Nissan takes its compact Sentra, gives it a bigger engine, and upgrades the suspension to make a tuner special. The Sentra is fast, but can it compete with the Honda Civic Si and Volkswagen GTI?
Nissan has been tacking the SE-R Spec V designation to its compact Sentra model since 2002, indicating a car tuned from the factory for performance. The 2009 model doesn't differ much from the first model.
The Sentra is the type of inexpensive car that tuners will take and add performance upgrades. The Sentra SE-R Spec V comes with some important upgrades right from the factory, including a bigger engine and performance-oriented transmission.
While the standard Sentra makes do with a 2-liter engine, the SE-R Spec V gets bumped up to a 2.5-liter, producing 200 horsepower and 180 pound-feet of torque. This engine is a higher compression version of the one used in the Nissan Altima.
Nissan fits the Sentra SE-R Spec V with stabilizer bars front and rear, and antitorque rods out of the engine to minimize torque steer. An optional limited-slip differential helps the handling, but the car still leans and shows understeer during hard cornering.
Nissan offers very little cabin tech in the Sentra SE-R Spec V, an odd choice, considering the youthful buying demographic for the car. While Bluetooth comes standard on one trim version of the Sentra, it is not offered in the SE-R Spec V.
The six-speed manual transmission uses close-ratio gearing, making it easy to shift gears with the engine running fast. The mounting position for the shifter is high on the dash, similar to the shifter in the Honda Civic Si.
The stereo is the only cabin tech in the Sentra SE-R Spec V, and its audio sources are limited to MP3 CD playback, satellite radio, and an auxiliary input. But the optional Rockford Fosgate audio system delivers ridiculous bass.