Pros: Loads of optional equipment, Variety of trim lines, Handling, Price, Fuel economy.
Cons: Price can get steep with options, Blase exterior.
Redesigned in 2000, the 2002 Nissan Sentra can claim that it is the best Sentra yet. When many of us think of 'Sentra' we think of a Nissan automobile that is used only for point A-B transportation, a weak powertrain matched with the most basic amenities. This thinking is justified because this is what the Sentra offered basically since its introduction. The 2002 Nissan Sentra boasts more room than ever, plenty of amenities, and adequate acceleration even in base trim.
For 2002 the Sentra comes in 5 trim lines, the XE, the GXE, CA; a low emissions Sentra that is only available in California, and the performance models; the base SE-R and SE-R Spec V. I was amazed after reading all the reviews on the new Sentra here at Epinions.com, and other websites where almost all the reviews were on the SE-R Spec V. I'm amazed because I could not find one of these models anywhere in my area. I settled in the end for a Sentra GXE with the 'Synergy' package. The GXE comes standard with a 1.8 liter OHC engine that produces 126 horsepower at 6,000 RPM, and 129 lb-ft of torque at a amazingly low 2,400 RPM. My Tester was equipped with a 4-speed automatic transmission which is only optional on this car, a 5-speed manual transmission is standard equipment.
Off-the-line acceleration is surprisingly quite good, this is mainly thanks to the sufficient torque peak at such a low RPM. The 1.8 does cause quite a bit of torque steer, but it's nowhere near as alarming as in the 2.5 liter models. The 1.8 is smooth and acts somewhat like a small V6. Don't get me wrong, the GXE's 1.8 liter engine is no substitute for a V6, but does an excellent job for its size. The 4-speed automatic does put a small damper on the acceleration of this car, but the transmission shifts smoothly and keeps the car is a good power band at almost all times.
Handling in the GXE is above average for a car in this category. The Sentra GXE takes to the twistys with enthusiasm and offers plenty of grip. Body roll is hardly noticeable, and the steering is responsive and precise giving the the driver of the 2002 Nissan Sentra GXE confidence on turns while offering excellent poise.
Cruising in the 2002 Nissan Sentra GXE is fair, however at freeway speeds the car is affected by wind, slight engine, and road noise. Passing large trucks, and other cars is a breeze, most of the time there is no need for the transmission to down-shift.
Hills are also taken with stride, most of the time the engine has enough power in high gear to make it up the steepest inclines at freeway speeds, but occasionally the tranny will down-shift giving a slight 'clunk'. Once the 4-speed automatic down-shifts you are awarded with plenty of get-up and go to send you up the steepest hills the terrain has to offer.
Braking in the 2002 Sentra GXE is good, although a 4-wheel disc set-up would have been appreciated, the front disc brakes and rear drums offered sure stops, and confidence while coming to an intersection, or sudden stop.
The 2002 Sentra GXE with the automatic is rated at 33 MPG on the freeway, while the 5-speed will increase fuel economy to 35 MPG.
All 2002 Nissan Sentra's are Front wheel drive, and sits on a 99.8" wheelbase with an overall length of 177.5." The GXE's suspension consists of a front independent suspension with struts, while the rear has a multi link set-up. Both front and rear stabilizer bars are standard.
The Nissan Sentra's interior, while not boasting the quality of the Maxima's or the options of the Altima, does offer many note-worthy attributes. Standard Amenities , even on the base XE are adequate, while the GXE with the Synergy package offers a profusion of goodies. A few standard amenities on the GXE with the synergy package is dual air bags, driver seat adjustments, comfortable velour/cloth bucket seats with 60/40 split seating in the rear, AC, cup holders, remote entry, leather wrapped steering wheel, an excellent sounding 180 watt sound system with CD, power everything, and much more. For more info on standard and optional equipment visit www.NissanDriven.com.
Ergonomics in the Sentra are good, everything is in reach of the driver, but the instrument cluster looks a bit dated. The instrument cluster has a temp gauge, a trip odometer, a tachometer, and of course a speedometer.
The 2002 Nissan Sentra boasts plenty of room in the front and rear, although rear passengers above 5'8" might get a little cramped after a few hours of driving.
Interior Gripes: Like the Altima, the 2002 Sentra boasts some of the cheapest feeling plastic in its class.
The exterior remains economical looking, and while not exactly 'Plain Jane' the exterior will probably not turn any heads either. The Front fascia is attractive enough, flush mounted headlights are offered, but lack the creativity of many modern cars. Fog lights are added with the synergy package which adds a little sport to this 4 door sedan. From a side view, the 2002 Nissan Sentra almost reminds me of the 1st generation Nissan Altima's. The GXE with the Synergy package comes with 15" sporty alloy rims, which also helps this compact sedan create a sense of character. If you want to further this relatively sporty look, Nissan has many body accessories you can buy without having to buy the SE-R performance model.
Price, Reliability, and Warranty:
The base models starts out at around $12,000 with no options, while the SE-R can run close to $19,000. The price on my GXE with the Synergy package came close to $16,000, which still represents a good value.
Reliability has been good so far for this car, if you have any doubts, consumer reports may offer some helpful info. If anything does happen to your new Nissan Sentra , Nissan offers an adequate 3 year, 36,000 mile bumper-bumper warranty and a 5 year, 60,000 mile powertrain warranty.
Conclusion: The price could be lowered, and the plastics improved, however this car does seem solid and worthy of a test drive if you are in the market for a new economy car.
Other cars to consider
1. Chevy Cavalier
2. Pontiac Sunfire
3. Honda Civic Hybrid http://www.epinions.com/content_74102312580 (My Review)
4. Honda Civic
5. Ford Focus
6. Suzuki Aerio
7. Mazda protege
8. Hyundai Elantra http://www.epinions.com/content_54326365828 (My Review)
9. Dodge Neon
10. Kia Spectra
- Happy car shopping