Nissan's compact Sentra sedan would have to be classified as a staple. It's a tried and true nameplate just waiting for a revision. After four years of the current generation, Sentra updaters will get their wish. But not until next model year. In the meantime, for '06, it's an auto leaning on earlier glories when compared with updated competitors. But there's still a lot to offer, especially with powerplants when one chooses to go a bit upmodel.
In keeping with future programs, changes for 2006 were minor. Nissan sweetened the pot with an Audio Fanatic Package (we won't defend that one -- just bring earplugs) and a couple of new colors (Sapphire Blue and Sunburst) to spice up exteriors.
There are four models of Sentra to choose from, with the 1.8 and 1.8 S models filling the economy class slot, based at $13,200 and $15,200 respectively. Those ride on a 1.8-liter, 126-HP four banger with standard five-speed manual or optional four-speed auto. For more road dominance there are two performance models, the Sentra SE-R or SE-R Spec V, powered by a 2.5-liter four. The top-line SE-R Spec V ($18,300, in six-speed manual only) gets 175-HP, 10 horsepower more than the $18,100-based four-speed auto trans SE-R thanks to special tuning and recommended premium fuel.
All but the 1.8 base get remote keyless entry, standard trip computer, standard rear heating ducts and available sunroof and dual illuminated vanity mirrors. When price isn't the main consideration, there are several options including some popular trim packages, such as 1.8 S Special Edition with the top line audio, sport trim and Special Edition Badging. The combo cuts the individual cost of two more coveted accessory groups.
SE-R versions get standard spoiler and sport grille, plus optional sunroof and splash guards. AC is standard on upmodels, an option for the 1.8. That trim level turns in the best overall mileage: 28/35 in manual mode.
Since we mentioned the special Audio Fanatic package for the SE-R trims, maybe we should explain: It's a Rockford Fosgate-powered, 300-watts peak system with nine speakers and 8-inch subwoofer, and in-dash CD6 changer. (Just keep the windows up when cops are around.)