By on April 20, 2012

Being asked “what car should I buy?” occurs on a weekly basis for me, but I’d rather field that question every day than listen to the recieved wisdom of a magazine racer just once more in my life. The most recent inquiry came from my Uncle Maurice, a kind and generous man who provided my brother and me with a near bottomless supply of Swiss Army knives when we were children.

Maurice owns the second worst car I’ve ever driven, a 2005 Buick Century. The Century is a relic of the bad years of GM when everybody was utterly indifferent to making a a quality vehicle. This example may be the best Buick Century ever; Maurice’s father-in-law was the previous owner and kept it in immaculate condition. Unfortunately, it drives like a stereotypical Buick, and the 3.1L V6 is somehow underpowered and horribly thirsty. Maurice recently emailed me, saying that he want to replace the Century with an American sedan that has a peerless ride, spacious rear seating and an easy ingress/egress for my Aunt. Naturally, I refereed him to Sajeev, who suggested a nearly-new Town Car Signature L. Needless to say, I cannot wait to head down to Florida this year and waft down the streets of Miami, while the bass-heavy music of Rick Ross rattles the Kleenex boxes and adjustable-back baseball hats mounted on the parcel shelf.

Which brings me to the worst vehicle I’ve ever driven; a 2011 Nissan Sentra. The Sentra belonged to Zipcar, a car sharing service that I have a membership with (paid for myself, not comped, if any integrity-minders want to know). I was stuck without a car recently and had to make a doctor’s appointment. With construction on the main areterial road, the already infrequent bus service would be even slower, and I didn’t feel like being crammed in with the other rides in that state. I fired up my Zipcar membership and got the cheapest car that was located within walking distance. At $9 per hour, it was a no brainer compared to the $13.50 per hour Mini Cooper they also had.

I’d used the Mini before, when it was winter time, the roads were freshly salted, and I didn’t want to drive my pristine, rust-free Miata. The Mini was an absolute hoot to drive, despite being low on power, and the lessons I learned at Tim O’Neil’s rally school could be put to work. The Sentra, on the other hand, was an utterly dismal drive.

With 21,000 miles on it, the Sentra didn’t feel rough or abused. It just wasn’t a good car. Any life that the QR20DE 2.0L4-cylinder had was immediately sapped by the poky CVT gearbox. The CVT, to its credit, didn’t display the typical “motorboat” behavior, and was good at keeping the revs suitably low around town – but that’s about it. Turns taken at moderate speed exhibited massive body roll, and the comically high driving position made me feel like I was sitting on a piece of playground apparatus.

At $18,878 plus $1,300 for the optional CVT gearbox, the Sentra is hardly the cheapest compact out there, not the most generously equipped. The $20,178 sticker also included $135 for the “Blueberry” paint, which was actually an attractive shade of Navy. There are so many good choices in all segments of the used car market that’s it’s pretty hard to buy a bad car, unless you really look hard. This is one of those instances. If you want something fun to drive, there’s the Ford Focus and the Mazda3. If you want something Korean that looks upscale, the Chevrolet Cruze and Hyundai Elantra are there for you, while the Kia Rio does a great imitation of a SEAT Ibiza from 5 years ago. All-wheel drive? The Subaru Impreza. Basic transportation? The Honda Civic, Volkswagen Jetta and Toyota Corolla are all vying for your money. Even Alex Dykes would recommend the Versa, the cheapest new car on sale today, over the Sentra.

Yes, I know these cars have their flaws, like exploding automatic gearboxes on the Focus. My point is that the quality differential between modern cars has largely disappeared to the point where differences in product are incremental and quality is largely equal (at the expense of character, which is a whole other discussion).  But every now and then, you find something that is unreservedly at the back of the pack, hopelessly out of date and a reminder that while modern cars may be considered dull and uniform, they have come so far in just a few short years.

And on that note, I leave you with a classic bit from Louis C.K. that explains it better than I ever could.

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88 Comments on “The Worst New Car I’ve Driven So Far...”


  • avatar
    windnsea00

    Preaching to the choir! Having worked in the rental car industry until recent these cars were TERRIBLE and the early models were going through CVT’s regularly.

    The Versa hatchback was by far the better car to drive and in terms of small cars most were better than the Sentra. Two positive merits were the smooth and relatively quiet ride, when the engine wasn’t revved out of course.

    I needed a rental last weekend actually and made sure to jump on a new Accent in the lot instead of receiving the Sentra parked next to it.

  • avatar
    Ubermensch

    This is B.S. Where is my flying car?

  • avatar

    I hated this car when I drove it. I preferred the Elantra of the same year (and of this year).

  • avatar
    carguy

    Well said Derek. I had a rental Sentra some weeks ago in Philly and it was terrible. It had more body roll than a Michelin man in a waterbed and managed to dangerously bounce every time it hit even the smallest patch of uneven surface. How awful it was only dawned on me when an 18 wheeler overtook me as I was going through a highway turn. That’s why it gets great fuel economy: it keeps you terrified to do more than 60.

    The Kia Forte I had the week after seemed light years ahead.

  • avatar
    fredtal

    My first car 1959 Ford Fairlane, about 10 years old at the time, less than 70,000 miles. What a piece of junk. Guess that shows how much cars have improved over the last 50 years. Of course the price is a lot more.

    • 0 avatar
      probert

      The miracle of the modern car is that taking into account inflation it’s cheaper. A 200,000 mile 8 airbag, sound system, abs disc brake car is cheaper than a Ford Fairlane with 4 tires and a single circuit braking “system”.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        That would be really interesting if you were right, but of course you’re wrong. A 1959 Ford Fairlane cost $2,400 when new, about $18,951 today. The modern day equivalent base Taurus is $25,555. The biggest factor in the 35% increase is government regulation.

      • 0 avatar
        JCraig

        I think his point is that you get a lot more car for $19k today than you did back then…

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        You actually do get more car for the money today than we did in years past, no matter which brand you choose. Just the safety features alone offer much better protection all around.

        Knew a man who hit the rear of a Volvo wagon with his Fairlane. The Fairlane looked like a crinkle-dip potato chip. The Volvo, barely scuffed.

        But as for the Sentra being the worst car ever to drive? I have driven several over the years, from rental companies, and the Sentra wasn’t the worst car I ever drove.

        That dubious distinction goes to the Aveo (automatic); a gutless, wallowing wonder not to be taken on any road trip or up any hill.

        The best little rental? Two of them actually – the Elantra and the Mazda3. Tons of fun, lots of room, competent handling, plenty of power and git-go. Based on that I bought my grand daughter a 2011 Elantra. Better than a Big Mac!

  • avatar
    Marko

    Wow – they STILL make this horrible knockoff of the second-generation Prius?

    Also, LOL at the “SE-R Spec V”.

    • 0 avatar
      PJ McCombs

      The current SE-R is indeed a pale shadow of its 1991-1994 self, but it isn’t all bad. The revvy engine feels as zingy and sounds as good as a sport-compact’s should–it’s too good for the car, really–and there’s some amusingly sloppy drop-throttle yaw in corners.

      Too bad the tall driving position and tippy suspension make it feel like a ‘sports minivan’ most of the time.

  • avatar
    c5karl

    Not even close. The smart is far worse.

    I got a chance to drive one recently, because Daimler is getting into the ZipCar business with a service called car2go (http://www.car2go.com). They’ve got some big advantages over ZipCar: 1) No annual fee; 2) No reservations; 3) No late fees; 4) Leave the car in any legal public parking space (even at meters, as long as it’s not a rush-hour tow away zone). It was a no brainer to sign up.

    The only disadvantage: The entire fleet is smart cars. I expected a crappy little cheap car, but they’re much worse than that.

    My lawnmower idles more smoothly. Bicycles have better brakes. I’ve read that the transmission is bad, but nothing prepares you for how bad the transmission is. It’s some sort of auto-manual, and you lose power for about a full three seconds each time it wants to shift. And since it has no power, it wants to shift all the time. Especially when you’re in a bad spot and need acceleration: The first thing it does is downshift. So you floor the accelerator hoping for at least a little git up & go, and the car slows down like it’s stalling for what seems like an eternity.

    I’ve driven Sentras and Versas and Excels and Justys and Pintos. The smart is far worse than any of them. Maybe Yugos were worse. Maybe.

    • 0 avatar
      Marko

      Yes, there is a good reason they keep offering $99/month leases on the not-so-smart.

    • 0 avatar
      windnsea00

      Interesting, all the Car2Go Smart cars in San Diego are electric, actually entertaining to drive!

    • 0 avatar
      benzaholic

      Oh, scary! It’s a different kind of transmission!

      Although easier said than done if you only rarely drive a smart, you can learn to work with that transmission. Mostly it’s by using the manual shift mode, and remembering how long it really takes to shift a manual when not done in anger.

      • 0 avatar
        Marko

        Every review of the smart I’ve ever read has criticized its transmission for harshness and unpredictability.

      • 0 avatar
        c5karl

        You’ll have to admit that a “different kind of transmission” is a bad choice for a car-sharing service.

        Manual shift mode was actually another thing I hated. The car has paddle shifters (“Oooo! Sporty!”). I bumped one by mistake while making a turn. It not only down-shifted to first; it then held the gear like a pit bull on a postman’s leg. With the car screaming in first gear, I was disinclined to leaf through the owner’s manual to learn how the tranny works. Shifting in and out of neutral got me back into automatic mode and on my way, but with a sour taste in my mouth.

        Awful, awful car.

      • 0 avatar
        noxioux

        When I have to pry one of these things out from under the skidplate on my Pathfinder, I’ll try to remember to ask if they missed a downshift or something.

        Automatic trannies with the faux “manual mode” are probably one of the worst car ideas ever. Fake as 90% of the tits in Orange County.

        Cars with CVT’s are right up there with plug-in hybrids on the list of cars I want to have nothing to do with whatsoever. Please, Nissan, ditch the snowmobile trannies.

      • 0 avatar
        potatobreath

        From what I understand, the Smart fortwo had a sequential manual transmission with automated clutch for the first batch of cars. You had to shift with the lever.

        Later, an automatic shift program was added, and you could simply put the transmission into D.

    • 0 avatar
      DC Bruce

      I’ve been noticing them popping up all over The Capital of the Free World. Now I know where they come from. Rent ‘em out . . . only one step before selling them for scrap.

      On the narrow streets of Georgetown, they kinda make sense . . . although apparently the execution is beneath “poor.”

      I passed on one a freeway today in the metro area. It looked like a truly white kunckle experience.

    • 0 avatar
      joeveto3

      I actually have some Yugo experience. Years ago, when they were still new cars, the dealership where I worked had them in their rental fleet. Taken for what hey were, CHEAP new cars…I didn’t think they were quite the nightmare everyone made them to be. They were simple and cheap, and in the right mindframe, a little bit fun in their minimalism. I would welcome one of these if current regs would allow for it.

    • 0 avatar
      Maymar

      In what might be a gearhead mark of shame, I genuinely enjoy the smart. It’s unabashedly terrible, but at least goes about it with a bit of charm – it’s small, light, simple, the cheapest rear-engined car on the market, and it’s sort of fun to hustle. I was at a Benz test drive earlier this year on a quasi-autocross course, chasing down a GLK that had no idea it was being chased down while the sewing machine engine growled away and Eye of the Tiger blared on the radio – completely ridiculous.

      The Sentra is just like four-wheeled Air Supply.

  • avatar
    ajla

    I’d pay a bunch more than $13.50/hour if there was a “ZipCar Classic” that only used vehicles built between 1960 and 1980.

  • avatar

    Most boring driving experience ever: crossing Iowa in a rented Sentra. Endless droning tedium.

    • 0 avatar

      The worst part is, Sentra’s used to be fun.

      • 0 avatar
        28-cars-later

        There is a 93 year old man -who still drives- living across from my Mother’s house with a ’95 Sentra 5spd with less than 20K original miles. Due to its life outside in Pittsburgh weather, it looks as if its pushing 150K with peeling paint, some minor rust, and a sun bleached interior. Would make a perfect ‘sleeper’ of sorts for fans of the marque.

      • 0 avatar
        APaGttH

        I remember when the Sentra SE-R meant something and that was a very desirable pocket rocket. Eons ago I dated a girl who had a bread and butter Sentra and always remember it being a good, basic car with a fair amount of power.

    • 0 avatar
      JimR

      This Summer I’m crossing Nebraska and Kansas in my stiff-legged, radio-less ’92 Sentra SE-R with dwindling R12 charge to compete in two SCCA RallyCrosses and watch Pike’s Peak.

      I sit in my office and think about it all day.

    • 0 avatar
      Bryce

      They renamed it Tiida here I hired one to traverse one of my favourite driving roads absolute POS

  • avatar
    jeoff

    Great video.

  • avatar
    28-cars-later

    I drove alot of junk home from the as-is auction years back (90s 240ZX which literally exploded and caught fire after I pulled over, 87 Tempo which overheated every 3 miles no lie, frame damaged 80s Panther I had to struggle to steer home, 96 Dodge Ram with broken power steering etc) but I don’t think those cars started out destroyed. If we’re talking newish I would say the Toyota Echo I was forced to rent in the winter of 2002. My God did I wish death upon that car, ugly, steering was funky, underpowered, too light and tough to control on the slick hills of Pittsburgh, it felt like a tin can on wheels. The only point of reference I could compare it too would be an early ninety’s $50 Korean-made Geo friends had in high school. I realize this Echo and Geos were really the same type of ‘barely there’ type of automobile, but after being in Tercels from the same period I really expected more of ‘venerable’ Toyota.

    • 0 avatar
      ppxhbqt

      What GEO was Korean made? I remember Korean Pontiacs, but every GEO I remember was from Japan or the NUMMI plant in Calif.

    • 0 avatar
      EchoChamberJDM

      Dont be hating on the Echo….sure it was ugly and underpowered when new…but a great used car with a motor that is good for 40 mpg+. Just sold mine with 190k miles for $3k…had it posted 2 hours on Craiglist, had 20 calls plus texts and emails, sold to the first guy that showed up and paid cash. Started it up, said “I’ll take it.” Didn’t even drive it.

      Had people calling me up after the first guy was on his way…. begging me to sell it to them, crying to me that they can’t afford gas prices and can’t find a nice cheap 4 cylinder car.

      Drove it for 5 years, with only oil changes, tires, and 1 set of brakes. Put 100k on it after I bought it at 90k miles.
      Only option was AC. No power anything. A basic, simple car.

      • 0 avatar
        mic

        AMEN..I leased a ’02 for 4 yrs, that car would get 38 mpg all day long going 80 with the A/C blasting. I put some wider tires on it and some stiff end links on the sway bar and it drove decent. Residual value was 5300 so I bought it and sold it for a nice profit!

      • 0 avatar
        28-cars-later

        I certainly couldn’t stand it but in a nice flat area without winter it probably drove like a normal car. I still have a nice basic roll up windows Saturn SL with 161K that despite its dated 90′s style blows away the look of one of those six days a week. Toyota can build a pretty good drive train but IMO can’t style a car to save its life.

    • 0 avatar
      28-cars-later

      I was referring to the 3 cyl Metro, but evidently these came from CAMI in Ontario… Prism came from NUMMI, and the other two models from Japan. I knew about Prism and Storm but I wasn’t aware Metros came from Canada, learned something new there.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geo_%28automobile%29

  • avatar
    JimR

    I took a rental CVT Sentra of this generation down the beautiful and twisty, yet largely unpaved Apache Trail scenic byway through the Superstition Mountains of Arizona. This is exactly the vehicle (borrowed) you want to drive down a dusty washboard with the A/C cranked up.

    This was not what you wanted on pavement, though. Steep Western climbs were awful with the CVT, and the tall profile and wallowy suspension made it a chore in cross-winds.

    A real penalty box on both the highway and in traffic. Usually cars shine in one setting or the other, but not this one. Solidly anti-CVT after this one.

  • avatar
    bodegabob

    That’s the worst car you’ve ever driven?

    Get around much?

  • avatar
    vvk

    I am surprised to hear your negative opinion about the Buick Century. I recently owned a 1996 Century Wagon for several months and really enjoyed driving it. The engine was very smooth and quiet, with good torque and flexible power delivery. It was perfectly matched to the gear ratios of the 4 speed auto gearbox, which was the best automatic I have ever tried, including Lexus, BMW, Mercedes, etc. It had strong brakes with excellent pedal feel (comparable to my BMWs). The ride was terrific and the handling was very good for a car of this size.

    • 0 avatar
      windnsea00

      That was entertaining to read, Buick needs a spokesman of this caliber.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      Is this the same 96 Century you claim drives better than your new VW Passat?

      Sorry man, I had a low-miles 91 Century clone (Olds Cutlass Cierra) in high school. Mint condition. That thing was a wallowing, vague, archaic piece of garbage. So unless something real drastic happened between 1991 and 1996 (I doubt it; I’ve been in an early 2000s Century), you have a very different standard of a driver’s car.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        I rented a 1996 Buick Century. I was its first, as it had 30 miles and I had to complete assembly for the proles before the driver’s door would fully close. The drivetrain was very good for the day. The rest of it was profoundly not good, even by the standards of 1996 rental cars, many of which I rented in third world heck-holes. It had suffered no abuse before I got it, but the suspension was a quiet version of shot. It was as if someone forgot to put the oil in the shocks and struts, and the car bounced even at lights like cars must have before dampers were invented. The tires having an irregular contact with the pavement made things like handling and braking futile.

      • 0 avatar
        vvk

        > Is this the same 96 Century you claim drives better than your new VW Passat?

        Yes, that one.

    • 0 avatar
      Numbers_Matching

      Can I have some of whatever you were taking when you drove that Century?

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        I have to disagree with the 2005 Century assessment as well. The 3.1 has a nice growl, decent performance, revs pretty well. Intake gasket issues were Dex Death issues; this basic engine was used for years with excellent reliability. Really the only major negative is the mediocre suspension and the really cheap interior. But worst car ever? Not even remotely close.

      • 0 avatar
        PJ McCombs

        Reliability of the 3.1 V6 must have been luck-of-the-draw. My parents bought a 1994 Olds Cutlass Supreme new and babied it, only to have it eat its internals at 60K.

    • 0 avatar
      MRF 95 T-Bird

      The upmarket twin of the Century, the Regal is a quite a decent car. One of the few GM got right in that era. Optional 240HP 3800SC V6 basically the Buick version of the Pontiac Grand Prix GT. The Century had and bench seat column shift and the smaller 3.1. It was the 55-up retirement home version.

      • 0 avatar
        Educator(of teachers)Dan

        Of course being a W-body Century you could make it pretty interesting with the right engine swap. Love to see somebody confuse the heck out of a kid in a riced out car by dropping a 5.3V8 or a new 3.6 DI VVT in one and keep the apearance stock. Bonus points for whitewalls and hubcaps.

  • avatar
    Russycle

    Funny how people always seem to gripe about how expensive Minis are. Base price is 6% more than a Sentra, sounds like a bargain to me.

  • avatar
    Speed3

    Just for clarification, you said, “If you want something Korean that looks upscale, the Chevrolet Cruze and Hyundai Elantra are there for you.” What makes the Chevy Cruze Korean? I was under the impression that most NA Cruzes were manufactured in Lordstown, Ohio (but I am aware that they are also built in Korea and China). Is it because a significant amount of development was done by GM Daewoo? I believe Opel also did a lot of work on the Cruze too.

    Rearding the Sentra, it was pretty mid-pack (at best) when it was introduced in ’07. And that CVT is such a dog. I’d love to see a “crappy compact car” shoot out. Include the Mitsubishi Lancer, Suzuki sx4. Too bad the Dodge Caliber is no longer in production for this.

    • 0 avatar

      It was just a joke

    • 0 avatar
      Pleiades

      Actually, the “Chevy” Cruze was sold in Korea under the Daewoo brand (before it was changed to “GM Korea”) 2 years before it ever made it to the US. Koreans can get just about all permutations of the car, while the same is not true about the US. If you really want to split hairs, the Cruze is a “world car” that got its start in Korea.

      On another note, a bit more investigating will show that no less than half of Chevy’s current “American” car lineup are GM Korea products.

  • avatar
    carlisimo

    Normally I find myself defending cars, but not this one! My wife and I had one as a rental and it was bad. I don’t think it’s a case of high standards; we’ve mostly driven cars in this segment. It’s possible that the Dodge Caliber was as bad or worse than the Sentra, but little else. Even the previous-gen Focus and Elantra, and the current Corolla, put the Sentra to shame. The old Kia Spectra, while not good, didn’t have as bad a suspension or as wheezy an engine as the Sentra. It does sound like it’s ill, and it’s not just because of the CVT. The engine note is that bad. It’s ugly, tall and tippy, the seats are awkward, the steering is awkward, and I just can’t think of anything good to say about it.

  • avatar
    johnhowington

    i’m sure the author has never driven a 1990 chevy cavalier. surely a 2012 sentra is a lexus in comparison.

  • avatar
    PG

    Add me to the list of Sentra haters. My girlfriend has one of these, and I can’t wait until it craps out on her so I can help her get something decent. She doesn’t take care of it, so hopefully that will be soon…

    One piece of advice on the CVT: I’ve found that the acceleration is awful with this tranny if you mash on the gas like you would on a conventional auto, as if trying to get it to kick down a gear or two. Try squeezing the gas pedal gently, applying the throttle gradually. It seems to deliver its power better when you do that.

  • avatar
    George B

    I disagree. I’ve rented a Nissan Sentra and a couple of Chevrolet Cobalts and the Cobalt was worse than the Sentra. Yes I know the Cruze is better, but we’re talking about crappy cars you rent at Enterprise. The Sentra was well suited to driving slowly through Ann Arbor as pedestrians randomly get it your way. The Sentra’s CVT was less annoying than the 4 speed automatic in the Cobalt. On the highway, my back would hurt after a couple hours in a Cobalt while I don’t recall any discomfort after driving a Sentra. In addition, interior trim pieces would come loose on the Cobalt while the Sentra didn’t lose any parts.

    • 0 avatar
      Sinistermisterman

      Opposite experience for me. I’ve never been that uncomfortable in a Cobalt. I drove mine for 4000 miles in 3 weeks last year and didn’t have one complaint. The driving position is much lower in the Cobalt and in corners you don’t slide off your seat like you do in the Sentra. Although the 4 speed in the Cobalt is not that great, it is predictable when you mash your foot into the floor. Unlike the CVT in the Sentra which feels like there’s collusion going on between the engine and the transmission to keep you as slow and tedious as humanly possible. The only thing I’d agree on is that the interior of the Sentra appears better made, but the plastics are much the same.

      • 0 avatar
        ciddyguy

        Having driven a rented ’06 Cobalt, back in ’06, I tend to agree, while not a great vehicle, it’s comfortable as expected but what surprised me at the time was it’s reasonably taut suspension and how much more Euro it felt overall.

        Never mind how cheaply made the interior was, the plastic around the window switches were already scratched pretty good, down to the black plastic substrate It was pleasantly designed as interiors go, though a tad bland.

        It was NOT helped by being refrigerator white with tan interior though it DID have alloys to keep it from looking any cheaper.

        Definitely not the worst I ever drove, so far, the ’78 Fairmont was I think the wort I’ve driven (it was dog slow being the main thing, and it plowed in corners without provocation being the other) even though everything about it felt like they were operating through rubber bushings, it was comfortable enough and reasonably reliable for the day.

    • 0 avatar
      OldandSlow

      The secret to driving the Cobalt is to shift the auto-stick manually.

      In an emergency maneuver under-steer is very pronounced and there is little no feedback from the electric power steering on where your limits are.

      Outward visibility towards the rear is abysmal.

  • avatar
    Sinistermisterman

    +1 on all points Derek.
    I had one of these for a courtesy car when my old Escort was in for repair after being rammed by an SUV. At the time I was considering trading up to a new commuter tub and I was interested to see what the Sentra was like. Put it like this: I eventually bought a Chevy Cobalt. The Sentra was even worse than that.

  • avatar

    May I please refer the haters to the TTAC article “Sentra vs Versa”. Guess who penned that one.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    Now, is this a case of judging a car by a standard to which it was never marketed or designed towards, or is this truly a bad car? A bad car to me is built shoddily, or has poor reliability, or misses its intended target by a mile. I’m guessing the Sentra was designed for buyers who prioritize a soft quiet ride more than engine performance and cornering ability. If that’s what you want from a car then you will think this is a much better vehicle than a Civic or Elantra. Why you would pick it over a Cruze or Focus I don’t know. But hey, the glovebox can swallow a laptop.

    It is odd that the same company that brings us decent driver’s cars such as the Altima, Juke, Maxima, and Rogue also build complete Novocaine-mobiles like the Versa and this Sentra.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    Hmmm…interesting Our rental Sentra in Phoenix was much better (better-looking, too) than our rental Corolla in LA back in 2008 on an anniversary trip out west.

  • avatar
    V16

    The current Sentra has as much excitement as a stopped clock..

  • avatar
    chris_55_55

    Seems we live in the same neck of the woods Derek… in fact, I’m pretty sure I used the same Sentra (Avenue north of Lawrence?) as an airport run car, and it was horrible, and I figured out very quickly why it was the last car available. The noise coming out of the poor thing was horrendous, as you said, and it seemed to be “hollow”. The handling was also atrocious, the 401 into 427 ramp which is usually great fun became not so fun, as it tilts more than a ship in crappy seas. Nice squishy seats and a decent enough trunk though. Why anyone would take this pile over a Mazda 3 is beyond me, however.

  • avatar
    18726543

    I remember when the Sentra SE-R SPEC-V first came out. I remember thinking that it wasn’t an all-together bad looking car, eventhough it was a joke as a “sporty” car, but after seeing the current Sentra SE-R for the first time a few days ago I was stunned at how lost the designers had gotten. The super-high roof line and comparatively narrow track width makes it look like the most un-sporty compact ever! Not even the greatest hail-mary of all, clear tail lights, could save it!

    I think the biggest problem for the Sentra is the fact that it’s book-ended by pretty fantastic vehicles. It’s got the Versa beating it down from the D segment, and the Altima destroying it from the B segment. Once the Maxima’s 3.5L engine could be had in the Altima, along with leather, navi, and a whole host of other things, the Altima really started to eat into the Maxima’s sales volumes too.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    I’d like to know more about that “character” and “souless stuff on cars.

  • avatar
    mic

    I once owned a ’72 Dodge Polara (Custom?) You could not feel the road in the steering, in the seat, through the floor, nothin’. This boat was so big my kids would build lego cities on the floor in the back seat! (prior to seatbelt laws) It was so long (27 feet I swear)there was only about a foot between the two pylons you park between for your driving test. I was returning from Europe and they made me take the test. I just kept driving and snickered when the lady told me to parallel park the beast. Worst car I ever drove. (well it might also have been the 1980 Peugeot 604, “The Peugeot That Wouldn’t Go”)

  • avatar
    ciddyguy

    Funny, I just walked past a Sentra SR, a Zipcar Sentra no less earlier this evening on my way to get 2 slices of pizza at a local pizzeria for dinner.

    It was dark red metallic even.

    Looked to be no older than a It looks to be a 2011 or perhaps a little earlier than that though it’s much like the current model, just without the smoked bezels.

    It’s an attractive enough sedan but not anything out of the ordinary though.

  • avatar
    chicagoland

    Nissan lost a loyal Sentra owner [me] with this version. I had a 2005 B15 for 5.5 years, owned from 11 to 106K miles and I could sit in it all day. I drove it on PA Turnpike two road trips, and it ate it up!

    It’s may not have been a Spec V as the Fan Bois loved, but it was best car owned.

    I test drove a “B16″ and was like a golf cart, on/off swtich for accelerating and CVT winds up noisily. Nerdy as a Saturn Ion. Makes a Corolla look like a Lexus LS400.

  • avatar
    quattrovalvole

    What a coincidence, I’ve driven Zipcar’s Sentra just a few weeks ago. Going through downtown Toronto in rush hour doesn’t tell you much about a car, though. The only things I remember are that I couldn’t find a comfortable driving position and that the CVT is sluggish off the line. The ride’s pretty soft, but I didn’t get it to speed to see if it rolls.

    Although I won’t say it’s the worst car in this class (haven’t tried all to say this), I can’t see the reason why anyone would buy one of these. It’s not the cheapest, not the most economical, not the most spacious, not the most fun to drive. It’s just… mediocre in every way.

    • 0 avatar
      potatobreath

      I’ve been playing with the idea of getting a Sentra. It does roll and sway on its fat tires, but it’s comfortable, spacious and the wheels probably won’t get rashed up during curbside parking. The seats fit me well.

      The brand new Sentras have an awful venting of gases from the new plastics though. I’d recommend leaving the windows down in the garage upon delivery.

  • avatar
    maxwell_2

    This article is a joke, nothing but Nissan hate for whatever reason. If the writer can spew crap like this on this car he should be able to do the very same for something like a Camry or Corolla, can we get more boring than that?
    We had a Sentra and absolutely loved it, smooth and quiet little cruiser. Not everyone is into a noisy “go kart” rides such as a Civic or Mazda 3.

  • avatar
    willbodine

    The worst? That’s a big claim. I rented one about a year ago and thought it was basically average, as compact rentals go. What did impress was the size of the interior (it was really roomy) and the quietness while underway. Engine, wind, and especially road noise, were well attenuated and possibly class-leading. So unless they have decontent-ed it severely since 2009 (as Nissan did with the Versa) I would have to disagree with your take.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      Rental companies often have an order of cars built to a specific specification just for them. This can include only automatic, AC and Cruise on the most basic version of a car or truck.

      I once rented a brand new 2005 F150 4-door (with 23 miles on the odo) from a Rental agency that had only AC, Cruise, automatic, PW and PDLs, that were so out of place with the rubber floor covering (instead of carpet) and gray vinyl (faux leather) bench seats.

      I’m certain they deleted the sound insulation in the cab as well. It was 1200 miles round trip in a howling monster. No match for my own F150 XLT. But that’s why you rent, so you don’t wear out your own wheels. Better to trash a rental than your own.

  • avatar
    Joss

    Hilarious I’m on my third Sentra. Ugly & nondescript they say you are what you drive, well that’s me. I’ll say this from experience – Sentra won’t burn a hole in your pocket. I’ve had Ford, GM, Mazda & VW and Sentra don’t use the parts or need intensive servicing…

    Any news on the new Sentra?

  • avatar
    mshenzi

    A few years ago when I was shopping for a new car, I was startled by how bad the Toyota Matrix was. It was uncompetitive with pretty much everything one might reasonably cross-shop against it.

    Had a week in a rental Altima a few months ago. It wasn’t quite awful, but if I were shopping in its segment I bet it would end up in the bottom half of my personal rankings.

  • avatar
    stevejac

    I recently got a sentra as a rental in Hawaii after the other car died… a chrysler 200. The sentra was head and shoulders above the chrysler in drivability, comfort, power, anything.

    I don’t know if it had a cvt. I thought is was a reasonable if basic small car.

  • avatar
    DaveL

    I’ll borrow my grandma’s Lincoln when I move back to Florida in August and we can cruise through Miami together playing Rick Ross! Let me know when your ready :)


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