Compact car; Built in Mexico
  • 4-door sedan
  • transverse front-engine/front-wheel drive
Good condition price range: $8,000 – $19,500*

2008 Nissan Sentra

2008 Nissan Sentra

2008 Nissan Sentra

2008 Nissan Sentra

2008 Nissan Sentra

  • Acceleration (Spec V)
  • Control layout
  • Fuel economy
  • Handling (Spec V)
  • Cargo room
  • Engine noise
  • Interior materials
  • Rear-seat comfort
  • Rear-seat room

Sentra is a competent compact sedan that rides comfortably and has been available with some upscale features, such as keyless starting and a wireless cell phone link. Still, its cramped rear seat, lackluster acceleration, and ordinary handling make it less appealing than a Honda Civic or Mazda 3-or for that matter, Nissan’s own Versa.


Nissan redesigned its compact front-drive sedan for 2007, giving it freshened styling as well as additional power and more features. Measuring 5.9 inches longer in wheelbase than the 2000-2006 model, the 2007 Sentra was 2.3 inches longer overall. Base 2.0, step-up 2.0 S, and top-line 2.0 SL models were offered. Each held a 140-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, replacing the prior 126-hp 1.8-liter. A six-speed manual transmission was standard in the 2.0 and 2.0 S. Optional on those two and standard on the 2.0 SL was a gearless, continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT).

High-performance SE-R and SE-R Spec V editions joined the Sentra lineup at midseason. The SE-R held a 177-hp, 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and a CVT. The Spec V’s 2.5-liter engine develops 200 hp, with a mandatory six-speed manual gearbox. Antilock braking was standard on the SL, SE-R, and Spec V, but optional on others. SE-R and Spec V models had all-disc brakes, a sport suspension, and specific exterior and interior styling details.

Front side airbags and curtain airbags were standard on all models. Also standard were air conditioning and power windows and locks. Sentra’s rear seat cushion could be flipped forward, allowing the split rear seatback to fold flat with the floor. A trunk-wall divider that created a hidden storage compartment was standard in SL, SE-R, and Spec V models, and available for the S. Leather upholstery, a wireless cell phone link, and keyless locking and starting were standard on the SL. Likely Sentra rivals included the Ford Focus, Honda Civic, and Mazda 3.

Yearly Updates

2008 Sentra
Apart from additional standard equipment on certain models and modified option package contents, little was new for 2008.
2009 Sentra
Sentra continued largely unchanged for 2009.
2010 Sentra
The 2010 Nissan Sentra got slightly freshened styling and new option packages.
2011 Sentra
The 2011 Nissan Sentra saw no major changes.
2012 Sentra
There were no changes of note to the 2012 Nissan Sentra.


transverse front-engine/front-wheel drive

Either a six-speed manual gearbox or a continuously variable transmission (CVT) has been available with Nissan’s 140-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. SE-R and SE-R Spec V editions hold a 2.5-liter four-cylinder, developing 177 or 200 horsepower, respectively. The SE-R came only with a CVT; the Spec V, with the six-speed manual.

dohc I41
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 2.0/122
Engine HP 140
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 147
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
6-speed manual
CVT automatic
dohc I41
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 2.5/153
Engine HP 177
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 172
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
CVT automatic


dohc I41
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 2.5/153
Engine HP 200
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 180
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
6-speed manual


1. EPA Note: Figures shown are for 2008 models. The Environmental Protection Agency changed its procedure for 2008 to yield more realistic estimates. Therefore, estimated mileage is lower than for prior years.

Road Test

Nissan’s 2.0 models have decent around-town power, but passing punch is lacking. Manual-transmission versions are not significantly quicker than those with the CVT. A 2.0 S with manual shift took 8.6 seconds to reach 60 mph, and these models suffer from imprecise shift and clutch action. Nissan’s CVT, in contrast, is smooth and responsive. The SE-R Spec V is stronger in all situations, though it needs high rpm for best performance.

Fuel economy scores well. A manual-shift 2.0 sedan averaged 23.4 mpg in city/highway driving, including gas-eating performance runs. Another 2.0, equipped with the CVT, avenged 25.1 mpg in city/highway travel. The Sentra 2.0 uses regular-grade fuel. Nissan recommends premium for the SE-R and Spec V.

Sentra 2.0s absorb most bumps quite well, with minimal bounding over dips and ruts. Solid structure means minimal tire slap and impact harshness. Still, large bumps and rippled pavement yield some sloppy wheel patter and other unwanted motions. The Spec V’s ride is more controlled and stiffer, but never harsh.

A Sentra 2.0 takes turns with moderate body lean and plenty of tire squeal. Also, the steering wheel returns to center with unusual force. Fast bumpy turns upset stability. The Spec V is relatively nimble, though not as agile as a Honda Civic Si or MazdaSpeed 3. All models tested had ABS, and each provided merely adequate stopping control and pedal feel.

Nissan’s 2.0 engine buzzes at full throttle, and does not completely settle down while cruising. Some road noise intrudes, too, but the cabin is well isolated overall. The Spec V has a raspier, performance-oriented exhaust note and yields more road noise.

Audio and climate controls are easy to operate. Instrument panel displays for fuel level, engine temperature, and the radio wash out in direct sunlight. Cabins make good use of textured surfaces, but most are unyielding plastic. The few padded surfaces are either wafer-thin or too hard to be comfortable for extended periods.

Front-seat headroom and legroom suffice for six-footers. The steering wheel tilts to aid in driver positioning. Seat comfort is good, though some occupants will want more lumbar support. Spec V sedans have snug, supportive sport seats.

The backseat is comfortable only for short trips with no more than two medium-sized adults aboard. Head clearance is adequate for six-footers, but legroom is cramped even with front seats well forward. Narrow doorsills hamper entry and exit.

As for cargo space, the available trunk-wall divider would be useful for hiding items, though with it raised, trunk volume is subpar. The divider can be removed, creating class-competitive trunk space. Flip-forward seat cushions and fold-flat rear seatbacks create a convenient loading deck for bulky items. Good in-cabin storage has included an available portable CD holder that integrates with the headliner behind the sun visor.


Model Tested: 2008 Sentra 2.0 S w/CVT

Ratings values are on a 1-10 scale, with 10 being the best. With the exception of Value, these numbers reflect how the vehicle compares against the universe of vehicles, not just against rivals in its class.


Acceleration - 5
Fuel Economy - 7
Ride Quality - 4
Steering/Handling - 4
Quietness - 5


Controls/Materials - 5
Room/Comfort Front - 5
Room/Comfort Rear - 3
Cargo Room - 3


Value - 5

Total: 46


4-door sedan
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
105.7 179.8 70.5 59.5
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
13.1 14.5 5
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
40.6 37.3 42.4 34.5
Safety Ratings

Model Tested: 2008 4-door sedan


(5 is the highest rating)

Front Impact Test

Driver Injury - 5
Front Passenger Injury - 5

Side Impact Test

Driver Injury - 5
Rear Passenger Injury - 4


(A score of 100 is average. Lower is better)

Collision N/A
Injury N/A
Theft N/A

Trouble Spots

Description: On some early-build vehicles the doors may not open from the outside in extremely cold weather (10 degrees F or below) unless the locks and cables have been replaced. (2007)
Description: If the auto-up feature of a power window quits working, it is restored by closing the window and holding the button for four extra seconds. (2007-08)
Description: The foam from the dashboard creeps up and obscures the VIN plate. (2007-08)

Recall History

2007-08 Sentra with Robert Bosch master cylinder
Description: An incorrectly manufactured brake master cylinder may leak, causing the brake warning light to illuminate. If the warning lamp is continuously ignored, one of the brake circuits on the vehicle may not operate as designed increasing the risk of a crash. Dealers will inspect the master cylinder/brake booster assembly and if brake fluid leakage is detected, the master cylinder will be replaced with a new one.
2010-2011 Sentra
Description: Due to a machining irregularity, the bolt/washer surface on the positive battery terminal cable end may allow for a gap to occur in the contact area of the terminal. This can result in a voltage drop that may cause difficulty starting the vehicle and could cause damage to the engine control module. This issue can cause the engine to stop running while the vehicle is in motion at low speed with a difficult or no start increasing the risk of a crash. Dealers will replace the positive battery terminal cable end with a new one free of charge.
2010-2011 Sentra with MR20 engine
Description: Terminal stud bolt’s zinc coating is thicker than specification, which could drop voltage and make it difficult to start the vehicle or cause the engine to stall.

Equipment Lists

Equipment lists are only viewable on larger screen sizes.


Used-car pricing varies widely depending on local market conditions. Therefore, we recommend visiting websites that list used cars for sale to get a better idea of what a specific model is selling for in your area.