The Corolla and the Civic get all the attention when we think about the Japanese subcompacts that put the fear into Detroit during the final years of the Malaise Era, but we mustn’t forget Nissan’s replacement for the rear-drive Datsun 210: the Sentra. You don’t see many early Sentras in junkyards these days; they haven’t been a common sight in The Crusher’s waiting room for a decade or so. Here’s one that I spotted in California earlier this month.
1983 was the first full year of Sentra sales, and it was also the first year in which Nissan badges were bigger than Datsun badges. I don’t recall ever hearing the Sentra referred to as a Datsun, though the ’83s did have “Datsun by Nissan” badges on the trunklid. By ’84, all the American ex-Datsuns were 200-proof Nissan.
I’ve owned a couple of these cars, and I recall them being nowhere near as fun to drive as the contemporary Civic and not quite as comfortable as the Corolla. They got great fuel economy, though, and they once roamed the streets of America in numbers equal to their Honda and Toyota counterparts.
You’re looking at 69 horses of Nissan E16 power. Weighing only 1,900 pounds, this car got highway mileage into the 50 MPG zone. Of course, once gasoline prices dropped well below a buck per gallon in 1985, American car buyers didn’t care so much about that number.
It’s a steal!