In February 2000, an all-new, larger and more powerful Nissan Sentra made its bold entrance into the Nissan lineup with a range of innovative designs ranging from a zero evaporative emissions Sentra CA (Clean Air) model to the sophisticated Sentra SE. For 2001, Sentra continues on with evolutionary changes, such as an emergency inside trunk release and two new colors.
The fifth-generation four-door sedan is the first Sentra designed exclusively for North America – as well as the first North American Nissan to be produced as part of Nissan’s new vehicle platform and component strategy plan.
“The 2001 Sentra is quite revolutionary in its evolutionary process,” said Bill Kirrane, vice president and general manager, Nissan Division, Nissan North America, Inc. “It is a true international design, with all the benefits of a new-generation global sedan platform, created exclusively for our market.”
The 2001 Sentra features an exterior styled at Nissan Design International, Inc. (NDI) 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 (NISMEX) in Aguascalientes, Mexico.
2001 Sentra is available in four trim levels, XE, GXE and SE, with a choice of a powerful 1.8-liter or refined 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engines. The limited production Sentra CA (Clean Air) model is also available in California. CA is the first gasoline-fueled vehicle to meet California Air Resources Board (CARB) super ultra low emissions vehicle (SULEV) standards and obtain partial zero emission credits.
Global Platform, Designed and Built in North America
Two goals drove the initial development of the latest Sentra: First, reduce cost dramatically by utilizing advanced technologies such as platform sharing and high strength Zone Body construction, 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.
“The Sentra platform uses advanced two-zone body technology to achieve a high level of frontal crashworthiness along with enhanced levels of handling, stability, ride comfort and quietness that we believe exceed the norms of the compact sedan class,” said Kirrane.
The two-zone concept offers one energy absorbing crushable zone, including newly developed hexagonal front side member sections, and a safety restraint zone, which acts as a safety cell to protect occupants. The occupant-friendly upper interior has been designed to help reduce the impact forces to an occupant’s head during a collision.
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 new 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 as varied as the Sentra CA and the Sentra SE for the diverse needs of the U.S. market, rather than just accepting vehicles designed for other world markets.”
Contemporary Exterior Design
Nissan Design International, designers of the wildly popular Nissan Xterra sport utility vehicle and the latest-generation Maxima sedan, 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, NDI. “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. It’s robust, rounded and just a little sassy.”
Versus the previous generation Sentra, overall length was stretched 6.5 inches to 177.5 inches and the body widened by 0.8 inches to 67.3 inches. Height also was raised 1.0 inch to 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 hood line, 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.
The new Sentra offers a 30 percent improvement in torsional rigidity over the previous generation Sentra, due in part to an additional (third) floor pan crossmember. Roof sides, B-pillars and outer body sill panels have been strengthened, and the front side crossmembers (with hexagonal cross-sections) are S-shaped for improved crash performance.
Expandable foam has been utilized in body pillars and 56 enhancements have been applied throughout the new Sentra for a marked reduction in noise, vibration and harshness (NVH).
The 2001 Sentra is offered in two new colors among eight total colors: Inferno and Out of the Blue.
Assertive Interior Design
In addition to creating the exterior styling, NDI 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 many unique features not commonly found in other sedans in its class, including excellent front and rear headroom and legroom. Total interior volume has been increased 2.2 cubic feet to 100.1 cubic feet (88.5 cubic feet passenger compartment/11.6 cubic feet trunk) moving it up into the EPA compact classification, with interior dimensions revised to accommodate both larger people as well as a greater range of sizes. Headroom has been increased 0.8 inches in front and 0.5 inches in the rear versus the previous generation Sentra.
The driver’s seat is 6-way adjustable, and the hip point was raised 20 millimeters and expanded 10 millimeters for 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 backs is available on the GXE and standard on SE. Three types of cloth are available, depending on model and trim levels, in three colors.
Total storage capacity has been doubled and storage pockets include a covered box on the top of the instrument panel and a tray covering the front side sill crossmember. Front door pockets include a holder for 20-ounce water or soft drink bottles. A tray is provided next to the parking brake lever to hold small items.
The instrument panel features a new gauge cluster design with larger, easier-to-read figures for enhanced visibility and instant understanding. The SE with Performance Package offers titanium-tinted gauges (like on the Maxima SE), as well as a leather-wrapped steering wheel.
The 2001 Sentra also offers a wide array of convenience features ranging from power door locks and windows to state-of-the-art seven-speaker, 180-watt AM/FM/CD audio system with available in-dash 6-disc CD changer.
Refined Engines and Breakthrough Emissions Technology
The 2001 Sentra is offered with two advanced powerplants, a responsive 1.8-liter 4-cylinder (replacing the 1.6-liter in the previous generation Sentra) for XE, GXE and CA models and a potent 2.0-liter 4-cylinder for Sentra SE. All 2001 Sentras with both the 1.8 and 2.0-liter engines are 50-state emissions certified and both engines utilize platinum-tipped spark plugs with 100,000-mile maintenance intervals.
The 1.8-liter DOHC engine delivers 126 horsepower at 6,000 rpm (versus the previous 115 horsepower) and 129 ft-lbs of torque at 2,400 rpm (versus the previous engine’s 108 ft-lbs at 4,000 rpm). The 1.8 features a four millimeter bore increase, new single-type timing chain, new direct ignition system (similar to Maxima), variable valve timing, redesigned 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 1.8-liter Sentra engine delivers an estimated 27/35 mpg City/Highway for the 5-speed manual transmission and 26/33 mpg City/Highway with the 4-speed automatic transmission. The 1.8-liter engine meets the California Air Resources Board’s stringent requirements for Low Emission Vehicles (LEV).
The advanced Sentra CA model is the first gasoline-fueled vehicle to meet CARB super ultra low emission vehicle standards (SULEV) with zero evaporative emissions. The Sentra CA received CARB certification in November 1999 after stringent testing, meeting requirements in three critical areas: zero evaporative emissions, SULEV tailpipe emissions levels and OBD II (On-Board Diagnostic II) and 150,000-mile durability emissions system requirements.
A number of key technologies combine to make the Sentra CA possible: double-wall exhaust manifolds, a new combustion control sensor, quicker catalyst warm-up (three 3-way catalysts are utilized in the emissions system), new hydrocarbon trap catalysts, a non-return fuel system and use of a special electronically controlled swirl control valve that reduces hydrocarbon emissions in cold and warm start situations.
In addition, the radiators of all Sentra CAs are coated with Engelhard Corp.’s PremAir®. As ozone-laden air passes over the radiator, the PremAir coating converts ozone molecules into oxygen. In effect, the air the Sentra CA leaves in its wake should be cleaner than the air in front of the vehicle.
The 1.8-liter DOHC Sentra CA engine produces 122 horsepower at 6,000 RPM and 122 ft-lbs of torque at 2,400 RPM.
The sporty Sentra SE is powered by Nissan’s proven 2.0-liter DOHC 4-cylinder all-aluminum engine, refined for this generation Sentra with increased power and torque and adopting Nissan’s innovative variable capacity muffler system, first introduced on the 2000 Maxima. The 2.0-liter powerplant produces 145 horsepower at 6,400 rpm (increased from 140 horsepower) and 136 ft-lbs of torque at 4,800 rpm (up from 132 ft-lbs).
Refinements include a lengthened intake manifold, re-profiled intake camshaft, lighter weight roller-type rocker arms, lighter weight crankshaft, new piston rings, modified swirl control valve and double-tipped platinum spark plugs.
The new variable capacity muffler utilizes a special flap valve (using high temperature aerospace spring technology and materials), which opens at 2,000 rpm and above – reducing exhaust system backpressure and increasing horsepower.
EPA fuel economy estimates for the 2.0-liter engine are 24/31 mpg City/Highway for the manual transmission and 24/30 mpg City/Highway for the automatic.
A 5-speed manual transmission is standard on all models, except Sentra CA. Clutch activation has been improved through use of hydraulic control (instead of cable) and more than 25 modifications have been made – including use of first and second gear double-cone synchronizers – for smoother, stronger performance. A viscous limited-slip differential is available with SE models equipped with manual transmission and the optional Performance Package.
A 4-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission is standard on the Sentra CA and optionally available with XE, GXE and SE models. It features a modified clutch pack and revised shift schedule to provide smoother performance and a newly designed 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. The fifth-generation Sentra’s excellent road manners were enhanced with a new front subframe, softer bushings, refined steering feel and stiffer body construction.
“The 2001 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.”
The rear Multi-Link Beam suspension, which provides more predictable handling and less road noise than traditional designs, was given a larger section lateral link to improve performance and noise isolation. Rear stabilizer diameter was increased. In front, a revised subframe allows use of softer bushings for improved ride comfort and a shorter length stabilizer bar to improve dynamic performance. Sentra SE models utilize a front strut tower brace for reduced body lean, along with stiffer suspension tuning for enhanced cornering performance.
Braking is provided by a power-assisted front disc/rear drum braking system on XE, GXE and CA models and 4-wheel discs on SE. A 4-channel/4-sensor Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) is optional on GXE and SE models.
Steering is provided by an engine-speed-sensitive power-assisted rack-and-pinion system with a redesigned steering rack mount providing reduced lateral movement and enhanced steering response and feel.
Sentra XE and GXE offer standard 14-inch wheels and tires, with 15-inch alloy wheels and tires standard on CA and SE models (optional on GXE). Sporty 16-inch aluminum alloy wheels with P195/55R16 tires are optional on Sentra SE.
Safety and Security
Along with enhanced impact performance from the new global platform design, the 2001 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 supplemental front air bags, energy-absorbing steering column, child safety rear door locks, 3-point seat belts in all seating positions, front seat belts with height-adjustable shoulder anchors, front seat belt pretensioners with load limiters, front and rear crumple zones and pipe-style steel side-door guard beams. Front seat side-impact supplemental air bags are optional on GXE and SE models. A vehicle security system with Immobilizer is standard on the CA model and available on GXE and SE models.
2001 Sentra Model Availability
The 2001 Sentra is offered in the limited-production Sentra CA (available only in California), the value-leading XE, well-equipped GXE and sporty SE.
Available options include an automatic transmission (standard on CA), an XE Option Package, GXE Convenience and Luxury Packages, SE Performance Package, front seat supplemental side-impact air bags (GXE and SE), ABS (XE, GXE, SE), sunroof (SE) and various advanced audio systems, including a 7-speaker AM/FM/CD with 6-disc in-dash compact disc changer.
“The Nissan Sentra is clearly a car that has it all – value, styling, comfort and out-of-category performance,” said Kirrane. “Along with our Maxima and Altima, the 2001 Sentra gives us the strongest three-sedan lineup in the industry.”