Buy/Drive/Burn: Basic Japanese Compacts From 2008

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis
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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]

Corey Lewis
Corey Lewis

Interested in lots of cars and their various historical contexts. Writing things for TTAC since late 2016 from a home base in Cincinnati, Ohio. You can find me on Twitter @CoreyLewis86, and I also contribute at Forbes Wheels.

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2 of 28 comments
  • 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.

  • Carsofchaos The bike lanes aren't even close to carrying "more than the car lanes replaced". You clearly don't drive in Midtown Manhattan on a daily like I do.
  • Carsofchaos The problem with congestion, dear friends, is not the cars per se. I drive into the city daily and the problem is this:Your average street in the area used to be 4 lanes. Now it is a bus lane, a bike lane (now you're down to two lanes), then you have delivery trucks double parking, along with the Uber and Lyft drivers also double parking. So your 4 lane avenue is now a 1.5 lane avenue. Do you now see the problem? Congestion pricing will fix none of these things....what it WILL do is fund persion plans.
  • FreedMike Many F150s I encounter are autonomously driven...and by that I mean they're driving themselves because the dips**ts at the wheel are paying attention to everything else but the road.
  • Tassos A "small car", TIM????????????This is the GLE. Have you even ever SEEN the huge thing at a dealer's??? NOT even the GLC,and Merc has TWO classes even SMALLER than the C (The A and the B, you guessed it? You must be a GENIUS!).THe E is a "MIDSIZED" crossover, NOT A SMALL ONE BY ANY STRETCH OF THE IMAGINATION, oh CLUELESS one.I AM SICK AND TIRED OF THE NONSENSE you post here every god damned day.And I BET you will never even CORRECT your NONSENSE, much less APOLOGIZE for your cluelessness and unprofessionalism.
  • Stuki Moi "How do you take a small crossover and make it better?Slap the AMG badge on it and give it the AMG treatment."No, you don't.In fact, that is specifically what you do NOT do.Huge, frail wheels, and postage stamp sidewalls, do nothing but make overly tall cuvs tramline and judder. And render them even less useful across the few surfaces where they could conceivably have an advantage over more properly dimensioned cars. And: Small cuvs have pitiful enough fuel range as it is, even with more sensible engines.Instead, to make a small CUV better, you 1)make it a lower slung wagon. And only then give it the AMG treatment. AMG'ing, makes sense for the E class. And these days with larger cars, even the C class. For the S class, it never made sense, aside from the sheer aural visceralness of the last NA V8. The E-class is the center of AMG. Even the C-class, rarely touches the M3.Or 2) You give it the Raptor/Baja treatment. Massive, hypersophisticated suspension travel allowing landing meaningful jumps. As well as driving up and down wide enough stairs if desired. That's a kind of driving for which a taller stance, and IFS/IRS, makes sense.Attempting to turn a CUV into some sort of a laptime wonder, makes about as much sense as putting an America's Cup rig atop a ten deck cruiseship.