The Nissan Sentra began life as a subcompact car in 1982; however, in 2000, it was reclassified as a compact. In North America, the Sentra was considered a compact option despite the EPA classification of a mid-sized car due to its volume increase in 2007.
The first Sentra cars were introduced in the US to replace the Datsun 210 and offered four body styles. At the time of its release, the Sentra earned the highest gas mileage rating from the EPA at a very desirable 58 mpg highway and 48 mpg combined. This amazing fuel economy quickly made the Sentra the best-selling import in the United States and the fourth best-selling passenger car for its debut year.
Gen two, released in 85, added to the list of body styles to include a station wagon, two-door or four-door sedan, a three-door hatchback, and a hatchback sport coupe. In 87, all models offered the 69 hp E16 engine, which increased to the 70 hp E16i in 88. With the large assortment of configurations, the body changes over the second generation of the Sentra were only minimal, such as minor changes to the lights or grille.
By 1990, the third generation introduced more horsepower to meet the liking of the typical American driver. The 1.6L 16 valve 4-cylinder was fuel injected and offered a horsepower range of 110 to 126. Five model levels were being offered, with features on the top-end model, including power windows, locks and mirrors, a sunroof, and alloy wheels.
Introduced in January of 1995, the fourth generation of Sentra cars sported a torsion beam setup rather than independent rear suspension, a 1.6L engine, and 5-speed standard transmission. This combination reached 30-40 mpg depending on the conditions and driving style. The horsepower ranged from 115 to 140 depending on which of the six models you chose. New interior features included rear seat trunk access, rear headrests, and fabric replacing much of the vinyl.
The 2000 model marked the upgrade from subcompact to compact. The redesign offered substantial advancements in the amount of space provided and the level of the finishes and features. This generation also increased the horsepower to 145 for a year. But the 1.6L engine was changed the following year to a 1.8L with only 126 hp. The quality and comfort were considered to be far beyond the previous generation. Exterior upgrades included body side molding and updated headlights.
Rolled out in 2006 at the North American International Auto Show, the 2006 Sentra became classified as a mid-sized sedan due to the 110 cubic feet of cargo and passenger volume. While larger and more luxurious, the standard 2.0L engine put out 140 hp. It was still able to offer a very economical 34 highway mpg. By 2010, the Sentra was ready for a midlife refresh. An Altima inspired grille, lower fascia, and refined headlights updated the first impression of the Sentra. Inside updates included new lighting on the speedometer, a CD player, and an optional navigation system.
The seventh-gen Sentra hit North America in 2012, offering almost a dozen different models and various trim options. The latest technology and comfort accompanied still very impressive highway mpg estimates. By the current-gen Sentra released in 2019, there is little that resembles the subcompact vehicle from 1982. Cutting edge technology, spacious comfort, and luxury are words frequently used to describe the latest Sentra.
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