This car is amazing, that is no understatement. I am the original owner since 1990.
It has been driven with care, but through many types of climates/situations. My Sentra has run efficiently through constant commuter traffic (which included both high-speed highways and stop-and-go city) in it's early life. I also used to drive it up into the mountains and it performed well in the climbs. It has been driven through snow, rain, sleet, you get the drift? it always handles well. This car has also driven reliably in more scenic areas on trips and vacations for hours on end and has reached a top speed of about 105 (although I admit rarely at that speed). However, even today it rolls along at 65-75 easily without complaint after 16 years of use on local highways.
The car has endured approx. 15 years of very hot summer sun and severe snows (in MD, and WV) before my relocation to SC and the only major problem that occurred was to the paint after about 8 years - it faded. I admit that I have taken great care of this car and never failed to change the oil/filters/etc when due - I've given it many washes and some basic detailing every time I wash it, but it rarely requires major service. In 16 years the few problems listed above have been relatively inexpensive to fix.
This is not the most powerful car, but for it's 1.6L engine size it really likes to run. The interior has held up well too, it took about 13 years until it started to fade/crack. Most of these have been easily fixed and the original back area/seat looks new without any repair. I had one recall on it in the early 1990's for seat belt problems, but they were checked for free. I won't lie, obviously there is slight wear here and there, but most of the components look pretty darn good and even the floor carpet has held up well. The only slight complaint I can even think of occurs rarely, but I do notice it when it comes up - usually in sharp turn or parallel park situations - my model is a basic/standard model with no power steering so you have to put some elbow into P-Parking, but the car makes up for this by being small enough it generally fits into tight spaces easily.
The drive is smooth on mine. Nice pick up - obviously it's not an 8 cylinder, but it has good pace for a 4 banger and once you get it up past 40mph it really SEEMS to want to go faster and can run all day. The best part is that it still gets good gas mileage -between 25-32 mpg on mostly original parts. I trust it and do run it everywhere- in cities and even to the beach over sandy roadways. The car does not slip-out on snow or sand or dirt. I had a Jeep Cherokee for a few years (also a great vehicle) and I cannot say that my Sentra is a Jeep, but it's amazingly agile and almost 4x4 like on snow and mud conditions. It is a nice all purpose car and even carries loads pretty well.
The original seats are amazingly comfortable - I took my mom shopping several times after her knee surgery and even she felt comfortable in the seat. My model was base with no radio/lighter, but came with a very handy rear defrost- I also had a/c added before I drove it off the lot. The A/C has been invaluable and has amazingly NOT failed me once. My father gave the A/C a tune up a year or so ago and it still runs great. Icy cold in my first HOT SC summer. Early on I added a sun-roof and tail 'luggage' rack with scoop which sort of sports up the look. A stereo with new speakers was installed - the stereo/speakers have been replaced more than any other part on this car, but only due to preference/technology changes over the years.
You can't find much on cassette anymore. ha ha. Also I have wheel covers on the base rims because they were silver, but have slowly worn down the outer paint to a mis matching black/silver. You cannot see this with a sharp set of covers. This car looks newer than new in some ways. Somebody else mentioned that the model is easy to modify and this is true if you wish to. Mine has not been overly customized, but most repairs are true to the original. The paint is now burgundy with medium fleck, it was originally charcoal gray with light fleck. The original burgundy pin stripping held up longer than the gray paint, but the car now has no pin stripes since re-paint.
Style wise it's not as aerodynamic as today's cars, but I like that it doesn't look like every other car out there. You can fit 4 adults fairly well into it (even though it has 5 belts and room for 5. 5 adults would be a tight fit) but mine generally only has to haul between 1 and 3 at a time and does so without hedging from the extra weight.
All I can say is that I ADORE this car. It will be 17 in Oct., 2007 and shows no signs of death at 128, 000 original miles. It books at a value of about $1,000 give or take (with the extras/condition) but it's priceless to me. If you ever have a chance to own one that isn't too abused? Go for it! You may not expect to, but the 1990 Nissan Sentra will make you fall in love with it. Great reliable, peppy, efficient, unique little firecracker of a car at a bargain price. Mine is a 4 speed manual. It shifts smoothly, but I've developed a long term relationship with it so we know each other well - but I never had a problem with shifting or the clutch. I had one full tune up at about 50,000 miles and never had clutch work needed. If anything it runs better since it's been here in SC and out of the severe climate changes. In reverse it 'purrs' slightly, but always runs well. Never had a problem with any shifting-but I am the original owner so it's never endured harsh shifting. The 90 Sentra is small, but it's also quite the work horse and will run until YOU drop. I can't say enough about how much I love this car. It would literally hurt to part with it. Like I wrote, if you get a chance to own one? DO!