Pros: Good styling, spacious in the front, excellent gas mileage.
Cons: lots of recalls, cramped back seat.
I bought my 2001 Nissan Sentra GXE from my brother in December 2003. I got a great deal on it because he sold it to me for payoff ($5500). He purchased it new from the local dealership in October 2000. Neither of us have had any serious problems with it in the years we have owned it besides normal maintenance and recalls. It has been a dependable car, great for road-trips with plenty of leg room in the front although the back seat can be a little cramped for someone over 5'9". The 5-speed model has good acceleration and even after almost 60,000 miles the clutch still hooks up good and the transmission shifts smooth and quiet. It has lots of trunk space for its size and plenty of little storage nooks inside the cabin with storage in the console, a nook in the dash (unless you get the model with the in-dash CD changer), a decent sized glove-box, and a flip-down storage compartment above the drivers left knee. It handles good on the highway for its size and is relatively quiet. I say relatively quiet because the window seals seem to leak a little at highway speeds.
RECALLS: The 2001 Sentra has had a fair amount of recalls but the dealerships have been very helpful in taking care of them for the most part. However, when I purchased the car, the SES (service engine soon) light was on and there was an open recall on the Cam Position Sensor. After taking the car to a local repair shop they identified the SES light as being a result of the faulty sensor. I immediately took my car to Patterson Nissan in Longview, TX and they replaced the sensor free of charge. However the SES light remained on and I walked back into the service center and mentioned this to the manager who stated that the recall only related to the crank position sensor. I went home, pulled up the recall on the internet, printed it out, and returned to the dealership. The manager then stated that he was mistaken, and all 3 sensors in the recall had been replaced. I then told him that I had a diagnostic run on the car the week before and was told the SES light was due to the Cam Position sensor. He told me they would have to charge me $70 for a diagnostic since the bumper-to-bumper warranty was up. After arguing with the service manager for about 30 minuets he agreed to run the diagnostic and if it was the CPS that was throwing out the code they would clear it and there would be no charge, but if it was another code I would have to cough up $70. I said "go for it" and after finding I was correct, I received an apology and was on my way.
OTHER MECHANICAL ISSUES: Currently, the SES light on my Sentra is on. It began going on and off about once a week last year but has been steadily on for the last 6 months. The car runs fine and I have not taken it for a diagnostic yet but it is likely another sensor. Also, at the beginning of this summer, the A/C was not cooling though it was frigid last summer. I assume this is due to it needing a recharge of R134-A but haven't had the time to get this checked. I also had to get new brake pads after purchasing the car and had to have the front rotors turned which is routine and was no problem. Currently the back-left side of the car makes a loud creaking sound if I brake while turning right. I am assuming this is because the rear brakes need to be serviced but am not sure yet. Also, when I first bought the car, the dipstick had broken. The handle became brittle from heat and the stick portion broke off and dropped down into the oil pan. There was no damage but it cost $140 to fix plus $15 for the new dipstick