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2009 Nissan Sentra – Review

Posted in Car Buying, Car Reviews, Cars, Commuter Cars, Compact Cars, Fuel-efficient, General, Import Review, New Cars, Nissan by Corey | September 23rd, 2009 | 6 Responses |


Maybe we’re spoiled. Yeah that’s that right. Spoiled. It used to be that buying a compact car was an excercise in self-sacrifice. And not just of space. Small cars used to also carry with them a variety of other downsides including a void of power, few amenities and questionable reliability. Not so anymore. Now the current field of compact options has expanded and improved to the point where consumers want and can have all of those things and more at a still entry-level price. Which has created a bit of a problem for the 2009 Nissan Sentra, a longtime compact entry and previously solid contender in a crowd that may have left the Sentra in their collective dust.

There are really relatively few BAD cars made anymore. Even the venomous complaints directed at the American car companies over lacking design and quality is tempered by the fact that new cars made today are much more reliable than ever before and that the culture of shoddy manufacturing that prompted the “lemon” laws has changed drastically. In fact, a casual scan through the recent recalls and automotive defects that have sprung up will bring up some unlikely non-American names. So it is with the understanding that as things have improved and expectations have risen, cars like the Sentra can be both solidly well-rounded and still lacking in comparison to other options.

Nissan Sentra SR, 2009


The 2009 Nissan Sentra is offered in five trim levels: 2.0, 2.0 S, 2.0 SL, SE-R and SE-R Spec V. Nissan Sentra 2.0 models come equipped with a 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder engine that produces 140 horsepower and 147 pound-feet of torque. Power is routed to the front wheels through a continuously variable transmission (CVT) or a six-speed manual in the 2.0 S. At the top of the food chain is the SE-R and SE-R Spec V that utilize the same solid 2.5-liter. Although in the Spec V manages a tidy 200 horses and 180 lb. feet of torque versus the SE-R’s 177 hp and 172 lbs. The Sentra SE-R comes only with the CVT while the Spec V is configured only with a six-speed manual. There is really very little downside in terms of fuel economy with the Spec V, which makes its 0-60 mph time of 6.7 seconds even more appealing. While power is adequate in all models, mild complaints are directed at the CVT for its rather noisy operation on the highway, but it is generally given positive reviews. Despite its relative quickness, the fact that such a quick economy car is outclassed in performance by so many others is a testament to the competition in this class. This becomes even more apparent in handling quality, even on the Spec V version, which although competent through turns is still out-gunned by the likes of Mazda and Honda. All Sentras come standard with front-seat side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags. Antilock brakes are an option for the base 2.0 model and are standard on all others. The higher-performing SE-R models come with four-wheel disc brakes, while the others have rear drums.

Base 2.0 Engine

Base 2.0 Engine

Fuel Economy

Fuel economy for the CVT equipped 2.0 models register an EPA estimated 25 mpg city/33 mpg, while the manual transmission drops fuel economy slightly to 24/31 mpg. Higher performance models offer a solid 24/30 mpg with the SE-R and 21/29 in the Spec V.

Nissan Sentra SR, 2009


Nissan’s current “Industrial” design both in and out is not a cross-the-board success, especially with the Sentra.  The angular headlights and generally aggressive details that are also present in the Altima and Maxima are not carried off with the same broad success in the Sentra.  However, it is at least distinctly different from the other Japanese compact options.  In general, the Sentra sports a rather high-riding body profile that extends forth from a small decklid to the Nissan-esque trapezoidal head lights.


Even more than the outside, the interior portrays a functional, sterile aesthetic on the inside.  One strong point for the Sentra in comparison to other options is cabin space, which can comfortably accommodating taller adults in any of the well supported seats.  Storage within the cabin is convenient, with several generous bins. Trunk space is also good, with an available 13.1 cubic feet.  The Sentra’s interior is more spacious than the hum-drum tight squeezes of the affordable small car class.  Interior material quality is unextradonary but certainly in line with other small car options with relatively pleasing fabrics and nicely textured plastics.  Comfort, fit and finish are equally in-line with expectations.  


In fact, you could make the argument as many have, that if the Sentra is not a “drivers car,” perhaps it is the best daily car to live with and in.   This is especially apparent with interior sound levels which is impressively quiet.  The base model 2.0 includes power windows and locks, 60/40-split-folding rear seats, air-conditioning and a four-speaker sound system with a CD player and an auxiliary audio jack and few other options.  The S includes 16-inch steel wheels, driver seat height adjustment, keyless entry, cruise control, power mirrors, a trip computer, audio controls mounted on the steering wheel, and a six-speaker stereo with MP3 capability. The 2.0 SL trim adds 16-inch alloy wheels, leather seating, keyless ignition and entry, satellite radio, Bluetooth and overhead storage for CDs. Many of the SL’s standard features are available as options for the 2.0 S. Options available for either S or SL trims include a sunroof, heated front seats, a rear spoiler, a trunk divider and an eight-speaker Rockford Fosgate sound system with a six-CD changer. As with other Nissans, these options are grouped into larger, more expensive packages, making ordering stand-alone options impossible. 

Spec V Interior

Spec V Interior

The Sentra SE-R trim level adds 17-inch alloy wheels, more performance-minded suspension tuning, larger brakes, a lower body kit, cloth sport seats, aluminum-trimmed pedals and gauges for oil pressure and G-force. Keyless start, satellite radio and steering-wheel-mounted audio controls are available as options. The SE-R Spec V further enhances the SE-R’s sporting nature by adding higher-performance tires, an even firmer and lower suspension, larger front brakes and racier interior trim. One drawback to the added performance of the Spec V is a reinforcement brace that prevents the rear seats from folding. Both SE-R models offer options of a sunroof and the Rockford Fosgate sound system, but keyless ignition and entry are only available on the standard SE-R. A limited-slip front differential is only available on the Spec V.


Only the very base Nissan Sentra 2.0 and its $15,420 entry price tag could be dubbed truly inexpensive, though the rest of the lineup is still either attainable with prices that extend from the S and SR at $17,160, SL at $18,560, SE-R at $19,580, SE-R Spec V at $20,080.

The 2009 Nissan Sentra is not a class leader in any one category save perhaps interior sound quality. Nevertheless, it is a solid contender that with a few tweeks would be right among the best.

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6 Responses

  1. Blix says:

    why would anyone buy a spec v sentra?

  2. mobitronia says:

    The new sentra sure looks cool. I like the interiors better than the old models. And the design looks sleeker now.

  3. Randy says:

    I bought a spec v just about one year ago now.. I love my car!! Yes it has its down sides as all cars do but i must disagree with the whole performance being worse then mazda or honda.. iv beaten a mazda 6 a civic and a celica of the line and they cant catch up.. The only big down fall to my car is the fact that i get hit on the front passenger side bent the fram and NO ONE can seem to fix it!! other then that the car is great.. its fast has tons of room and the shifter being up on the dash instead of the floor makes shifting fast and easy when you got someone at the light beside you reving up ready to go :) overall i do enjoy my car very much

  4. Dan Fairfax says:

    I enjoy the 2009 Nissan Sentra as a 2 person “Family Car” and it is comfortable on trips to Florida …. excellent cruising feel ….. will be at 80 MPH before I realize it [ Tennessee Interstate Roads ] …. ONLY MAJOR RECURRING PROBLEM …. THE CAR DRIFTS TO THE RIGHT AND I HAVE TO ACTUALLY GRIP THE STEERING WHEEL CONTINUOSLY TO KEEP IT STRAIGHT, WHICH IS TIRING !!! nISSAN dEALER BLAMES IT ON TIRES, [ NISSAN SUPPLIED ??? ], SO i HAVE 30k MORE MILES TO GO BEFORE RECEIVE RELIEF …???… ANY BODY ELSE EXPERIENCING “tiring” FRONT-END DRIFTING ON 2009 NISSAN SENTRA …???

  5. Krista C. says:

    I do not recommend this car to anyone! I have had continuous problems for 2 years since I bought it brand new. Dan, to answer your question- you are not the only one experiencing this problem. I have taken my Sentra to nissan over 20 times, only for them to tell me nothing is wrong or that its the alignment. Yours could still be the alignment- but from what I learned the CVT (continuously variable transmission) is notorious for this by taking over the driving experience. I am constantly holding the steering wheel with a tight grip and recently my back has begun to actually hurt!!
    I know you wrote your review back in August Dan- but besides alignment tell them you want your axels looked at if you don’t think its the CVT or tires. After 2 years I just found out my back axel has been dangerously bent since I purchased it (I know this is a unique case on my part) but it will only cause other things to go down hill (running through tires fast, replacing brakes) GOOD LUCK!!!

  6. Vanessa Duvall says:

    2009 Nissan Sentra is the fulfilment of my most cherished dream of having a small affordable car for my family and me.Its really spacious in the interiors..I think in the class of small inexpensive cars, Nissan Sentra is the only one to be offering so much of legroom and headroom for tall persons like me! The cabin is practically designed and has sensible controls.Nice and quiet interior. Handling is good.Braking is good. I like this car!