Used 2008 Nissan Sentra SE-R Spec V

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2008 Nissan Sentra
2008 Nissan Sentra

Pros

  • Very spacious seating front and rear, straightforward control layout, quiet highway ride, speedy SE-R Spec V model.

Cons

  • Engine drone gets tiresome with CVT, so-so handling, ride quality can be harsh, manual gearbox's clunky shift action.

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Edmunds' Expert Review

With its exceptional passenger room, the 2008 Nissan Sentra is a reasonable choice for buyers in need of an economy sedan that doesn't feel compact. Just don't expect much in the way of driving excitement, even on the SE-R models.

vehicle overview

No longer does owning an economy sedan mean you'll be holding your breath or retracting limbs as you wedge yourself into a pint-size compact. On the contrary, many of these cars are now sized to accommodate 6-foot adults in any of their seats, and the 2008 Nissan Sentra in particular meets the EPA's "midsize car" classification. If you're tall but need a car that's affordable, this is very good news.

The Sentra's size is a product of its tall hatchback underpinnings -- its platform is derived from the Megane, a family-oriented, European-market hatch engineered by Nissan's partner Renault. In most other respects, the French connection is scarcely apparent, as the Sentra is styled to look like a miniature Maxima on the outside and employs Nissan's familiar industrial aesthetic on the inside. Not everyone will find this approach to cabin design attractive, but it's certainly functional. All the controls are exactly where you'd expect them to be and storage areas are abundant in number and variety.

Another advantage to the Nissan Sentra is its variety of engines. The base 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine provides 140 horsepower and a livable compromise between performance and economy when paired with the continuously variable transmission (CVT) that Nissan offers in lieu of a conventional automatic. Those seeking a little more speed can choose either the medium-hot Sentra SE-R, which has a 177-hp 2.5-liter four-cylinder, or the truly hot Sentra SE-R Spec V with its higher-revving, 200-horse version of that engine.

If speed on the cheap is what you're after, the Spec V is an impressive deal given its under-$21K price tag and 6.7-second 0-60-mph time. Handling is another matter, though. Although the SE-R models have more aggressive running gear than the lower trims, their non-independent rear suspension design and tall, blocky dimensions make them less adept through the corners than competitors like the Honda Civic Si, Mazdaspeed 3, Subaru WRX and Volkswagen GLI.

Ride quality is an issue on all Nissan Sentras, as even the softer-tuned 2.0 models are unable to shield occupants from bumps and ruts the way most economy sedans can. Accordingly, we'd advise prospective Sentra buyers to try the Hyundai Elantra, which offers comparable interior room and a more compliant ride. Other good options include the Civic, Mazda 3, Mitsubishi Lancer and, for those with slightly higher spending limits, Volkswagen's Jetta. These cars aren't quite as roomy, but all offer a superior ride/handling balance and, in many cases, higher-quality cabin furnishings. That's not to say you wouldn't be happy with a 2008 Nissan Sentra, as it's a competent car in most respects. However, with so many qualified small sedans in this price range, consumers should shop around until they find a car that meets their needs exactly.

2008 Nissan Sentra configurations

Offered in sedan form only, the 2008 Nissan Sentra comes in five trim levels: 2.0, 2.0 S, 2.0 SL, SE-R and SE-R Spec V. The base 2.0 trim includes 15-inch steel wheels, a split-folding rear seat, air-conditioning, a CD stereo with an auxiliary audio jack, and power windows and locks, but isn't eligible for many options. Most buyers will prefer the midrange Sentra 2.0 S, which adds 16-inch steel wheels, a height-adjustable driver seat, keyless entry, cruise control, power mirrors, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls and a trip computer. Step up to the 2.0 SL and you get alloy wheels, leather upholstery, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, keyless start, satellite radio, Bluetooth and an overhead CD storage container. Many of the SL's features are optional on the S. Options on both include a sunroof, a Rockford Fosgate sound system, a spoiler and a trunk divider.

The Sentra SE-R offers most of the SL's conveniences, but keyless start, satellite radio and steering-wheel audio controls move to the options list. Additional equipment on the standard SE-R includes 17-inch alloy wheels, firmer suspension tuning, larger brakes, a lower body kit, cloth-upholstered sport seats, aluminum-trimmed pedals, and oil pressure and G-force gauges. The SE-R Spec V supplies summer tires, an even firmer and lowered suspension, even larger front brakes and additional interior enhancements. Note that the Spec V has a rear reinforcement brace that prevents the rear seats from folding. The sunroof and Rockford Fosgate stereo are optional on both SE-R models. Only the standard SE-R is eligible for keyless start, and only the Spec V can be fitted with a limited-slip front differential.

2008 Highlights

ABS, cruise control and a security system become standard fare on 2.0 S models, while all 2008 Nissan Sentras gain auto-up convenience for the power driver window. Satellite radio is standard on the Sentra 2.0 SL. A manual transmission is no longer available on the base 2.0 model.

Performance & mpg

All Nissan Sentra 2.0 models are motivated by a 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder engine good for 140 hp and 147 pound-feet of torque. A CVT driving the front wheels is standard on base 2.0 and 2.0 SL models, while S buyers can get either the CVT or a six-speed manual gearbox. The EPA rates fuel economy at 25 mpg city/33 mpg highway with the CVT and 24/31 with the manual.

The CVT is also standard on the SE-R, which has a 2.5-liter four-cylinder good for 177 hp and 172 lb-ft of torque. More hardcore 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 the standard SE-R's 6,200), and can only be matched to a six-speed manual with it. The Nissan Sentra SE-R Spec V gets to 60 mph in 6.7 seconds.

Safety

Front-seat side airbags and full-length head curtain airbags are standard on every 2008 Nissan Sentra. Antilock brakes are standard on all except the base 2.0 model, which has ABS as an option. The SE-R models have four-wheel disc brakes, but other Sentras still have rear drums.

The Nissan Sentra earned a perfect five stars in government-administered frontal-impact crash tests. It earned five stars for front-occupant protection in side impacts and four stars for the rear.

Driving

Handling is adequate but uninspiring in the Nissan Sentra. 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 curvy roads. Compared to similarly priced peers, though, the Spec V feels ungainly and fails to involve its driver as closely as a true sport compact should. Still, the SE-R models offer plenty of power. The Spec V is particularly entertaining, as its engine combines a generous amount of low-end torque with a free-revving personality. Unfortunately, the manual gearbox is awkward and unsatisfying to shift.

In 2.0 form, the 2008 Nissan Sentra is a decent performer. The base engine is reasonably smooth, with adequate power for easy highway driving, though the CVT allows it to drone on at high rpm more than a conventional automatic would. Ride quality is fine on smooth blacktop, but limited suspension travel results in considerable harshness over bumps. The firmly tuned Spec V can get downright uncomfortable during commutes.

Interior

The Nissan Sentra's cabin offers a modern design, well-organized controls and generally agreeable materials quality. Both SE-R models have black seat cloth with red stitching, but red front seatbelts are exclusive Spec V fixings. Seating is spacious, with ample room for tall adults to get comfortable in both the front and rear. The downside is that the Sentra's driving position can be awkward for those under 6 feet tall: The steering wheel doesn't telescope, and the dash and door panels feel unnaturally high. Storage space is abundant in the Sentra, and luggage capacity is a respectable 13.1 cubic feet.


Consumer reviews

Read what other owners think about the 2008 Nissan Sentra.

Overall Consumer Rating

Most helpful consumer reviews

So far, love it
Pat,03/26/2008
Looked at GTIs, civic si, minis, Astra, the usual sporty compact crowd. Drove the Sentra Spec V and it just seemed to do everything well where all the others did some stuff better, but fell short in other ways. The Sentra fit my needs - more space, great mpg, Nissan gave me moonroof, LS diff, xm radio, fun ride but not brutal, torque means any gear pulls great. Love it!
Sentra SR Spec V
da3vid,09/18/2008
Very quiet interior, makes the Fosgate stereo sound terrific. Puts my VW Jetta interior and "advanced" sound system to shame. Sport suspension is nice and tight. You feel the big bumps but don"t bounce on the small and medium. No leaning in cornering, which you can do very fast due to the road hugging ability. At 400 miles, MPG is combined 28.5 with about 80% being highway. Mileage on highway was about 31.8 when I reset the computer. No initial defects found, very happy with the 6 speed manual transmission. The 200 HP let you use 2, 4 and 6th gears for normal driving. 1 & 2 get you into or across traffic fast, and 3 & 4 can make you feel like you are on a good roller coaster if you want.
Excellent buy
CTM,10/04/2008
Wondering about MPG? If I keep my foot out of it I can average 30 mpg. Usual avg is 27. I get 36 mpg hwy in 6th going 55-60 mph. It can run on regular, no problems, but I use premium for more power. I installed an Injen CAI and it SIGNIFICANTLY made more power. Worth every penny and with about 3 months of use no problems. The seats are very comfortable on long trips. The trunk is huge. The glove box is huge. I outrun CooperS, GTI, VR6 no problems. The affordable price is great. Not as fast as a Speed3 but it costs $5-$6k less. Avoid the Rockford stereo. It sounds good when not moving. But roll windows down and it is easily drowned out. Tires are great dry, bad in snow.
Awesome Good Time
pillpounder,04/18/2008
I bought my Spec V almost a year ago. I got it in the super black color. It matches well with the black and red interior. I owned a Sentra Spec V 2004 model, which I adored. I love my new car even more. I will be a Spec V fan for life!
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Features & Specs

MPG
21 city / 29 hwy
Seats 5
6-speed manual
Gas
200 hp @ 6600 rpm
See all Used 2008 Nissan Sentra SE-R Spec V features & specs

Safety

NHTSA Overall Rating

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration offers independent analysis.
  • Frontal Barrier Crash Rating
    OverallNot Rated
    Driver5 / 5
    Passenger5 / 5
  • Side Crash Rating
    OverallNot Rated
  • Side Barrier Rating
    OverallNot Rated
    Driver5 / 5
    Passenger4 / 5
  • Combined Side Barrier & Pole Ratings
    Front SeatNot Rated
    Back SeatNot Rated
  • Rollover
    Rollover4 / 5
    Dynamic Test ResultNo Tip
    Risk Of RolloverNot Rated

More about the 2008 Nissan Sentra
Used 2008 Nissan Sentra SE-R Spec V Overview

The Used 2008 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 2008 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.

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