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Kelley Blue Book ® - 2002 Nissan Sentra Overview

Vehicle Overview from Kelley Blue Book

KBB.com 2002 Nissan Sentra Overview

Not Just Another Ho-Hum Sedan

Nissan's entry-level sedan is anything but ordinary. Designed by Nissan's Southern California design studio in La Jolla, the Sentra's handsome outer skin covers a global platform used by Nissan in both Europe and Asia. The Sentra benefits greatly from its overseas counterparts, where stiffer suspensions and more efficient engines are the norm.

For 2002, Nissan has dropped the SE trim and replaced it with theh SE-R and SE-R Spec V Sedans. There is also a limited production CA model that meets California's strict Ultra-Low Emissions standards. The base XE Sentra is aggressively priced yet offers a pretty decent standard equipment roster. Dual manual mirrors, an electric rear-window defroster, a tilt-wheel and a 5-speed manual are all part of the XE package, which starts at $12,539 (destination included). There is a long options list and you can add an automatic transmission, air conditioning and a nice AM/FM/CD and still get out the door for well under $15K. If your price range is more flexible, then the GXE model will save you the trouble of checking off all those option boxes. Starting at $14,489, the GXE comes standard with a 5-speed-manual transmission, air conditioning, digital clock, rear-seat cup holders, power door locks, keyless entry, dual power mirrors, AM/FM stereo with CD, power windows, tachometer and a split-folding rear seat. Options include an upgraded audio system, cruise control, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, side-impact airbags and a performance suspension package. Oddly, a sunroof is not available from the factory.

Both the XE and GXE share the same 126-horsepower 1.8-liter engine. This engine is not as powerful as many of its competitors, but is designed to deliver more power and torque in the low rpm range. The result is excellent off-the-line acceleration and respectable passing power for a four-cylinder vehicle. You'll likely notice that the Sentra may take a bit longer to get up to cruising speed than some of its competitors, but once there, it glides along effortlessly, with very little fuss or noise from under the hood. Though most people will probably order their Sentra with the 4-speed automatic, we think the car works best when mated to the 5-speed-manual transmission. Perhaps even more impressive than its low-end torque are the Sentra's EPA fuel economy ratings of 27-mpg city/35 mpg highway. With numbers like this, you can travel a long way for a little money and that's exactly what Nissan designed the Sentra to do.

The Sentra's suspension benefits from Nissan's performance heritage. The shocks and springs have been adjusted to provide a smooth ride that rivals that of many midsize sedans, though uneven pavement and the occasional pothole do give the Sentra's rigid body a case of the shudders. The Sentra feels low to the ground with a better center of gravity than most compact cars. You can attack twisting back roads and make quick zigzag lane changes without upsetting the Sentra's stable ride. The Sentra also demonstrates excellent manners when braking, with little front-end dive. You'll find the steering response to be excellent and the power steering to have just the right amount of assist without numbing the driver to the feel of the road below.

Four adults can fit comfortably into the Sentra and though it is rated as a five-passenger sedan, we don't advise trying to fit three full-sized persons in the back seat for any length of time. The front bucket seats provide good support, and on the GXE model the seats are adjustable 8 ways. The materials used to shape the door panels and dash have a heavy, quality feel to them and the dash design itself is simple and straightforward, yet does not look ordinary. The gauges are housed in a large binnacle that can be clearly viewed through the steering wheel. To the driver's right are the HVAC and audio controls and on the center top of the dash is a deep storage compartment covered by a hinged lid. Even the seating material has a slightly upscale flavor that is soft to the touch. If you opt for the GXE, be sure to get the upgraded audio system. The 180-watt head unit looks really cool with its silver rotary control knob and blue/white lighting and the seven-speakers attached to it sound terrific.

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