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PERFORMANCE | 7 out of 10
the power is more than workable, but the car's no rocket
unfortunately, the manual gearbox is awkward and unsatisfying to shift
Electric power steering is quick, with so-so feel
The 2009 Nissan Sentra is an economy car at heart and drives like one, especially in the base version. The SE-R and Spec V versions up the excitement with more horsepower and tighter suspension tuning. But even those versions don’t live up to the handling promise.
The 2009 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 6800 rpm, among other tweaks." Cars.com isn’t wild about the engines in the Sentra, noting that "the power is more than workable, but the car's no rocket, despite horsepower and torque increases over the previous generation." ConsumerGuide concurs, saying that 2009’s "2.0 models have decent around-town power, but passing punch is lacking." The Spec V version, Edmunds contends, “is particularly entertaining, as its engine combines a generous amount of low-end torque with a free-revving personality.”
Most 2009 Nissan Sentra sedans come with a CVT that helps fuel economy but saps energy from the drivetrain. Cars.com notes that in this Nissan, 2009 “sees the end of the base Sentra with the six-speed manual transmission." The six-speed manual offered in the SE-R Spec V is not great 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."
When it comes to ride and handling, the 2009 Nissan Sentra looks good on paper but suffers from a less-than-perfect execution. 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 says, “Electric power steering is quick, with so-so feel.”
Motor Trend notes that a firm ride and decent body control don’t coax a sportscar out of this Sentra. It 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.”
The 2009 Nissan Sentra is good as an economy car but doesn’t quite make the mark with its performance versions.