The new Sentra went on sale in late February as a 2000 model and offers fresh styling, improved handling, larger dimensions and more power. Nissan officials said they had to badge the Sentra a 2000 model because production started in November 1999 and federal law prohibits building 2001 models that early.
Illustrating the global nature of the auto industry, the front-drive Sentra was styled in California, the interior was designed in Germany, the engineering was done in Japan and the United States, and the car will be built in Mexico. Trim levels include the entry level XE, well-equipped GXE and sporty SE. A limited production Sentra CA available only in California is the first car to achieve the state's SULEV standards (super ultra low emissions vehicle).
Nissan claims that the vehicle's torsional rigidity is increased 30 percent, which reduces noise and vibration and improves handling. Interior volume has increased 2.2 cubic feet overall, including headroom increases of 0.8 inch in the front seat and 0.5 inch in the rear. A covered storage box on top of the instrument panel contributes to a claimed doubling of in-cabin storage volume.
Other accoutrements include holders for 20-ounce beverage bottles in the front door map pockets, and six-way adjustments for the driver's seat. Side-impact airbags for the front seats are optional.
The trunk enjoys a 0.6-cubic-foot increase in capacity to 11.6 cubic feet, and locking 60/40 split, fold-down rear seats are standard on the SE trim level and optional on the GXE.
Nissan's smallest U.S. model, Sentra grows 6.5 inches to 177.5 overall and gains enough interior space to be classified a compact by the EPA instead of a subcompact. Nissan aims to erase the Sentra's economy-car image with Maxima-like styling features, including a low hood/high rear deck, chiseled character lines running front to rear and an arching character line for the trunk.
Under the Hood
Two engines are available. A new 1.8-liter four-cylinder (replacing a 1.6-liter) produces 126 horsepower and carries an EPA mpg rating of 27/35 (city/highway) equipped with the standard five-speed manual transmission.
A carryover 2.0-liter has been refined to deliver 145 horsepower (five more than before) in the Sentra SE, which also employs the variable-capacity muffler introduced on the 2000 Maxima. Its hinged-flap valve opens at engine speeds above 2,000 rpm, relieving back pressure and increasing performance. This engine's mpg rating is 24/31. The limited-production Sentra CA (Clean Air) model available in California gets a low-emission version of the 1.8-liter engine.
The Sentra CA will feature a four-speed automatic transmission as standard equipment. It's optional on the other models.
Four-wheel disc brakes come on the SE only; other trim levels get front discs and rear drums. ABS is optional on the GXE and SE, and unavailable on the others.