2007 Nissan Sentra
2007 Nissan Sentra; photo courtesy Nissan. Click image to enlarge

Review by Grant Yoxon; photos by Brian Early

Photo Gallery: 2007 Nissan Sentra


That the governments of Canada and the United States would not permit me to travel by air from Ottawa to Chicago without a passport, but had no problem with me travelling by car into the United States and then boarding a domestic flight from Syracuse to Chicago without a passport is simply absurd.

Of course the whole problem could have been avoided if the passport office had delivered my passport when they said they would. That they were not even prepared for the predictable onslaught of passport applications leading up to this absurd travel requirement is, itself, absurd.

Who can argue with the absurdity of governments? Not I, and so there I was driving a new Nissan Sentra south on Interstate 81 to catch a flight at Syracuse’s Hancock International Airport on a cold, but sunny February morning when I passed an illuminated roadside sign that read, “Caution! Heavy Snow, Poor Visibility, Next 30 Miles.”

Absurd, I thought. Someone must have forgotten to turn off the sign.

2007 Nissan Sentra
2007 Nissan Sentra; photo courtesy Nissan. Click image to enlarge

And for the next 30 miles, there was no sign of snow, not even a flake, just open highway and very little traffic, a perfect sunshiny day to enjoy the Sentra burbling along at 2200 rpm.

This particular Sentra – the 2.0 S – included some nice features: power windows and door locks with remote keyless entry, cruise control, tilt steering, variable intermittent wipers, six-way manual adjustable driver’s seat and 60/40 split folding rear seats. It also came with air conditioning that I didn’t use and heated outside mirrors, which I used a lot. My car also came with a variety of additional features, part of a luxury option package: a nifty CD holder tucked into the roof liner behind the sun visor, a trip computer with outside temperature display (which I monitored frequently) and fuel consumption meter, Bluetooth hands-free phone system, and a leather wrapped steering wheel with audio controls. The sound system was pretty good too, with six-speakers and RDS (radio data system) to tell you what’s playing. A set of seven-spoke 16-inch aluminum alloy wheels finished off the package. As dressed the Sentra 2.0 S cost $22,298 including continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT).

I’ve never really liked CVTs – too much rising and falling rpm noise. And I can’t say that I liked the Sentra’s CVT either; but unlike others that I’ve driven, I can say that it didn’t bother me. It operated smoothly and quietly, keeping itself in the background like an automatic transmission should. If a CVT isn’t for you, there is the standard six-speed manual transmission that will keep you busy and save you $1,200.

2007 Nissan Sentra
2007 Nissan Sentra
2007 Nissan Sentra. Click image to enlarge

The new Sentra has a well-laid out and thoughtfully designed interior. The seats are wide and comfortable, the cabin large and roomy. The rear seats fold flat turning the sedan into a hatchback of sorts. There are storage compartments and cupholders everywhere and in the trunk there is a special divider panel that creates a hidden trunk storage compartment.

Under the hood is a new 2.0-litre four cylinder engine that produces 140 horsepower and 147 lb-ft of torque. It provides good acceleration and decent fuel economy (8.2 litres/100 kilometres in the city and 6.0 L/100km on the highway).

Like I said, the Sentra was motoring along just fine, turning a low 2200 rpm at about 110 km/h, when the sky began to pale, turning a lighter shade of blue, then light grey, then white, then a snowflake or two, then more and more and more.

Before long the highway was covered in snow and I had caught up to slower traffic. Behind me, an 18-wheeler loomed in the mirror, but it soon backed off as conditions deteriorated. By now the snow was falling so heavily that I could barely see the tail lights of the car in front. Our speed was down to 40 km/h then 30, and soon 20. We passed a tow truck, police cars and a motorist off the road. Less than a mile up the road, there was the same thing in the north-bound lane. This was not good. But it only got worse, as the snow began to pile up in drifts on the road which now resembled a field of snow with ruts a foot deep and moguls two feet high.

2007 Nissan Sentra
2007 Nissan Sentra. Click image to enlarge

I did not feel as connected to the surface beneath as I would have liked, a sensation I attributed to the Sentra’s electric power steering and throttle. But never did the car give me any reason to be concerned. Despite the slippery conditions, despite the thick snow and drifts, the car remained poised and balanced. Never once did it slide under braking, plough when turning, or lose grip. I was grateful for the heated side mirrors and variable speed wipers, as well as good front and rear window defrosters. But above all I was thankful for the Bridgestone Blizzak Revo1 winter tires that Nissan Canada had mounted on my tester. They performed admirably.

As the convoy of single-file traffic began its descent toward Syracuse, the snow lightened up and before long the highway was once again clear. What happened? I had driven through an area east and south of Lake Ontario that is frequently subject to lake-effect snow. But this year has been far worse than normal, as the warm weather in January kept the lake mostly free of ice. A lot of snow fell in the short space of a week, over ten feet – more than three metres in Canadian terms. I learned later that Interstate 81 was closed not long after I passed through the region.

A good set of winter tires is the best safety feature any car can have in Winter. But when circumstances beyond your control (other drivers, that is, not weather) interfere, a full set of airbags – front, seat-mounted side and roof-mounted curtain airbags – as well as a body shell and chassis designed to preserve the passenger compartment in an impact are good to have.

2007 Nissan Sentra
2007 Nissan Sentra. Click image to enlarge

The new Sentra has the equipment, as well as ABS brakes that are standard on the 2.0 S and available on the base model. Tested by the US National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration, the 2007 Nissan Sentra received five (out of five) stars for both driver and front passenger in a frontal impact, five stars for front passengers in a side impact and four stars for rear passengers in a side impact (one less airbag).

The new Sentra is a thoroughly modern vehicle with state of the art safety and advanced technical features. It has been a long time coming: so long that the old Sentra was anachronistic next to its competitors. It was not a name mentioned in the same sentence as Civic, Corolla or Elantra. With the new Sentra, Nissan has leaped a generation and has matched the leaders in the compact segment if not taken the lead entirely.

When I returned from Chicago three days later, it was still snowing north of Syracuse. This time I had to cross the snow belt at night. Conditions on the way north were as bad, if not worse than before. Not only was it dark, but there was no convoy to follow, and the wind whipped up the snow creating frequent white-outs. At times, the only way to see forward was to look out the side windows to locate the snow banks on either side of the car. While I was worried that I might run into something I couldn’t see – and stopping or pulling off was not an option – I never worried about the car.

Pricing: 2007 Nissan Sentra S


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