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.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Corinne Schulze/CNET
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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.

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Beyond the power train and suspension upgrades, the Sentra SE-R Spec V isn't much different from the standard Sentra. The body is left unchanged, besides the badge on the trunk.

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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.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Corinne Schulze/CNET
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The Sentra is a typical compact sedan with seating for four. The high roofline makes for good headroom in the car, but adversely affects the handling.

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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.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Corinne Schulze/CNET
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The trunk is surprisingly big. With the SE-R Spec V, you can also see the rear stabilizer bar, as it is mounted in back of the rear seat.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Corinne Schulze/CNET
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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.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Corinne Schulze/CNET
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The only buttons on the steering wheel are for cruise control. Audio control is limited to the stereo face plate.

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The tachometer shows the SE-R Spec V's 7,000rpm redline. Peak horsepower comes at 6,600rpm, and we found the engine gave no signs of strain with the revs high.

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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.

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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.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Corinne Schulze/CNET
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Two special gauges sit at the top of the dash in the Sentra SE-R Spec V. One shows oil pressure, while the other is a g-force gauge.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Corinne Schulze/CNET
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