Used 2007 Nissan Sentra SE-R Spec V
- Attractive cabin design with quality materials, generous interior room front and rear, quiet highway ride, quick acceleration on SE-R Spec V.
- Base engine gets noisy at higher rpm, so-so handling, SE-R models' harsh ride quality, manual gearbox's clunky shift action.
Edmunds' Expert Review
With a stylish interior design and roomy seating, the 2007 Nissan Sentra is a solid choice in the economy sedan category, especially for taller buyers. Just don't expect much in the way of driving excitement, even on the SE-R models.
In the automotive world, age is weakness, an opportunity for younger, fresher adversaries to move in for the kill. Take the Nissan Sentra. When the fifth generation of the budget sedan debuted in model-year 2000, it was hailed for raising the bar within the economy-car class with its sporty styling, long standard features list and fun-to-drive character. Six years later, the picture had changed. The once-victorious Sentra had become the vanquished, surpassed by rivals offering greater room and overall refinement.
A redesign was in order, and it's come with the 2007 Nissan Sentra. Built on Nissan's new "C" platform, this year's Sentra rides on a 6-inch-longer wheelbase, and it's also 3 inches wider and 4 inches taller. As a result, the cramped cabin of old has been replaced with accommodations that are downright spacious: The 2007 Sentra offers class-leading amounts of head- and shoulder room in the front seat, and there's finally real legroom for rear-seat passengers. The large 13-cubic-foot trunk features an innovative divider that can be used to facilitate hidden storage for valuables. Inside the cabin, a unique overhead compact disc holder holds up to eight CDs, and there are extra pockets and bins designed to hold MP3 players and cell phones. Last year's Sentra fell short in interior style and materials quality, but the '07 model has addressed that shortcoming with a sharp-looking cabin that belies the sedan's budget price tag.
Under the hood of the 2007 Nissan Sentra you'll find a 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder engine good for 140 horsepower. While this figure isn't exceptional, the 2.0-liter does offer 14 more hp than last year's 1.8-liter engine, and it provides acceleration on par with most competitors in this class. Transmission choices are a bit unusual for an economy sedan, as the Sentra can be equipped with either a six-speed manual (five-speeds are the norm in this class) or a continuously variable transmission (CVT). A conventional automatic transmission will not be offered. These transmissions carry over to the sporty Sentra SE-R models that arrive midyear. The standard SE-R has a 177-hp 2.5-liter four-cylinder paired with the CVT, while the hotter SE-R Spec V has a 200-horse version of the 2.5-liter coupled to the six-speed.
Nissan sedans typically offer sporty handling for their respective classes, but the '07 Sentra feels a bit tepid alongside its competition. It continues to use a non-independent torsion-beam rear suspension, which is cost-effective but provides less control through the corners than the true independent designs most of its peers use. Additionally, a switch to electric power assist for the steering contributes to better fuel economy but sacrifices feedback.
Upgraded running gear on the Sentra SE-R includes firmer springs and larger wheels and brakes. The SE-R Spec V goes even further by specifying a retuned and lowered suspension, complete with a thicker front antiroll bar and a V-shaped reinforcement brace in back. The Spec V also has larger front brakes and stickier summer tires. The SE-R retrofits result in a better-handling car, but even in Spec V form, the econosport Sentra lacks the spark of competitors in this price range. From behind the wheel, it comes across as heavy and distant as opposed to lightweight and engaging.
The all-new 2007 Nissan Sentra is no doubt a better, more refined car than its predecessor, with more capable engines and a more pleasant, flexible cabin. If you're looking for an economy sedan that'll give maximum interior room and versatility for your buying dollar, the Sentra is a solid bet. However, if inspired handling is your thing, you'll find your needs best served by the more athletic talents of the Mazda 3 or Honda Civic.
2007 Nissan Sentra configurations
Buyers of the four-door, five-passenger 2007 Nissan Sentra sedan have a choice of five trim levels: base, S, SL, SE-R and SE-R Spec V. Standard on the base trim are 15-inch steel wheels, air-conditioning, a four-speaker CD stereo with an MP3 player jack, and power windows and locks. The S trim level adds 16-inch alloys, a height-adjustable driver seat, keyless entry, power mirrors, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls and an extra pair of stereo speakers. Step up to the SL trim and you get leather upholstery, a leather-trimmed steering wheel, keyless start, cruise control, an alarm system and a trunk divider.
The Sentra SE-R is equipped similarly to the SL, but the keyless start and steering wheel audio controls move to the options list. Additional standard equipment on the SE includes 17-inch wheels, firmer suspension tuning, larger brakes, a lower body kit, sport seats, aluminum-trimmed pedals, and oil pressure and G-force gauges. To that the SE-R Spec V adds summer tires, an even firmer and lowered suspension, and larger front brakes.
Options on all but the base Sentra include a sunroof, a spoiler, an upgraded 340-watt Rockford Fosgate sound system, Bluetooth, and either XM or Sirius Satellite Radio.
Performance & mpg
In base, S and SL form, the front-wheel-drive Nissan Sentra is powered by a 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder engine good for 140 hp and 147 pound-feet of torque. Base and S models are available with either a six-speed manual or a CVT designed to offer smoother operation and greater fuel-efficiency than a regular automatic. Sentra SL models come only with the CVT.
The CVT is also standard on the Nissan Sentra SE-R, which has 2.5-liter four-cylinder good for 177 hp and 172 lb-ft of torque. Slightly more frenetic in personality, the SE-R Spec V gets a high-output version of this engine capable of 200 hp and 180 lb-ft of torque. The Spec V's motor also has a higher redline (7,000 rpm versus 6,200 in the standard SE-R) and a preference for premium unleaded. A six-speed manual is the only transmission available on the Spec V, and it has an exclusive helical limited-slip differential option. Thusly equipped, the Nissan Sentra SE-R Spec V gets to 60 mph in 6.7 seconds.
Front-seat side airbags, full-length head curtain airbags and a tire-pressure monitor are standard on every 2007 Nissan Sentra. ABS is standard on the SL and both SE-R models, and optional on other trims. Four-wheel disc brakes are standard on the SE-R and SE-R Spec V, but all other Sentras have a front disc/rear drum setup.
Handling is adequate in the 2007 Nissan Sentra, though somewhat uninspired compared to the more visceral driving experience in the previous model. The car's electric power steering is well weighted, but there isn't much road feel. The SE-R models, particularly the Spec V, fare better in this regard and can be driven quite hard on a curvy road. The limited-slip differential is a worthwhile upgrade on the Spec V, as it enables the driver to tighten the car's line through corners. Compared to similarly priced peers, though, the SE-R Sentra feels a bit ungainly and fails to involve its driver as closely as we think a true sport compact should.
In the standard Sentras, ride quality is smooth and the cabin stays quiet on the highway. The SE-R models are similarly quiet, but ride quality suffers, especially on the Spec V. The standard 2.0-liter engine has adequate low-end and midrange power for easy city and highway driving, but tends to get noisy as rpm climbs. The SE-R models offer plenty of power throughout the range, and a tall 6th gear on the Spec V keeps the engine placid at highway speeds. At an 80 mph cruise, the 2.5-liter is parked at a comfortable 3,000 rpm.
The Sentra's cabin offers a modern, attractive design and agreeable materials quality. Accommodations are spacious, with ample head-, shoulder-, hip- and legroom for adults to get comfortable in both the front and rear. The cabin features lots of nooks and bins, as well as an overhead compartment that holds up to eight CDs. Luggage capacity is a respectable 13.1 cubic feet, and the trunk offers an innovative divider that creates a hidden storage place for valuable items. When more space is needed, the rear seats fold flat in a 60/40 split, so long as you don't mind folding up the seat-bottom cushions first. Note that the seats do not fold in the Sentra SE-R Spec V due to the encroachment of its rear chassis brace.
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Features & Specs
More About This Model
Nissan's 2007 Sentra SE-R has a legacy to carry on. When the first-generation SE-R was released in 1991, it hit the brand-new sport-compact market with an irresistible combination of performance, style and price. Today, the 1991 SE-R is remembered as the car that Nissan got right in every way.
With the introduction of the third-generation Sentra SE-R, Nissan is hoping to get it right again with the high-performance Spec V. But following the same formula isn't going to be easy. That's mostly because the new Sentra shares a chassis platform with the upcoming Nissan Rogue crossover SUV, so it's even taller and wider than the Acura TSX and Mazda 6 midsize sedans.
It's hard to call the Sentra Spec V a sport compact ("sport midsize" just sounds wrong), yet it's clear that Nissan is hoping this car will compete with the Honda Civic Si, Mazdaspeed 3 and Subaru WRX.
The rest of the formula
The Spec V is one of two Sentra SE-R models. It's a dedicated high-performance package, with more power, a six-speed manual transmission and a special chassis calibration. The conventional SE-R also has a uniquely tuned engine (although with 177 hp), but it's matched with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) and a chassis that's not meant for maximum attack.
Thanks to a base price (including destination fee) for the SE-R Spec V of only $20,515, Nissan has nailed the low-bucks budget of most of its SE-R buyers.
But when it comes to styling, the new Sentra doesn't live up to the SE-R formula. We'll admit that the original Sentra SE-R couldn't exactly be called striking, but it had excellent proportions that gave it a purposeful look. This 2007 Nissan Sentra looks confused. Its arched roof and short rear deck seem awkward at best, and even a lowered suspension and big wheels can't disguise the look of a utilitarian commuter car.
The heart of the matter
With 200 horsepower and 180 pound-feet of torque, the Spec V's revised DOHC 2.5-liter inline-4 is now on par for the class. The long-stroke engine has enough torque to motivate the chassis in engaging ways, while now a screaming 7,000-rpm redline helps give it a new dimension of performance.
The QR25DE engine doesn't pull with the same fervor at 6,500 rpm that it does at 5,500, but it is still a huge improvement over the old lump that was done making power well before its fuel cutoff at 6,200 rpm. There's lots of power under the curve, so it's very drivable no matter how many revs you have on the tach.
Of the two Sentra SE-R models, only the Spec V gets a six-speed manual transmission with an optional helical limited-slip differential.
The Spec V also has a special suspension setup with harder bushings, more aggressive strut and damper tuning, a ride height that's 10 millimeters lower, and a larger 25-millimeter front stabilizer bar. There's a strut-tower brace up front, plus an interesting V-shape chassis brace between the rear dampers that means you have to sacrifice the base Sentra's fold-down rear seats.
There are summer-spec 225/45WR17 Continental SportContact2 tires at all four corners. The Spec V also gets big 12.6-inch front brake rotors, which are almost a full inch in diameter larger than those of the regular SE-R.
On the road
Drive the Spec V at 7/10ths and you'll be impressed by its composure. Its steering and brakes keep up with the cornering demands and the chassis tuning feels appropriately sporty. Once you start turning the screws, however, it becomes evident that the Sentra chassis suffers from crossoveritis.
Like a crossover, the Sentra has a long 105.7-inch wheelbase, and it's tall at 59.1 inches. There's no shortage of cornering grip, but you will feel plenty of body roll because of the car's crossoverlike height. The Spec V also rides pretty busily on city streets (especially at the back of the car), although when you're driving fast on less-than-perfect back roads, you'll discover there's a good compromise of spring and damping rates.
Thanks to its limited-slip differential, the Spec V is especially adept at putting the power down through tight low-speed corners. Just be sure you've got a good grip on the wheel, because the combination of the engine's considerable torque at wide-open throttle and the helical-type limited-slip differential will lead the Spec V to carve a line that might require you to unwind the wheel at the exit of the corner.
We were able to find a good driving rhythm in the Spec V, and it probably was as quick as a Civic Si over most roads. The SE-R's steering feel and overall composure aren't as refined as those of the Honda, however, and you'll notice this as you approach the limits of the chassis. At least part of this equation is the Spec V's weight. At 3,080 pounds, this car is 135 pounds heavier than the Civic Si sedan and about 300 pounds heavier than the previous-generation SE-R Spec V.
We also couldn't get along with the awkward shift action of the Spec V's six-speed manual transmission. The shift lever is right where you want it, high up on a console next to your hand. But the cable-operated shift action is a bit balky and it takes a lot of effort to move the lever laterally across the shift gate to grab another gear. We also had one of the transmission's shift cables come loose from its mounting bracket. (A roadside repair saved the day.)
On the track
Despite its composed personality, the Spec V has respectable performance on the test track. It hit 60 mph in 6.7 seconds and broke the quarter-mile traps in 15.1 seconds at 92.6 mph — a quicker performance than the Honda Civic Si sedan. The Honda hit 60 mph in 7.1 seconds and went through the quarter-mile in 15.3 seconds at 93.3 mph.
The Spec V split the slalom cones at 64.7 mph, which ties it with the Subaru WRX, although this is slower than many cars in the class, probably a function of the Sentra's size. At the same time, the Spec V's grip on the skid pad is very good at 0.86g.
These big brakes stopped the Spec V from 60 mph in 125 feet — the same as the Civic Si sedan.
Spartan but functional
The SE-R interior has a few touches to remind you this isn't your mother's econobox. We like the comfortable cloth-upholstered seats, although the bolsters aren't supportive enough.
The good news is that the Spec V is genuinely capable of carrying four medium-size people in reasonable comfort. We loaded someone 6-foot-2 in the back, where he complained of limited headroom but found the legroom adequate. With 97.7 cubic feet of passenger volume, this is a spacious package.
The stereo controls are easy to figure out and the huge center-mounted volume knob offers satisfying punch when the car is optioned with the eight-speaker, 340-watt Rockford Fosgate audio system, which includes MP3 capability.
The rim of the leather-wrapped steering wheel nicely fills your hands, and it's trimmed with red stitching just like the seats. The front seatbelts are also red — not the kind of style choice we'd make.
Does it matter?
With decent performance numbers, real-world usability and competitive pricing, the Spec V comes closer to the magic SE-R formula than we anticipated, given its size. The only real obstacle facing the Spec V is the fact that its arched roof line and tall profile scream "frumpy commuter car" much louder than its low-profile tires and semi-sporty exhaust note declare it an official sport compact.
Nissan tells us that about 10 percent of Sentra sales have traditionally been SE-R models, and the high-intensity Spec V has comprised the majority of that number. SE-R enthusiasts are clearly a dedicated crowd, and we'll see if they start hanging wings and spoilers on the Spec V or get used to crossing over to its newly adult personality.
Executive Editor Michael Jordan says:
Like the Dodge Caliber, the Sentra lives on top of a platform that's really meant for a crossover sport-utility, so it's no wonder that its proportions look like they've been stretched out of shape as a result. Unfortunately, the SE-R Spec V's personality also feels as if it's been stretched out of shape.
All the performance numbers look pretty good, and Nissan has shown us plenty of compelling video of the SE-R Spec V being tested at the Nürburgring. We've driven the Spec V at a racetrack ourselves, and can report that it's terrifically stable in long, sweeping bends. But like the Renault Mégane from which it's derived, the Sentra always feels a little too big for what it's trying to be.
It weaves a bit like a French car as it goes down the road, as if the front tires are doing all the work and the rears are just along for the ride. Even the engine sounds like it's unhappy, though it's powerful.
This is what happens when you stretch a kid's personality around a grown-up car. The whole package just doesn't have the right kind of snap.
The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.
Used 2007 Nissan Sentra SE-R Spec V Overview
The Used 2007 Nissan Sentra SE-R Spec V is offered in the following styles: SE-R Spec V 4dr Sedan (2.5L 4cyl 6M).
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Should I lease or buy a 2007 Nissan Sentra?
Is it better to lease or buy a car? Ask most people and they'll probably tell you that car buying is the way to go. And from a financial perspective, it's true, provided you're willing to make higher monthly payments, pay off the loan in full and keep the car for a few years. Leasing, on the other hand, can be a less expensive option on a month-to-month basis. It's also good if you're someone who likes to drive a new car every three years or so.