This was my first car, and I am its third owner. The SR20DE engine surprised me with it's great acceleration. Its quite a big engine for such a small car. Also its gearbox is wonderful, its gearing is very sporty. There's a pretty considerable aftermarket for the sentra se-r, so I've had no problem finding ways to improve its performance. The original engine was ruined due to a part mixup at the local Nissan dealer in which they sold me the wrong oil filter (it popped off while driving and oil starvation ruined the main bearings) so I swapped in an SR20DET. Its basically the same engine, but with a turbo straight from the factory. It fit perfectly. Now I have a sentra with ~250 horsepower.
SR20DET engine, sporty gearbox, light weight, distinguished yet covert "econobox" styling, good handling, Nissan parts compatibility (NX2000 front brake upgrade, Maxima rear brake upgrade, SR20DET engine swap), healthy aftermarket support, easy car to work on, lots of room in back seats and trunk.
Poor clear-coat quality, flexy chassis, interior plastic parts begin to rattle with age, steering wheel adjustment.