When Nissan went wild with a subcompact.
It's more difficult than ever to sell new cars mainly because there's really no such thing as a terrible new car. That's good for consumers, but for automakers, it means they must invest more than ever, even in their most affordable models. Features like start/stop, automatic emergency braking, and advanced touchscreens were once reserved only for expensive luxury cars. Not anymore. There is, however, something of a downside to this.
Automakers are now less likely to build truly great performance versions of their least expensive models. Why? Because a majority of buyers today want fancy-schmancy features, not performance. Money that could have been invested in say, new pocket rockets, now funds safety features such as backup cameras. That wasn't so much the case over a decade ago when Nissan launched its Sentra SE-R Spec V.
Back in 2007, just prior to the financial meltdown that affected the entire industry, Nissan put greater emphasis on catering to the performance crowd. More specifically, performance budget shoppers. This was right around the time the GT-R was unveiled, a supercar killer most couldn't afford. Even a 350Z was relatively pricey. Nissan, to its credit, not only recognized the problem but decided to do something about it. The subcompact Sentra was the answer once again.
In 2004, the Sentra SE-R Spec V was introduced and it earned itself a solid reputation. Why not repeat this with the latest Sentra? The 2007 Nissan Sentra SE-R Spec V and the "base" version, the SE-R, both came powered by a 2.5-liter inline-four. In the SE-R, it was rated at 177 hp and 172 lb-ft of torque while the Spec V had that upped to 200 hp and 180 lb-ft. It also came with a six-speed manual and an optional limited-slip differential.
Both versions received four-wheel disc brakes, unique interior and exterior upgrades, and 17-inch alloy wheels. Some additional exterior mods include a sport grille, lower bodyside sill extensions, a rear spoiler, fog lights, chrome-tipped exhausts, smoked headlight surround, and smoked taillights. The interior was given cloth black sport seats with red stitching and SE-R embroidered logos. Heck, Nissan even tossed in aluminum pedals and an oil pressure meter and G-sensor display. A sport-tuned suspension was also part of the package.
Buyers could tack on a power sunroof and a 340-watt 6-CD audio system with eight speakers and two subwoofers. Performance? The Spec V did the 0-60 mph sprint in 6.7 seconds and a quarter-mile in 15.1 seconds at 92.6 mph.
All in all, a solid all-around deal. The base SE-R began at $19,400 while the Spec V was an extra $500. Nissan found plenty of customers and both variants stuck around until 2012 when the current generation Sentra arrived. Sadly, the SE-R or SE-R Spec V has yet to return. The current Sentra Nismo is only so-so. The good news is that this yesteryear pocket rocket can still be had for cheap on the used market.
We found this 2007 Sentra SE-R Spec V up for sale on Craigslist in Minneapolis for only $4,377. It does, however, have 118,294 miles on its odometer. The seller, which appears to be a local dealership, claims the car runs smooth, the six-speed manual shifts nicely, and the power sunroof still works as it should. Less than $5 grand for a 200-hp pocket rocket that weighs only around 2,900 pounds? Not bad for a first-time performance buyer.