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2012 Nissan Sentra Overview

Zac Estrada
Automotive Editor - January 12, 2012

The base Sentra 2.0 starts with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder with 140 horsepower, six-speed manual or optional Xtronic CVT transmission, 15-inch wheels, air conditioning, four- speaker audio system with AUX input, power windows and locks, a tilt steering wheel and a split-folding rear seat.

The 2.0 S adds power outside mirrors, remote keyless entry, six- speaker audio system with iPod integration, cruise control, steering-wheel audio controls and a trip computer.

The 2.0 SR sports up the styling with 16-inch alloy wheels, a body kit package and special grille treatment as well as darkened headlight and taillight lenses.

The 2.0 SL includes more technology and luxury features, like Bluetooth, keyless entry and start, leather-wrapped steering wheel, USB input, a larger color screen for the audio system with SiriusXM satellite radio.

The performance-minded SE-R boasts a stronger, 2.5-liter four cylinder with 177 horsepower. It also adds disc brakes on all four corners, 17-inch alloy wheels, paddle shifters for the CVT transmission, specially bolstered front sport seats and a sports-tuned suspension.

The SE-R Spec V takes it up another notch with a 200 horsepower version of the 2.5, along with a six-speed manual transmission, a lowered ride height and different springs, summer tires, larger brakes and more structural bracing.

Let's look at the competition. The Honda Civic is fuel-efficient and the Si performance version is faster and better to drive, but feels cheap inside. The Ford Focus offers a versatile hatchback and feels much more premium, but can get downright expensive. The Toyota Corolla is frugal and spacious, but doesn't offer any performance option. The Hyundai Elantra is better priced and more stylish, but also lacks any engine options.

While its design is several years old, the Sentra makes sense for buyers in this segment who want something comfortable and priced well, rather than the latest piece of automotive technology. Base versions are rather well-equipped and the SE-R and Spec V models add some performance alternatives that are more aggressive than competitors' sporting models that are usually just cosmetic packages for standard versions. The Sentra is worth a test drive against fresher competition.

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