1998 Nissan Sentra
1998 Nissan Sentra

Although a two time winner of the CAA Used Car Performance Award and one of the best performing small sedans around, the Nissan Sentra is often overlooked by used car hunters looking for a reasonably-priced, reliable and fuel-efficient small sedan.

Generally priced lower than its main and also ultra-reliable competitors Corolla and Civic, the Sentra compares very favourably in terms of performance. Another Sentra benefit is an extra long powertrain warranty, for six years or 100,000 km (additional major components also covered), that might still be valid and transferable.

The redesigned 1995 Sentra sedan was made wider than its predecessor, has a longer wheelbase and is roomier inside. It came with a new multi-link rear suspension and improved safety features including front air bags. And Sentra was sold in four trim levels; base; XE; GXE and top-of-the-line GLE.

The base engine is a high-output twin camshaft 1.6 litre with variable valve timing, sequential multi-port fuel injection and a 115 horsepower rating. When matched with a 5-speed manual transmission the Sentra’s fuel consumption is a frugal 7.9 l/100 km (36 mpg) in the city and 5.4 l/100 km (52 mpg) on the highway.

In addition to the sedan, a Sentra Coupe was also sold in ’95 and ’96. This vehicle is actually a ’94 holdover of the previous third-generation Sentra. Although the original purchase price was lower than the sedan, used offerings seem to sell for about the same money today – making the sedan a better used-car buy, in my view.

Air bags were made optional on the base and XE trim levels in ’97 in order to keep the new-purchase price down. In ’98 the front and rear of the Sentra was re-styled and the GLE trim version was dropped.

In cold weather, moisture in the throttle chamber of Sentra’s made between 1995 and ’97 may freeze and cause the accelerator to jam. Water was also the cause of another Sentra recall. The windshield wipers can stop working if water gets into a ball-joint on the wiper linkage, as it will eventually cause the linkage to separate from the rest of the assembly.

Put the Nissan Sentra on your shopping list if you’re looking for a good, small used car. The price is right, it’s economical to run and the performance and handling of the Sentra will be a pleasant surprise.

Used vehicle prices vary depending on factors such as general condition, odometer reading, usage history and options fitted. Always have a used vehicle checked by an experienced auto technician before you buy.

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