The Nissan Sentra is one of the top cars to choose from when it comes to affordability and reliability. For the Sentra to be placed against other great compacts like the Ford Focus, Honda Civic, and the Toyota Corolla, the competition among its class of vehicles is always at its fiercest. It is important that the car always has something new to offer. With this mindset, Nissan has worked hard on the Sentra to take it to the 5th spot among the cars with the most units sold in the world.
First generation (1982 – 1986)
Nissan was a rebranded up-and-coming name in the 80s that replaced the Datsun. The Sentra was one of its first models sold in the United States. As a subcompact, it set itself apart because of its front-engine, front-wheel drive layout. The 3-speed Automatic transmission was a great luxury option on some trims. On top of that, the Sentra earned lots of praise for its outstanding mileage that ranged from 43 to 58 miles per gallon. Put a reasonable price tag on the car and it immediately became a hit in the market.
Second generation (1985-1990)
The next wave of Sentras came with notable improvements in performance. A 90 horsepower engine was stronger compared to the first generation. Its independent suspension system was also changed to be able to accommodate a 4-disc brake setup. Some station wagon models of the Sentra also featured an advanced four-wheel drive option.
Third generation (1991-1994)
Not wanting to fall behind in technological advances, the 3rd generation Sentra got improvements for the car, driver, and passengers. The SE-R trim was the first car to feature the then all-new and powerful Nissan SR20DE engine that can bring the car from 0 to 60 mph in 7.6 seconds. The suspension was also upgraded to an independent MacPherson strut setup. A limited-slip-differential was also added as an assist. Windows, locks, and mirrors were automated to complete the electronic innovations.
Fourth generation (1995-1999)
Nissan decided to sell the Sentra only as a sedan. Most trims still contained the SR20DE engine that now gave the car 140 horsepower. A 4-speed automatic gearbox was also offered for easier driving. A more durable solid suspension system replaced the independent rear suspension found in past Sentras.
Fifth generation (2000-2006)
The Sentra was sold as a compact to replace the less-favored Nissan Altima. Cabin size significantly grew and the car became sportier than ever before. With an improved engine (up to 175hp for the top trim), better handling, larger tires, and stronger brakes, the Sentra became something more than an economical car.
Sixth generation (2007-2012)
Nissan’s partnership with Renault resulted to further improvements on the Sentra. The car became bigger (classifying it almost as a mid-size sedan), the engine was smarter (a 140hp 2.0L DOHC engine, among many other advances), the interior was fresher (leather seats, power locks and windows), and the exterior looked sleeker (sporty finish, unique lights, new grille, etc.) . It even boasts good fuel economy, safety, durability, and reliability. Despite all these advances, the Sentra has fallen behind more practical and economical competitors. But by this time, it has already made its mark.