laptop computer.

Sentrasltrunk

The trunk (above) has 1.5 cubic feet more volume than before, and the 60/40-split, folding backseat extends the cargo area into the cabin. The seat cushions must be flipped forward first, which is a bit of a pain but results in a continuous almost-flat floor. The good news is that the head restraints tilt forward and don't need to be removed. The optional Convenience Package adds a vertical trunk partition. Seems unnecessary for a trunk to have hidden space, but at least the panel gives you a plastic, grime-resistant tray when lowered.

As for safety features, six airbags are standard, including side-impact torso bags for the front occupants and side curtains that protect front and backseat occupants in a side impact. An electronic stability system is not available. Antilock brakes are standard on the 2.0 SL and optional on the two lower models. Unfortunately, the rear wheels have drum rather than the preferred disc brakes.

Overall, though, the standard-feature offering is decent and includes air conditioning and power windows and locks. The middle trim level adds 16-inch wheels (from 15-inch), keyless entry and backlit steering-wheel audio controls. The top, SL trim, adds leather upholstery, alloy wheels, antilock brakes and the upscale Intelligent Key, which allows you to unlock the doors and start the car without removing the keyless remote from your pocket/purse/backpack.

Considering how tough the competition is in this segment, I think the Sentra will do very well, even against the class leaders. The Caliber body style seems to appeal to a different buyer, and though recently introduced, the Chevrolet Cobalt can't hold a candle to it.

By Joe Wiesenfelder | October 5, 2006 | Comments (32)

Comments 

AladdinSane

No stability control. . .an unfortunate omission. Maybe the upcoming SE-R version will make up for that by including it, at least, as an option.

Peace!

Glen from Hesperia, CA

This is a very attractive compact sedan that hasn't skimped on the things that are important to today's compact car buyer. Nissan has done a tremendous job over the past few years of improving quality and manufacturing automobiles that are top in their class. I think this will be a great seller, but I still prefer the macho image of the Dodge Caliber.

Kevin

I owned 2 Sentras in the past, and me owning another one will never happen. Nissan, you had your chance, but you sell crappy cars.

Jonathan

Nissan sells great cars! I got my NX (which is based on the Sentra) new way back in 1991 and it is still going strong with 265,000 miles. It still burns no oil. I've had very little trouble out of it and the trouble I did have was mostly caused by my bad treatment of it. So don't believe anyone that says Nissan doesn't build great cars.

J

Nissan, no matter how good a car you build, if the dealers doing a lousy job of making the price on service, you are still screwed.
$106 for a dianogsis about a check engine light?
The Honda dealer 1 block away charge NOTHING!

Ryan from New York

This car is sweet. Leather in a Sentra!! I had a chance to view the website and it showed the coolest feature every. CD storage in the Head Liner above the sunvisor. When I saw that I was sold. Sentra is my next car.

M3

I don't know, seems to look too much like a Saturn Ion from some angles. Maybe it will look better in person. I really want a Versa myself, and am looking forward to seeing the sedan version. I do believe Nissan builds quality products. I have my dad's old '93 Nissan pickup with almost 180,000 miles on it and it still runs flawlessly. The V6 still revs like a race car motor, but it is tough to work on.

I don't know about you guys, but the grill looks terrible on this Sentra. Looks like the bastard child of the Maxima, ugh.

Aside from that, the interior looks sharp and I'm sure the dependability will be good.

The only downfall I can imagine is the low HP - looks are of course subjective.

jcrew

It can't hold a candle to the Cobalt on the track and Nissan just dumped your state for... Nashville??? How dumb is that? They just cost your state jobs and tax revenue because of some dumb tax incentives on the other side of the country. Carlos is not the hero he is made out to be. Just ask the people who made Nissan the brand image it is today that got fired for not wanting to transfer to the east coast. Carlos is a one trick pony - a turnaround specialist with no staying power.

Al

I owned a '93 Sentra SE-R and it was one of my favorites cars ever. I have a Toyota now and I love it but I'd highly recommend a Nissan again. By the way, I think Nissan has hit a homerun with the Versa, the look and lines blow the Fit, Yaris, Accent and Aveo away.

Cody

I owned a 93 Infiniti G20 (Nissan Primera) and it was a phenominal car. I especially liked the content and quality in a compact package. The 2L 4 cyl was resonably fun to drive and got great gas mileage. I was a little upset when the G35 came out with no 4-cyl option, say a G25 with the Altima engine (for those of us who like fuel economy). It looks like this Sentra has all of the content and quality that I loved in the G20, even if they did rip off the styling from the Saturn ION.

David

why doesn't Infiniti offer an upscale version of a car this size?

There's no reason for an upscale version of this vehicle. I don't think there's ever been an upscale compact car in the US. the bmw 1 series and Mercedes B class exist in europe but aren't based on existing lower entry level vehicles.

Anyway, I drove one Friday and it was superb. Handled great. The CVT and engine were a little underpowered but up there with the base civic. Great interior too. A huge improvement for Nissan. Not sure if I can get over the design but this should be a winner.

NISSAN IS GETTING BETTER WITH THEIR CARS. THE INTERIOR IS A VAST IMPROVEMENT OVER THE CURRENT GENERATION DESIGN WHICH IS LACKLUSTER WHEN IT COMES TO REARSEAT LEGROOM AND OVERALL REFINEMENT. THIS ONE IS A COMBINATION OF THE TWO BIG BROTHERS THE MAXIMA FRONT AND ALTIMA DERIVED REAR-END TAIL. THE INSIDE DOESNT LOOK OR FEEL CHEAP AND THE RIDE IS QUIET. THIS ONE IS FILLED WITH TECHNOLOGY AND EVEN LEATHER. THE DRIVETRAIN IS SOMEWHAT ON THE SLUGGISH SIDE SINCE NOW ITS EQUIPPED WITH A CVT. BUT THE BENEFITS IS SMOOTH ACCELERATION AND FUEL ECONOMY. THIS IS THE NEXT GENERATION SENTRA AND I SEE IT AS A SUCCESS.

John

Joe,

I was hoping you could clarify a couple of the comments you made in your article. You said, "It responds reasonably quickly to demands for more power, but there's some rubber-band effect between the pedal and the speed increase." This seems like contradictory statement. Can you explain what you meant by "rubber-band effect"?

Then you said, "In this class, the Dodge Caliber's CVT is quicker and better overall." Which Caliber were you referring to? I'm assuming that it was the R/T AWD, since you wrote about that in another article. Also, what do you mean by "quicker and better overall."? I've driven both the 2.0L FWD CVT Caliber and the 2.4L AWD CVT Caliber, and I felt that they were both very sluggish and slow to respond. Which points about the Caliber did you find quicker?

I would really appreciate your feedback.

Thanks,

John

Marlen

I had a Maxima for 12 years over 100 thousand miles. I purchased the new Sentra and I love it!!!! The room the drive, Nissan you outdid yourself, it was over do. I feel like I have a baby Maxima.

MESOGLEA

I am a huge Nissan fan. Have owned three and currently have a 95 Skyline and an 03 Spec-V.
I think Nissan missed their mark with this one.
This poor man's Altima is going to bomb, badly. The Spec-V version better have one hell of a motor to sway the younger crowd or it will be a showroom anchor. Nissan should fire the market anaylist for this failure.
This is a grocery getter.

pam

I Just brought a 2007 nissan sentra 2.0 SL..I love it... it has black on oustside and black leather seats..very much room..rockford fosgate stero with 8 speakers and 6 cd changer and am/fm stero w/xm also..i'm a grandmother rasing teens..they love this car !!!!It has bluetooth on steering wheel and radio controls and cruise on steering wheel...This is my second nissan 1st one has 125 thousand miles still runs good...

Bill Hanley

I'm torn between the new Sentra 2.0S and the Mazda 3 GS. I like the look of both, inside and out, but have concerns about purchasing a new model first year out. Any thoughts on the 2 litre engine reliability and background? I know the Mazda 2 litre is a strong and solid performer.

Perry

after 2 weeks of driving 2007 sentra 2.0 S with upgrades of alloy wheels and ABS brakes,convience package with p/w ,cruise controls on steering wheel and intel key, CVT able to drive with smooth acceleration. The CVT does have a slow ramp up to speed between 10 and 30 mph. This is an economical car not a street racer. I appreciate tha MPG. 1st tank 31 mpg, 2nd tank 33 mpg, mostly country roads about 40 mph and some highway. most recent 150 mile highway trip AVG spd 58 mph, 35 mpg. Gas gauge with mileage difficult to see, backlight could be brighter. Previously owned 1991 Maxima 214 K miles.

James

Just the other day I was looking at cars, of course the car lots were closed, best time to look at cars, and it was the first time I got to see the new sentra up close, I really like the look of this car, but fear that it may be too small for me, as I am 6'4 and have problems with cars that are this size or smaller with head and leg room, someone had mentioned that they liked the Versa, and I also liked it as well, until I sat in the hatchback version and couldnt fit, so I doubt the new sedan version will be much different, but I like the sentra, definitely it looks alot better than the majority of the past looking sentras, not sure even if I did fit comfortably that I would buy this car, currently I drive a 2004 Impala, though july 2008 is when my lease expires.
I know many people that either have a Nissan or have had them and like most ars if you take care of them they can last for a long time, I had a neighbor who in 1995 bought a used 87 sentra with close to 80,000 miles and though I had moved out, I recently seen her and she said that in Jan. this year she had to get a different car as her sentra finally died with 220,000 miles and what did she buy to replace it, of course a 1999 sentra but this one only had 43,000 miles. And a family member who will never buy a new car, they just dont believe in that, I am totally the opposite I love new cars, though usually cant afford them, but he can, but chooses not to, he had bought his wife a 1990 maxima in 1996 with about 65000 miles for $900 he just had to buy new tires and some other stuff, and finally in 2006 he replaced it with a 2000 camry, the maxima also had over 200,000 miles, they like the toyota but not as well as the maxima.
But I wouldnt frown on getting a sentra if I did fit, though I dont see much of a ion look, but when I first saw the headlights I thought it sort of looked like a cadilac cts

I just traded my Grand AM GT1 ram air for a new 2007 Nissan sentra W/ CVT and I love the savings from the gas mileage! My insurance also went down!

Thanks,

Oak Ridge, Tennessee.

stephen

is it worth it to get the SPEC V???

AJ Kipp

My wife recently retired and it was her turn to get a new car. Her history is various VW Jetta leases from 1985 thru 2000. Purchase of a Ford Focus 2000 ZX3 to 2007 when we purchased a 2007 Sentra SL.

The Jettas and Focus all handled better, but the comfort, mpg and silence inside puts the others to shame.

It's a smallcar with a big interior, it's a small car that you have to check to see if you turned it on, it's that quiet and she's gotten 34 mpg to start.

It's not going to set any records for quickness, yet it can go 80 mph all day.

Just a bit better than basic transportation at a reasonable price considering what is included in the SL.

Brooke

I love this car!!!I had a 96 sentra back in the day. It was horrible. Never thought I would own one again. But, after comparing other economy cars like Civic and Corolla I was hooked on the Sentra. I cant believe how roomy it is! My husband and I are both Amazons. (Extremelly tall) I feel like a drive a luxury car, without the luxury price tag. I would HIGHLY reccomend this car. I am now sold on Nissans!

Matt

I'm a week into my 2007 Sentra SL and I love it. I can't believe the features for the money. My last car, a top of the line Accord, was a great car. I had it for 10 years with virtually no problems. But I was able to get this Sentra with many more features and nearly 9 thousand less. The car is quiet, elegant and looks great. I'm hooked.

Karissa

Car gets HORRIBLE gas mileage. I am getting 23 mpg driving at reasonable speeds on the highway.

Brian

Karissa - this is far outside what other people are reporting. You should take the car in to get looked at.

Brian

Karissa - this is far outside what other people are reporting. You should take the car in to get looked at.

E.S.

Hey Karissa =
You're supposed to release the parking brake before you drive it!

Euphemia

Aloha,My daughter has a '07 Nissan Sentra 2.0,and after 6 months, the steering system failed, and had to be replaced.It again failed 8 months later along with the brakes...this time causing an accident. The dealer said they could find no error codes after analyzing. They question whether the systems failed at all. Note: the dealer is the only technician to have the diagnostic equipment for such a new model...and so, the results cannot be independantly verified.
Has anyone else experienced a similar failure of the power steering and/or power brake electronics in 07 Sentra? Please advise to:
jo-anne@coastpropertieshawaii.com

keith graham

i've just rented a sentra cvt whilst on holiday here, from the UK. Two adults and a fortnight's luggage. 500km drive so far.Around Toronto, up to Bracebridge / Huntsville. Surges from the engine are down to 'heavy on the gas pedal', and with more delicate use of the right foot it's possible to move the car along very nicely, cruising at 50, 60 or 70 can be done at around 2000rpm - much slower than my GM diesel economy car in UK. In the sentra so far we're getting,,,,,, 47mpg. Yes, really. Filled to the brim and worked out on calculator. With fuel prices in UK at TWICE the canadian price, we learn how to drive well but get best economy from the car..

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