2004 Nissan Sentra 1.8S. Click image to enlarge
Manufacturer’s web site
By Chris Chase; photos courtesy Nissan
Nissan Sentra, 2001-2006
“Nice” isn’t a word used to describe something that stands out in a crowd. That’s why it’s the perfect word to describe the 2001-2004 Nissan Sentra. Introduced in 2000 as a 2001 model, this was the fifth generation of Nissan bearing the Sentra nameplate, which has existed since the 1980s. During that time, it has earned a fair bit of respect but hasn’t set many hearts afire. But that’s fine, as the Sentra competes in a class of cars that specialize in providing simple and affordable transportation.
In just about every aspect, the Sentra is, indeed, nice. The exterior is inoffensive, if bland. The interior is comfortable, though this iteration of the Sentra has never been the most spacious in its class. Performance is adequate and all the controls do what they’re meant to in a manner that makes this car feel safe. The most distinguished versions of this car were the sporty SE and SE-R models. With more power and better handling, these models did stand out as a car that was all at once fun to drive and practical.
When it was introduced, this car was more substantial than the car it replaced. At 4509 mm, it was 166 mm longer. Width increased by 23 mm to 1715 mm, and it stood 1410 mm tall, 26 mm higher than the previous generation. The only dimension that didn’t change – and the one that arguably has the greatest impact on interior space – is the wheelbase, which remained 2535 mm.
Even if it didn’t offer more interior space, this Sentra did offer its occupants a more pleasant place to spend their time than did the car it replaced. The ride was well controlled and struck a good balance between comfortable and firm, a compromise that many small cars fail to make. The seats are comfortable and give the car a more grown-up feel than other economy cars. Rear seat legroom is okay, but for passengers stuck sitting behind a tall driver, knee room was at a premium.