All cars made today should be designed with safety in mind, low-end models included. One never knows when he may need to make a sudden to in order to avoid a rear-end collision. Situations on the road occur suddenly and spontaneously. I had no clue that my brakes were sub-par as far as performance was concerned. Had I known, I'd have never bought the car. Really I should consider trading it on a 1990 Toyota Cressida I saw that DOES have this feature and is generally a safer car though much older.
I guess I’ll be the exception to the common rule here.
I also have a 2001 Nissan Sentra SE. The only add-ons missing are the ABS and side airbags.
As for repairs, I’ve replaced my rear calipers after one became problematic and seized on me once at 90k miles.
I had the alternator replaced at about 100k miles, and changed one of the window regulators myself at 122k miles.
Gripes aside, I’m very satisfied with the car. It starts every time, rain, shine, or blinding blizzard. Though not the fastest car on the road, it can get out of its own way quite convincingly.
The SE models come equipped with performance in mind, so the extra power, the viscous limited slip differential, firmer suspension, strut tower brace, larger brakes (from the Altima of the time) in 5-speed guise make for a very satisfying ride.
Of note however I realized that there were some things that should’ve been improved on over the stock configuration. Better tires improve control and handling, especially in the wet. The stock brakes are fine for a daily driver, however after 1-2 high speed stops, there will be some fade. Upgrading to better rotors and pads help tremendously.
Now don’t get me wrong, the car isn’t perfect, but for what it is (especially compared to its competition at the time) it’s a great package.
Lastly, this model has the venerable SR20DE engine with has great tuning potential, as does the chassis save for that rear beam axel (though this can be corrected).
All in all, the SE has been a great car and worthy of your consideration if interested.