Find of the Week: 2008 Nissan Sentra SE-R Spec V

Every week we find some of the best exotics, classics, and interesting cars for sale in Canada. We call them our Find of the Week. And is full of everyday cars too. Cars that don't need to be put under glass. Cars that you can drive to work day in and day out. But that doesn't mean boring cars. There are fun cars too, and some of them are downright affordable. Take this one. A sport compact that checks all the right buttons that wears a performance badge that has been around for nearly 30 years. And it is listed for less than $5,000. It's a 2008 Nissan Sentra SE-R Spec V.

The Nissan Sentra was introduced to North America in 1982. One of the first Nissan badged cars here, it was the replacement for the Datsun 210. But with a 1.5L four-cylinder under the hood, the car was far from sporty.

That would change with the third generation car. That was the first Sentra to get the SE-R badge. The SE-R was one of the first of a new generation of sport compacts that revolutionized the automotive scene in the 1990s. Under the hood was Nissan's SR20 four-cylinder that made a then-potent 140 hp. The B13-chassis code SE-R could hit 100 km/h from a standstill in under eight seconds. Not lightning quick by today's standards, but that made it as quick as a BMW 325i from the same year.

The SE-R was more than just a powerhouse. It came with four-wheel disc brakes and independent suspension. It also had a limited-slip front differential. Very rare at the time and still uncommon now. It was able to tame the inside front wheelspin that plagued front-drive sports cars.

The SE-R model continued on through the next two generations of Sentra. It was upgraded through those models and made larger, quicker, and faster, but remained one of the compact front-drive performance benchmarks. Then, in 2002, another legendary Nissan badge joined the party. Sort of. The Sentra gained a Spec V badge. It's the inverse of the V-Spec label that graced Nissan's hottest Skyline GT-R models in Japan, but it's the same badge that the latest GT-R wears here.

The Spec V got a helical limited-slip differential, a six-speed manual, and a stiffer chassis. Nissan tightened up the suspension and added firmer bushings to keep the car planted. The car wore a new body kit, inspired by the look of the R34-body GT-R. The interior had similar GT-R-inspired seats.

When an all-new version of the Nissan Sentra was revealed in 2006, the SE-R name continued. So did the Spec V extra special model.

The latest Spec V used a 2.5L four-cylinder engine in place of the 2.0L engine of the standard car. It boosted horsepower from 140 to a more healthy 200, accompanied by 180 lb-ft of torque. That's 23 hp more than the plain SE-R got from the same engine, thanks to a compression ratio boost to 10.5 to 1. The Spec V's engine had a redline boosted from 6,200 to 7,000 RPM.

Nissan made changes to the brakes, the suspension, and the chassis to make a sportier Sentra. The car got big disc brakes all around with 12.6-inch rotors in the front. The suspension is lower than the standard car, with stiffer springs and dampers giving a more controlled ride and better handling. The chassis was upgraded with reinforcement in the cowl and a special brace behind the rear seats. The six-speed manual was the only transmission choice and there was a limited-slip differential making sure the car could pull out of corners.

The interior got more heavily bolstered front seats to help keep the driver and passenger in place. It also had a leather-trimmed steering wheel with red stitching and red stitching with an SE-R badge on the front seats. Plus bright red seatbelts. What can we say, Nissan liked red when they designed this interior.

In a competitive field of sport compacts, the SE-R carved a place for itself. Road tests at the time said it had better turn in, power, and comfort than a Civic Si. It wasn't as refined as the Golf GTI, but it was significantly cheaper. It could carve up back roads with the best of the class, but dull styling lead the SE-R to be largely overlooked.

Today, that makes the car a performance bargain. A nice SE-R, like this one, for sale in Montreal, PQ, is now available for less than $5,000. That's less than half of what a similar vintage Civic Si. If you want an everyday car that lets you have fun on the weekends for about the same as a year's payments on a new sport compact, then this is what you're looking for.


Liven up your commute 3/7/2018 10:35:34 AM