1998 Nissan Sentra Reviews and Ratings

Sedan 4D GLE

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1998 Nissan Sentra
Mitch McCullough, Editor-in-Chief

There's nothing like adding cubic centimeters to improve performance. Nissan has expanded its Sentra lineup this year with a sporty new SE model that comes with a 2.0-liter engine borrowed from the company's 200SX SE-R sport coupe.

The other four models in the Sentra line are powered by a fuel-efficient 1.6-liter engine. These are affordable sedans that are reliable and economical to operate. They boast roomy, attractive and well-appointed interiors. They are quiet and deliver a nice, smooth ride quality. They are fun to drive with better-than-average handling, decent acceleration and good braking performance. In short, the Nissan Sentra does everything well.

To this happy picture, the 1998 Nissan Sentra SE adds the more powerful engine, 15-inch wheels and tires, rear disc brakes, a front anti-roll bar, a stylish body-color front air dam and rear spoiler, lower body side sill extensions, fog lamps and Nissan's signature white-on-black tachometer and speedometer. All of this hardware makes the Sentra SE even more fun to drive. Walkaround
Updated front and rear fascias on all 1998 Nissan Sentras give these compacts a sportier look with a blacked out grille. A new front bumper and air dam appear to let in more air and provide a place to mount optional or aftermarket fog lights.

It may not be a design that will attract a lot of attention, but it looks competent and efficient with smooth, contemporary lines. The high rear decklid, low hood line and steeply raked windshield slip through the wind with a low 0.33 coefficient of drag, which helps improve fuel efficiency and keeps wind noise to a minimum.

All Sentras are four-door sedans. The coupe version is called the 200SX and can be found elsewhere in this guide.

Five trim levels are now available: basic Sentra, practical XE, logically equipped GXE, more luxurious GLE and sporty new SE. They look similar, though lower body side sill extensions lend a sporty look to the GXE and GLE.

Nissan's 115-horsepower 1.6-liter dual overhead-cam 16-valve four-cylinder engine powers all but the SE. This engine earns an impressive EPA fuel economy rating of 40 mpg on the highway, 30 mpg city when paired with the standard five-speed manual gearbox. Naturally, ratings fall off with the optional four-speed automatic transmission, but not by much--36 highway, 27 city. Those figures put the Sentra among the most fuel-efficient compact sedans.

Nissan offers a five-speed manual and a four-speed automatic transmission.

Only fleet buyers are likely to be attracted to the base model with its black bumpers and skinny P155/80R-13 tires on plain steel wheels. There's only one outside mirror, no radio, no air conditioning, no power steering, and no options. It's cheap and looks it.

The other models offer increasing levels of comfort and convenience, each model building on the lower model's standard equipment list.

Moving up to the $14,139 XE brings air conditioning and an AM/FM/cassette stereo with four speakers, key features that are separate options on many compacts. The XE also includes power steering, and its rear anti-roll bar reduces body lean in corners. Intermittent wipers and remote releases for the trunk and fuel filler door make owning a Sentra a more civilized experience, while body-colored bumpers and a passenger-side mirror distinguish the rest of the Sentra line from the base model.

For $15,389, the GXE adds comfort and convenience. Knitted cloth seats replace the woven cloth, and nicer door trim warms up the appearance. Split fold-down rear seats add to the cargo carrying capability. Power windows and door locks, a trunk light and a passenger's vanity mirror make life easier. The GXE can be distinguished by the addition of black body side moldings, which are body-colored on the top-of-the-line GLE.

The $16,239 Sentra GLE comes standard with an automatic transmission, velour fabric, a large tachometer and a remote keyless entry system with an alarm.

Tires are another consideration. The XE and GXE replace the base model's skinny tires with sensible P175/70R13 radials mounted on steel wheels. Handling performance is further enhanced on the GLE model with lower profile P175/65R-14 tires on wider 5.5x14-inch aluminum alloy wheels that improve its appearance considerably. Fortunately, these wheels and tires can be ordered as an option on the XE and GXE models

Anti-lock brakes are a $499 option. Interior
Climbing in is easy. The Sentra cabin has above-average roominess for its size class. Nice interior materials and a relatively high level of standard equipment keep these compacts from feeling miserly. We found the Sentra's front bucket seats to be on par with other compacts for comfort, and we were impressed with the excellent view over the sloping hood.

The instrument panel is straightforward. The SE's black-on-white gauges are a sporty twist over traditional white-on-black instruments. The climate control dials have a particularly nice feel, and the heating and air conditioning functions are exemplary.

In back, we found plenty of space for two. There's even room for three if they are small.

The trunk lid lifts from the top edge of the bumper, minimizing the distance groceries and other cargo need to be lifted when loading and unloading. Like most small cars, the Sentra's rear seatbacks split 60/40 to expand cargo space. Driving Impressions
With its 2.0-liter engine, the Sentra SE offers sporty performance for a compact sedan. You may not win too many drag races, but it's a lot of fun to drive, particularly on a winding road. Best of all, this car inspires confidence in the driver, a big benefit when it is raining.

Steering and handling responses reflect Nissan's sporty heritage. The Sentra SE is agile and competent in avoidance maneuvers and the five-speed manual shifts smoothly.

We were impressed with the Sentra's stability at higher speeds, as well as its predictability in slippery conditions. We also appreciated the car's firm but comfortable ride quality, which enhances the driver's sense of control while simultaneously ironing out potholes and rough pavement.

An independent strut front suspension with an anti-roll bar provides precise, controlled handling. Nissan's multi-link beam-axle rear suspension was designed to provide as much room as possible for rear seat passengers and cargo. It also allowed Nissan to use a relatively long wheelbase without lengthening the car, which eliminates long, wasteful front and rear overhangs. The SE model's rear anti-roll bar helps keep body roll to a minimum in hard cornering.

While the other models are equipped with brakes using front discs and rear drums, the SE comes with four-wheel disc brakes that improve braking performance. They may shorten stopping distances, but the bigger benefit will be in reducing brake fade that can cause a loss of braking performance in mountain passes or in other conditions where they may get hot from hard, repeated use.

Keeping noise to a minimum was obviously a priority for the Sentra engineers. The rigid chassis and the suspension tuning minimize road noise, while the 2.0-liter engine sounds quieter and more refined than the Dodge Neon engine.

The Sentra SE accelerates quicker than many compact sedans and good low-end torque gives it responsive performance around town and in heavy traffic. All Sentra engines benefit from Nissan's variable valve timing, which helps it squeeze more performance from every droplet of fuel and minimize emissions. Summary
Affordable, practical, comfortable and fun to drive are the words that best describe the Sentra. Reverse the order of that list to describe the Sentra SE.

This sedan offers an attractive, roomy and comfortable interior. It's quiet underway with little engine, road or wind noise. It soaks up bumps, but handling is precise and controlled.

Nissan's Sentra SE is a great four-door compact sedan for someone who needs some practicality, but prefers a car that offers good acceleration performance and handling.

Model as tested
Basic Warranty
3 years/36,000 miles
Assembled in
Smyrna, TN
Destination charge
Gas guzzler tax
Base Price
Price as tested
Options as tested
Antilock brakes (ABS), upgraded AM/FM/cassette/CD audio system, power sliding sunroof, security system, floor mats

Model Line Overview
Model lineup
Safety equipment (standard)
Dual airbags
Safety equipment (optional)
2.0-liter dohc 16v inline 4-cylinder
5-speed manual

Specifications as Tested
Air conditioning, AM/FM/cassette stereo, power steering, power windows, power mirrors, power locks, tilt steering, intermittent wipers, rear defogger, 60/40 split-folding rear seats, cruise control, four-wheel disc brakes, 15-inch alloy wheels

Engine & Transmission
2.0-liter dohc 16v inline 4-cylinder
Drivetrain type
Horsepower (hp @ rpm)
140 @ 6400
EPA fuel economy, city/hwy
Torque (lb.-ft. @ rpm)

Brakes, front/rear
Suspension, front
Suspension, rear
Beam axle

Seating capacity
Head/hip/leg room, middle
Head/hip/leg room, front
Head/hip/leg room, rear

Fuel capacity
Trunk volume
Turning circle
Towing capacity
Track, front/rear
Ground clearance
Curb weight

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