Buy/Drive/Burn: Basic Japanese Compacts From 2008

buy drive burn basic japanese compacts from 2008

Today’s Buy/Drive/Burn trio are the 2008 versions of the same Japanese compacts from last time. Many of you were split on the relative goodness of 1998’s Civic versus Corolla, but agreed Sentra should burn. Do those views change when the cars are from 2008?

Honda Civic

The eighth-gen Civic is in its third model year in North America, where it’s available in sedan and coupe formats. Civic is a bit edgier and serious-looking than its older Nineties sibling but promises the same overall value. In 2008 there are seven total trims That range in price from $14,800 to over $23,000. The most affordable sedan is a DX trim with a five-speed manual transmission. DX uses a 1.8-liter inline-four good for 140 horses and asks $15,010.

Nissan Sentra

Sentra entered its sixth generation in 2007 and continues unchanged for the 2008 model year. Sentra is available only as a sedan and rides on the same C platform as the Rogue. Unlike Civic which offers standard automatic transmissions, Sentra is offered only with a six-speed manual or a CVT. Five trims are available that range in price from $16,140 to $20,570. The base 2.0 has a CVT, so we upgrade to the 2.0 S for its six-speed manual. 140 horses arrive via the 2.0-liter engine. Nissan asks $16,370.

Toyota Corolla

The Corolla is in its ninth generation, and its final model year; it’s been on sale since 2003. Not to worry, Corolla was refreshed for 2005 to keep with the times! North America receives only the Corolla sedan, though wagons and hatchbacks are available elsewhere. Trims are three and have a narrow price range of $14,405 to $16,250. The cheapest CE with a five-speed manual asks $14,405. A trailing 126 horses arrive at the front wheels from the 1.8-liter engine.

Three late 2000s economy sedans, all of which are arguably build with less care and concern than their Nineties counterparts. Which one is worth buying?

[Images: Toyota, Honda, Nissan]

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  • Dal20402 Dal20402 on Sep 19, 2021

    I leased one of these Civics (a 2006 EX manual) for three years. It was basic transportation that was genuinely nice to drive, although the 5-speed stick isn't nearly as satisfying as Honda's FWD 6-speed. The Corolla is probably a bit more durable, but it's also a lot more boring. So I'll buy the Honda. Burn the Nissan because of the interior.

  • Theonlydt Theonlydt on Sep 19, 2021

    Easy one for me, as owned a 2009 Sentra SE-R. Buy: the Sentra! This generation had a platform/chassis that was absolutely solid. It drove and rode like a car in the class above, the SE-R felt like a premium product. I had a 2.0 entry level as a rental car, and while you could feel the platform was still solid the suspension was cheaped out, the seats were gross and the powertrain was disappointing. Racked up a decent mileage with almost no issues, it was quiet, accelerated hard (the CVT on the SER would sit at 2800rpm torque peak if accelerating mildly, and pulled quite hard and very quietly up to highway speeds, or you could floor it and it'd fly). CVT kept the fuel consumption low. In a crash these performed extremely well, being based on the Renault Megane which was one of the best performing in Europe at the time. The SE-R also came with discs all round, a 6 CD autochanger, sunroof, nice looking wheels etc - plus was a genuine 4-seater for adults. Shame that in doing so the roofline made it too tall, and the rear three-quarters looked ungainly. It wasn't a good looking car. The paintwork on ours was good (the electric blue). Drive: Civic, these drove well and were far more fun than the Sentra (handling wise), but the engine was rough, the paintwork a nightmare, and refinement was very poor. They were loud, tinny cars that boomed when accelerating. My then-in-laws had one and the fuel economy was excellent, the seats garbage and it was very tiring to drive because of road and engine noise. Burn: Corolla. I know it would still on the road, and it shouldn't be. A soft, squidgy, out-of-date, boring, dull and worthless car. Of course what I should have done is wait a few months (in this case it'd be 18 months) and buy the 2010 Mazda 3. An absolutely standout car. Available in the proper format for a compact car; hatchback. Well equipped. Good engine. Decent software on the automatic that meant it was rarely in the wrong gear. Rust issues in the past. Drove fantasticaly.

  • 2ACL What tickles me is that the Bronco looks the business with virtually none of the black plastic cladding many less capable crossovers use.
  • IBx1 For all this time with the hellcat engine, everything they made was pathetic automatic scum save for the Challenger. A manual Durango, Grand Cherokee, Charger, 300C, et al would have been the real last gasp for driving enthusiasts. As it is, the party is long over.
  • MaintenanceCosts The sweet spot of this generation isn't made anymore: the SRT 392. The Scat Pack is more or less filling the same space but it lacks a lot of the goodies, including SRT suspension, brakes, and seats. The Hellcat is too much and isn't available with a manual anymore.
  • Arthur Dailey I am normally a fan of Exner's designs but by this time the front end on the Stutz like most of the rest of the vehicle is a laughable monstrosity of gauche. The interior finishes suit the rest of the vehicle. Corey please put this series out of its misery. This is one vehicle manufacturer best left on the scrap heap of history.
  • Art Vandelay I always thought what my Challenger really needed was a convertible top to make it heavier and make visability worse.