The cars we loved.
The Sentra was Nissan’s subcompact that was offered as a sedan and two door coupe. Up until 1991 it was known as solid dependable transportation. By the time the SE-R rolled around the pocket rocket phenomenon had matured into more refined compact cars that grew larger and more plush wih each generation.
Nissan’s decision to wrap a high performance Sentra in low key sheet metal was against the market trend of sportier looking than performing small cars. The competition’s Eclipses, Celicas and Probes certainly looked more agressive, even if their lesser versions were underpowered. Maybe it was for insurance reasons, as was the case with the 240SX, a larger and more expensive sporty car that was out performed by the front drive SE-R. The SE-R immediately became popular with the automotive press for it’s balanced performance and considerably high level of technology. It included a fully independent suspension, limited slip differential and four wheel disc brakes and 15 inch aluminum wheels – standard. The all new all-aluminum 2.0 DOHC was good for 140 hp or more (40 hp more than a standard Sentra). To further it’s performance image it was only available as a 5 speed manual. This no doubt helped in making this car something of a performance sensation with nimble handling and good straight line performance (0-60 in 7.6 seconds)..
Unfortunatly, what’s loved by the press is not always endered by the car buying public. This was the case with the SE-R. The regular Sentras sold well, but because the SE-R has so little to distinguish it from lesser versions, it never sold in big numbers. The fact that it was at this time only offered as a 2 door coupe probally did not help sales either as SE-R’s made up 20% or so of all Sentras sold.
From it’s beginning to the end of it’s run in 94, there were very few changes. The next generation went a little further in making the car look more destinstive with a Skyline like front end treatment. Even today the first generation SE-R is a sought after second hand car, being popular with customizers and racers alike.