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2010 Nissan Sentra SE-R Spec V

Jeff Glucker August 5, 2010 Nissan Reviews, Road Test Reviews 34 Comments

I often bring up the concept of driving slow cars fast here on Hooniverse.com. Anyone can jump behind the wheel of a powerful car and get themselves in trouble, but to experience some real joy behind the wheel is much more difficult. It can be obtained in high-horsepower beasts yet it’s more rewarding to push something with less power. You can learn a lot about yourself and your ability behind the wheel of a slower car, as you push it faster and harder. Some automakers realize this and they offer specific trims on otherwise economical models in their lineup. One such automaker is Nissan and one such car is the 2010 Nissan Sentra SE-R Spec V.

The 2010 Nissan Sentra SE-R Spec V is a compact sedan that is able to tie fun and frugality into one sharp-angled, stylish package. Under the hood sits a 2.5L four-cylinder engine which produces 200 hp and 180 lb-ft of torque. The throttle response here is quick and the engine enjoys being pushed high in the rev range. The full push of the torque happens 5,200 rpm, so it makes sense to stay up there if I’m pushing the car hard. If not, then I shift earlier and enjoy around 30 mpg on the highway and 20 around town.

The Spec V forgoes the CVT found on the lower trim units, and even passes over the standard six-speed manual for a close-ration six-speed manual gearbox. The shifts are crisp and the whole unit was far tighter than I expected it to be. As soon as I initially say down in this Sentra, it became clear that Nissan thought this one through. No limp gearbox, well placed pedals, and sporty bucket seats provide a solid first impression. This car may just be more than an econobox with look-fast parts bolted on.

The Sentra SE-R Spec V allows one to wring the most of that 2.5L engine thanks to other parts that you can’t see right away. The sport-tuned suspension, with front and rear stabilizer bars and a trunk-mounted V brace, help keep the car feeling neutral through the corners. It was so easy to to have fun in this car they could change the name to the Nissan Maniac Grin. That sounds corny, but if you get to drive one you would silently nod your head in understanding. Every turn was as easy as setup, turn-in, then blast off…the drive wheels have the aided benefit, as part of the Spec V package, of a helical limited slip differential. It would be interesting to see how it handled more power, but in this application it works wonderfully. In addition to the suspension and limited slip, the Sentra wears perfectly sized brakes in the form of 12.6″ ventilated front and 11.5″ rear discs. I can get going quickly, but I can get going even faster when I know the brakes will bring me back to sane. The whole package turns the commuter-car Sentra into a still daily-drivable road toy.

The interior of the Nissan Sentra SE-R Spec V is a filled with smart choices. The cloth sport bucket seats are comfortable and supportive. The gauges are clear and very easy to read. The 4.3″ color touchscreen provides a crisp picture and is simple to use. It is small but fits the style of the car. It almost looks after-market, in a very good way. The Spec V package features an eight-speaker Rockford Fosgate audio system which is nice and loud, but tends to be quite bass heavy. I like low end in my music, but I had to turn the setting on this system down to negative two to get a more balanced sound. There is a USB port available and an iPod interface which is good for 99% of the population at this point. The back seats are small as expected but very usable. At 6’3″, I had no problem fitting back there and if the driver is short I have zero issues with leg room.

On the outside, the 2010 Sentra Spec V tacks on stylish pieces to the economy skin it wears. It’s already a fairly stylish car for this segment but now it has sporty help in the form of a rear decklid spoiler, front and rear fascias which are unique to the Spec V, side sills, and the 17″ alloy wheels. The shoulder line has a nice flat angle coming off the side of the car which helps break up the area. This Sentra looks good with out looking gaudy with the sole exception of the dated looking taillights. I think that style was cool for 35 seconds 5 years ago. Swap in a smoke lens or units from a lower trim Sentra and the problem is easily rectified.

The 2010 Nissan Sentra starts at $15,420. The SE-R Spec V starts at $20,080 and the one you see here will cost you $23,650. In todays new car market this is a solid price for a fun yet efficient car. It’s fun to drive, good looking, and returns solid fuel economy numbers as long as every day is not pretend-I’m-Ayrton-Senna day. My problem with this car, and others in and around this segment, is that Volkswagen is wrecking the interior curve. For $25,000 I could have a GTI equipped the way I want it and the insides of a car that could compete a class above. The interior of this Sentra is perfectly equipped and put together nicely, however the interior of the Vdub is near perfect. I know I’m comparing a German hot hatch to a Japanese compact sport sedan, but these cars are marketed to a younger generation and I can see cross-shopping here (same power, similar price).

Either way, the Sentra Spec V is a great training tool for future 370Z buyers. It is an affordable car which would fit right at home in any hoon’s driveway.

[Photos by: Leo of CnCPics.com Light post-processing by: Jeff Glucker]

  • I will give Nissan credit, that even for 23 grand Canadian (for a Spec V), it's still a decent value. On the other hand, thanks to massive rebates, GM can get me in a Cobalt SS for the same money. And, although I'd have to drive the Nissan before writing it off completely, I'd probably stretch the extra couple grand for a Civic Si, or give up a bit of power for the Mazda3 GT.

  • I have difficulty calling any 200hp car "slow". I'm not a drag racer, preferring the corners, but even in that time-warped world, 300hp is "getting fast". For the street anyway. I'm not sure I can call 200hp fast, but it is far more than I am used to, so even for today's swollen platforms it's "starting to get quick".

    • +1. Till last week I'd never owned a car that strayed more than 30 either way from 200, and never thought of those cars as slow. My latest has 376 and it goes like crazy, but it's rare that I ever get to use all its power.

    • FuzzyPlushroom

      My mother's used to 150 incredibly underrated horses (maybe 165 in reality) and a manual, and thus considers 114 and an automatic, in a slightly heavier car, to be "dangerously slow". I'm used to it – the reasonable amount of torque helps.

  • I'm just curious…what did the extra $3570 in options buy?

    • The limited slip, a power moonroof, the upgraded audio system and a few other items but I don't have the monroney in front of me at the moment. It is called the Spec V Upgrade package

  • Another excellent write up Jeff.
    The Hooniverse brass needs to coordinate a hot-hatch shootout with manufactures loaning the cars.

  • Fully loaded at 23.6 puts it in competition with some pretty heavy hitters. The Civic Si is the first car to come to mind, but since Jeff mentioned the GTI at 25K, there is quite a bit of competition at that price point. I would much rather pony up ~25k for a WRX myself. Hatch, natch.

    • The problem with throwing Subie into the mix, is that the one I would prefer is too expensive (WRX STI)

    • Ed Zachary.

  • Your opening paragraph cuts right to the core of my automotive belief system. I have learnt far more by incrementally reducing my commute time from work, doling out punishment to humdrum cars, than I ever could in a properly fast machine.

    Sports cars go quickly by default. The crappier the car, the more effort you have to put in, the more you learn. Bring on the beaters.

  • Here's where Canadian prices go all Stalinist and the Sentra makes a lot more sense:

    Fully-loaded Spec V $26,500
    Decently-equipped GTI 5-door $33,000+
    Subaru WRX $36,000+
    Mazdaspeed 3 with no options $36,000+++

    • I was pleasantly suprised at the pricing for this myself as I immediatly went to Nissan.ca after reading this review. Seems Nissans pricing across borders is more in line than other manufacturers

      • And I think they're running 0% financing, too, which the others virtually never do. I like the car a lot; it's not special in any particular way but it's a lot of car for the money and nicely understated. Unless you order it in orange.

  • Aaaaaw, No Brembos?

    • I believe they ditched those…

    • That's what I thought at first too. But really, it doesn't seem like it needs them.

      I rode around with Jeff in this car through Ortega Canyon and had a blast! I went into it expecting a boring, sloppy, tire squealing ride but came out of it with a ear to ear grin. This car has definitely taught me that the old adage which states "don't knock it 'til you try it" is very true. Hell I think I enjoyed riding around in this car more than the 370Z convertible, I previously rode around in with Jeff, because of the fact that it is so unexpectedly fun.

      It seems like much of the car review industry seems to have a sheep attitude. If one top reviewer bashes a car they all bash it. If a top tier reviewer drools over a car they all drool over it. It seems most journalist are afraid to go against the heard and I applaud Jeff for admitting to really enjoying this car.

      • way to suck up for another ride…

        Just kidding, thanks for shooting that day

        • So when is the big press conference announcing that you are going to MT?

          Will you also have your own 1hr special?

          • If that happened, you would know right away…it would be plastered everywhere

      • I have driven the '03 and '04 SpecV, one with the Brembos and the other without. Couldn't really tell the difference, but I know people like to have them. The only downside I saw was that you had to have a bigger wheel to fit over the brakes, which also meant a more expensive tires.
        Yeah the, sheep attitude was the fun part about the SpecV, it always surprises you.

  • Another excellent review on Hooniverse has me adding yet another car to consider before making my next vehicle purchase

  • I was thinking about the whole "slow car fast" dynamic a few days ago on my drive home. My Mustang's 4.0L V6 isn't exactly going to provide a speedy ride at 210 hp, but at 240 torques and with the Pony Pkg. (front roll bar being the most important part), makes the car fairly fun at lower speeds. She's not rev-happy, but she's pushable.

    And that makes the daily drive more fun.

  • jrod

    I can not tell you how much I appreciate your review. I worked as a sales person for a few months and am a designer. This car is pretty much perfect for my lifestyle. However, other blogs constantly lambaste this little sedan any chance they get. "There's more out there for a better price", they say. I say people should get what they are comfortable with. When I drove one, not only was I impressed but a little scared. I own a first generation Altima and I could easily go quick enough in the SE-R spec V to scare myself. That, my friends, makes for a fun car. Being frugal also doesn't hurt either. Thanks again for the great write up and giving the SE-R a fair shot instead of the "also ran" automatic status.

  • Lex

    This, the Koupe. Not only am i loving the reviews of obtainable cars, Jeff's work has been prodding me towards the idea of actually obtaining a new car.

    • Yikes! Don't do it!

      Just kidding…new cars certainly have their advantages. However, Tim and i spend most of the day IMing each other ridiculous used cars to buy. There are just SO many choices out there…

      If I had a few more bucks in the bank, I would have jumped on this S4 wagon I found in Vermont…flown out there and driven it back West.

      • Lex

        True, and i'd rather have an unmolested '91-'93 Civic hatch than any new car. But the SO isn't into that scene; i'm not willing to give up the '87 Toyota Pickup; and we live at least four hours from any family. The no worries of a new car is what tempts me. (I get Ford's Zplan though, so i'm waiting to test drive a Fiesta.)

  • SleepyChuki

    Seriously awesome ride…….. did anyone see this: http://www.serproject.ca ?

    Nissan Canada did a wicked job of having fun with the SE-R Spec V, and it is refreshing to see manufacturers doing some innovative advertising again!

    Go Nissan!!

    [youtube aSUpbovpiJg http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aSUpbovpiJg youtube]

  • FTGDHoonEdition

    My problem with this car, and others in and around this segment, is that Volkswagen is wrecking the interior curve. For $25,000 I could have a GTI equipped the way I want it and the insides of a car that could compete a class above.

    That has always been a problem (not really, at least for VW), will always be a problem. I prefer an MS3 though. Not quite as nice interiors as the V dub but, perfectly acceptable for me, more HP and toys for less.

    • The MS3 is really a blast to drive… I think it is more fun than the GTI. The Sentra however seems to really enjoy being pushed hard and that makes it just as enjoyable as the Mazda, while being down over 50 hp (MS3 has 253 right?).

  • Tony

    I currently drive a 2007 Sentra Se-r the paddle shifter are great and coming to full stop at 95 mph well what can i say the car performs great.

  • Pocket_rocket_rebel

    Guys this is my first post on here. I just received a 2010 SER V-Spec from my fiancé for my birthday. yes it is used BUT let me tell ya guys. with 50K on the Odo and Bridgestone Potenza tires at all the corners, this car is a flatout beast for 17K. engine is really strong, the car is fast enough to plaster a hillbilly grin on this country boys face, AND I ate a civic for breakfast on my way to work this morning. the only flaw in the whole car ( in my humble opinion ) is the electronic power steering. small bumps at high speed will almost pull the wheel out of my hand. other than that…. WOW!! TY Nissan for this amazing little pocket rocket. Now if only there were a way to remove the speed limiter from the Canadian model. PS… track tuned suspension handles like its on rails. literally pulling almost .8 lateral G's thru the twisty sections. (Just a guess)