For the 2003 model year, Nissan continues to refine the fifth generation Sentra sedan with the addition of the new Sentra 2.5 Limited Edition Model, validating its leadership in the small car segment. In addition, all 1.8-liter engine-equipped Sentra XE and GXE models sold with California emission specifications offer zero evaporative emissions and meet SULEV (Super Ultra Low Emission Vehicles) standards.
“The 2003 Sentra continues to be a standout vehicle in the very competitive small car marketplace,” said Bill Kirrane, vice president and general manager, Nissan Division, Nissan North America, Inc. “Although it has only been recently redesigned, Nissan engineers are constantly improving this impressive sedan.”
The 2003 Sentra was designed with inspiration from around the world. It features an exterior styled at Nissan Design America (NDA) in La Jolla, Calif., an interior inspired by Nissan Design Europe (NDE) in Geretsried, Germany and was engineered at Nissan Technical Center (NTC) in Japan and Nissan Technical Center North America (NTCNA) in California, Michigan and Arizona. Sentra is manufactured by Nissan Mexicana (NMEX) in Aguascalientes, Mexico.
The new Sentra 2.5 Limited Edition Model features the Sentra SE-R’s powerful 165-horsepower DOHC QR25 4-cylinder engine with standard automatic transmission. Also included is the GXE front fascia styling, Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) and side-impact supplemental air bags.
A Global Platform, Designed and Built in North America
Two goals drove the initial development of the fifth generation Sentra: First, reduce cost dramatically by utilizing advanced technologies such as platform sharing, and secondly, invest the savings back into the vehicle – creating a stylish and comfortable new generation sedan that exceeds customer expectations of performance, quality and value.
Through use of a global platform (Nissan defines platform as the combination of floor panel and functional components such as the engine, transmission and chassis components attached to the floor panel which determine the basic performance of the vehicle), Sentra development time was reduced. Along with time and cost reductions in research and development, other savings were realized under the platform strategy in areas such as capital investment expense, die production, production trial vehicle development and supplier development costs. Future platform sharing also will improve quality and reduce assembly time by as much as 20 percent through adoption of modular assembly techniques.
Currently, Sentra shares its global platform with six other models in Europe and Japan, with more variations likely to come in the future.
Using the global platform as an engineering base, NTCNA in Farmington Hills, Mich. completed the vehicle development to meet North American customer needs and requirements and coordinated styling, interior and manufacturing elements.
“Nissan’s platform strategy has clearly allowed us to have the best of both worlds – the development time, cost and quality improvements of a world-class platform with the unique look, feel and performance tuning for our home market,” said Kirrane. “The strategy allows us the freedom and room to create models for the diverse needs of the U.S. market, rather than just accepting vehicles designed for other world markets.”
Contemporary Exterior Design
Nissan Design America, Inc, (NDA) designers of the all-new 350Z and the wildly popular Nissan Xterra sport utility vehicle, wanted to take the styling of the Sentra in a new direction, away from its previous economy focus into a more Maxima-like arena – stylish and comfortable, smart, assertive and self-confident.
“This was our first crack at an ‘entry level’ product so the first thing we did was eliminate ‘entry level’ thinking,” said Bruce Campbell, director of design, NDA. “Our aim was to design a car with its own character that happens to be in the right price range for a lot of people.”
With an overall length of 177.5 inches, body width of 67.3 inches and height of 55.5 inches, Sentra’s front end features an expressive hood with subtle surface forms, a large, functional bumper and fascia and integrated headlights and grille. The sporty profile is marked by a solid, structural waist, low hoodline, high rear deck and a stretched and chiseled character line running front to rear. Strong rear fenders blend into a wide deck with an arching character line and easily accessible trunk space.
Assertive Interior Design
In addition to creating the exterior styling, NDA coordinated the final execution of the interior concept developed by Nissan Design Europe. NDE sought to give passengers a comfortable, open feeling, using “appropriate technology” that reflects versatility and practicality with high quality materials, textures and shapes.
“Like the exterior, the interior of Sentra has grown up – it’s fun but functional,” said Campbell. “There’s an intelligence to the design with a place for everything you really need, yet nothing interferes with usable headroom or legroom space.”
The 5-passenger Sentra continues to offer a rewarding interior environment, including excellent front and rear headroom and legroom with total interior volume 100.1 cubic feet (88.5 cubic feet passenger compartment/11.6 cubic feet trunk) – an EPA compact classification. Interior dimensions accommodate both larger people as well as a greater range of sizes.
The driver’s seat is 8-way adjustable (4-way XE) and the raised hip point aids in easier entry and exit. The seat design provides an open feeling through use of a large, one-piece cut pattern around the shoulder area. A 60/40 split fold-down rear seat with locking seat back is now standard on the GXE and 2.5 Limited Edition. Three types of cloth are available, depending on model and trim levels, in three colors.
Sentra also features a large amount of total storage capacity and storage pockets include a covered box on the top of the instrument panel (GXE, 2.5 Limited Edition) and a tray covering the front side sill crossmember. A tray is provided next to the parking brake lever to hold small items.
The instrument panel features a gauge cluster design with large, easier-to-read figures for enhanced visibility and instant understanding.
The 2003 Sentra also offers a wide array of convenience features ranging from power door locks and windows to a state-of-the-art 7-speaker, 180-watt AM/FM/CD audio system.
A Refined Engine
The 2003 Sentra XE and GXE are offered with a responsive 1.8-liter 4-cylinder that is 50-state emissions certified and utilizes platinum-tipped spark plugs with 100,000-mile maintenance intervals. The 1.8-liter DOHC engine delivers 126 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 129 lb-ft of torque at 2,400 rpm. The 2.5 Limited Edition comes standard with the SE-R’s 2.5-liter DOHC engine producing 165 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 175 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 rpm. Both engines feature a direct ignition system (similar to Maxima), variable valve timing, exhaust manifold, microfinished crankshaft and camshafts, 32-bit engine control module and a special swirl control valve which increases air/fuel mixing during engine warm-up to improve combustion.
The Sentra 1.8-liter engine delivers an estimated 28/36 mpg City/Highway for the 5-speed manual transmission and 28/35 mpg City/Highway with the 4-speed automatic transmission. Sentra XE and GXE meet the California Air Resources Board’s stringent requirements for Super Ultra Low Emission Vehicles (SULEV) when sold with California emission specifications. The 2.5-liter engine in the Limited Edition Model delivers an estimated 23/28 mpg City/Highway (automatic only).
A 5-speed manual transmission comes standard on all models except Sentra 2.5 Limited Edition. Clutch activation uses hydraulic control (instead of cable) and utilizes first and second gear double-cone synchronizers for smoother, stronger performance.
A 4-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission with overdrive is standard on Sentra 2.5 Limited Edition and optional on XE and GXE models. It features a modified clutch pack and revised shift schedule to provide smoother performance and a torque converter to enhance performance and fuel economy.
Stable, Comfortable Ride and Handling
Sentra’s suspension continues to utilize a front independent MacPherson strut setup combined with Nissan’s innovative rear Multi-Link Beam™ design. Sentra’s excellent road manners come from its front subframe, soft bushings, excellent steering and body construction. The rear Multi-Link Beam suspension, which provides predictable handling and less road noise than traditional designs, has a section lateral link to improve performance and noise isolation. In front, a subframe allows use of soft bushings for improved ride comfort and a short length stabilizer bar to improve dynamic performance.
“The 2003 Sentra drives like a more expensive, larger class vehicle,” said Kirrane. “It has a strong sense of the spirit of Nissan – with ‘pleasure paybacks’ to the driver through road feel, the sound of the engine and the solidity of the body.”
Braking is provided by a power-assisted front disc/rear drum braking system. A 4-wheel/4-channel/4-sensor Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) is optional on GXE.
Steering is provided by an engine-speed-sensitive power-assisted rack-and-pinion system with a steering rack mount providing reduced lateral movement and excellent steering response and feel. New for 2003, Sentra comes standard with 15-inch wheels and tires.
Safety and Security
The 2003 Sentra features an emergency inside trunk-release and rigid bar child seat anchorage system called LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tether for CHildren). This is in addition to the extensive list of standard safety features, including dual front supplemental air bags, energy-absorbing steering column, child safety rear door locks, 3-point seat belts in all seating positions, front seat belts with pretensioners and load limiters and adjustable upper anchors, front and rear crumple zones and pipe-style steel side-door guard beams. Front seat side-impact supplemental air bags are optional on GXE.
2003 Sentra Model Availability
The popular Sentra is available in five models – the well-equipped XE and GXE models, the Sentra 2.5 Limited Edition Model and the SE-R and SE-R Spec V (covered separately). Available options include an automatic transmission (standard on 2.5 Limited Edition), an XE Option Package, GXE Road Trip Package, GXE Road Hugging Package, GXE Synergy Package and front seat side-impact supplemental air bags and ABS.