Performance » 7
PERFORMANCE | 7 out of 10
compares with a Honda Civic Si in the fun-for-the-dollar category
there isn't much road feel
decent around-town power, but passing punch is lacking
The 2008 Nissan Sentra is a pleasant, if uninspiring car to drive in its base version. More interesting are the SE-R and Spec V versions, which offer more horsepower and tighter suspension tuning. But even in those versions, reviewers felt the Sentra should deliver better handling.
The 2008 Nissan Sentra comes with either a "140-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder" or a "2.5-liter four-cylinder that generates 177 hp." In the Spec V, the same engine “produces 200 hp…due to modified intake and exhaust, a higher compression ratio and a higher redline of 6,800 rpm, among other tweaks." ConsumerGuide has lukewarm praise for the engine in this Nissan; 2008’s "2.0 models have decent around-town power, but passing punch is lacking." Cars.com agrees, noting that "the power is more than workable, but the car's no rocket, despite horsepower and torque increases over the previous generation." The Spec V version, Edmunds says, “is particularly entertaining, as its engine combines a generous amount of low-end torque with a free-revving personality.”
Cars.com notes that in this Nissan, 2008 “sees the end of the base Sentra with the six-speed manual transmission." Most 2008 Nissan Sentra sedans come with a CVT that helps fuel economy but saps energy from the drivetrain. The six-speed manual offered in the SE-R Spec V is no wonder, either. ConsumerGuide says, "the manual suffers from imprecise shifter and clutch action," and Edmunds agrees: “unfortunately, the manual gearbox is awkward and unsatisfying to shift."
The 2008 Nissan Sentra seems to have the right priorities, but the wrong execution when it comes to handling. Motor Trend says, “Electric power steering is quick, with so-so feel,” while Cars.com feels the “electric power steering works well, with plenty of boost for parking but a firmer feel once you get moving.”
Motor Trend observes the ride quality and body control don’t make a sportscar out of this Nissan; 2008’s Sentra has stiff damping that “makes for a firm ride over road imperfections, but with moderate body roll in the corners, and the tires squeal for their lives when the car is pushed.” Cars.com likes “ride quality that's more comfortable than most compact cars'.” ConsumerGuide warns that "large bumps and rippled pavement bring about sloppy wheel patter and other unwanted motions." But MyRide says the ride is “soft and boring."
The 2008 Nissan Sentra works best as an inexpensive performer; tauter versions don’t go far enough to please true enthusiasts.