Used 1998 Nissan Sentra Review

Edmunds expert review

What's new for 1998

A new Sentra SE debuts, sporting the same 140-horespower engine and styling cues found in the 200SX SE-R coupe. Other changes include an exterior freshening that features new front and rear fascias.

Vehicle overview

Until this year, the Nissan Sentra did little to tickle our fancy. Compared to the model it replaced in 1995, the current Sentra has been a dud. Refined, roomy and reliable, Nissan's smallest sedan has not been the success that Nissan had hoped for because of the car's frumpy looks, which are spotlighted by a rear end that appears to be larger than the south end of a northbound Holstein.

Looks aren't everything, however, and for those who care more about substance than flash in their vehicles, the Nissan Sentra has a lot to offer. An impressive 1.6-liter DOHC four-cylinder engine that cranks out 115 horsepower and 115 foot-pounds of torque powers lower-rung Sentras. All new this year is a Sentra SE, which is equipped with the 2.0-liter DOHC 140-horsepower engine that has heretofore been restricted in application to the 200SX SE-R sport coupe. Smart customers looking for a fast set of wheels will pick this engine over the offerings from Honda and Toyota; the Civic and Corolla can't touch the Sentra SE in the fun-to-drive department.

Other pluses in the Sentra's credit column include standard air conditioning, power door locks and power windows on all but the most basic of Sentras. All models include a tilt steering wheel and rear window defogger. Additionally, the Sentra has received a good rating from the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration for the driver and passenger in NHTSA's frontal crash test.

The Sentra's biggest problem is with its appearance. If you can overlook the car's ugly rump and plain-vanilla front end, you will find a willing, reliable vehicle that is surprisingly well assembled and affordable. And if your taste in driving runs toward the quick and curvy, you won't be able to find a better pocket rocket this side of the Ford Contour SE.

Edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.