First off, I just want to say that I'm probably not you average car driver. I am a complete car nut, and use my cars pretty aggressively. I have taken this car auto crossing and drag racing. Also I live in the "mountains" but work in the city. I feel I have a pretty good idea of how this car works in any pretty much any environment.
Overall this car has truly surpassed my expectations. I purchased it for $800 from an ad in the Autotrader. When I got it, I was set on the fact that the guy was most likely taking me for a ride... but because I need it a car that night, I was willing to take a chance. After all it was only $800. I figured, if it makes it one week... I got my money's worth...if it does not, I'll just leave it on the side of the highway. No biggie.
Well, that was 6000 miles ago. Since then, I have pretty much gone out of my way to actually break the thing and it just takes a licking and keeps on ticking. The only thing I did is put some new tires on it and I do give it an oil change every 3000 miles. I only use Mobil 1 synthetic oil. Overall it has been a very reliable and trouble free car. I did have to replace the battery, but that was my fault. I kept leaving the lights on, and the car does not have one of those annoying rings or idiot lights to let you know that you left them on.
The performance of the car is very respectable. Because of the weight, this Sentra actually rolls around corners faster than my old Ford Mustang did, with $800 Yokohama tires at that. The balance is very good although it does tend to understeer when pushed. Thankfully the back of the car can be brought around by getting on the brakes. That's a trait that a lot of the little front-wheel drive cars don't have, Toyota Tercel for example.
When it comes to the engine, even after 168000 miles the car does not smoke and uses very little oil. The car pulls pretty nicely between 3 and 5 thousand rpm, but anything after that and the power seems to tail off. There is really no point to rev this car any higher than 5500rpm. Unfortunately this brings me to some of the down falls of my Sentra. My car, which is a base model has no tachometer. I had to install one myself. A tach might not be needed if you purchase an Auto, but with the Manual it is essential . Also the car is not overly comfy. It is not anything you want to complete a long journey in. The seat are not supportive nor comfortable. On the other hand, the trunk is huge. When it comes to the trunk leak other people have described, it is a "normal" issue with Sentra's that old. You can fix it by removing the tail lights and putting new sealant on the inside of the trunk. Overall I am very happy with my 1991 Nissan Sentra.