1988 Nissan Sentra E 1.6L 69hp 4cyl gas from North America
Economy backed up with solid quality and character
Excellent, excellent little car. Around 100k I replaced the throttle body when the injector failed. The car still ran but in the computer's "safety" mode. Around the same time the starter motor went bad. That's it.
Everything else I've done I'd consider to be normal maintenance and replacement of wear items. Have replaced struts, ball joints, CV boots, and tie rod ends. Timing belt twice, an easy job on this car. Trunk leaks at the left tail lamp, a minor annoyance, and some surface rust is starting to develop on this non-garaged car.
With KYB struts in front and Autozone's best (forget the brand) in the rear, suspension is very controlled at all speeds, a great improvement if you have worn originals. You won't believe the difference. Suspension has nice, long travel. There is some bump steer.
I returned to the original, narrow tire size, which helps this very light car do well in rain and snow. Ride is also nicer than the wider tires I once tried, and traction is ample for a car with modest performance pretensions.
Reliability has been superb, and I really like the excellent mechanical accessibility. Everything is very easy to work on. The quality of assembly, and of minor parts, rubber and plastic components, etc. is excellent, an important thing as a car ages. The fact that a car sold at this price point is so well engineered and put together is impressive. Nissan obviously spent money where it counts for the long run.
I give the car a "6" for performance, although it is fully adequate and even entertaining if expectations are appropriate. Engine is not strong, but the character of the power is good; torquey and smooth, and the 5-speed shifter is very good. Brakes are good. Excellent feel and feedback from the manual steering. Stay away from the auto tranny.
Reliability and comfort get nines; both are excellent. In 130,000 miles of driving, and with almost 200k on it, I can still count on it to start and run perfectly in any weather. Alternator, all engine/tranny parts, clutch, radiator are all original. Do yourself a favor, with any older car, and replace all coolant hoses and vacuum lines as prevention. Seats are excellent, supportive and comfortable for 1000 mile days; leg and headroom is more than ample in front; rear is obviously cramped. Trunk is very nice for small car. Excellent outward visibility makes makes the drive nicer.
Running costs get a "10;" they are simply rock bottom. Routinely get mileage in high 30s; have seen 40-43 on many occasions. A little lower in summer with the A/C on. Tires are dirt cheap. Insurance is cheap, of course, and repair costs have been virtually inconsequential. Depreciation has been minimal as expected.
My opinion of this car is high partly because it always nice to see a manufacturer put the emphasis on all the minor details, and all the quality issues, which are transparent to the buyer in the showroom but which enable the car to drive so well even after almost 200,000 miles. Even now the car feels more refined, and goes down the road with more composure, than many brand new cars made by other manufacturers. As a result I'd readily buy another Nissan and encourage others to do the same.
Other reviews on this site which mention problems make me suspect abuse by current or previous owner. Cars in clean, original, maintained condition are much more likely to serve reliability and are worth paying up for.
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes
Review Date: 10th August, 2000
Well, I have an '89 Sentra. I have over 206,000 miles on it, but the fact is, it still runs like new.
My only problem is that I can't figure out how to get the damn alternator off.
When it is running, I can still take it to speeds in excess of 110 mph, which really comes as a surprise to many people.
So far the only major work I have had done on it was replacing the transmission in January 2001, and the distributor in October 1999.
Awesome car, and I would recommend anyone to buy one if they don't enjoy hanging around a mechanics shop once a month.