For the 2002 model year, Nissan continues to refine the fifth generation Sentra sedan, which bowed as an all-new vehicle in 2000. Changes include new option packages and two new exterior colors for GXE. In addition, an all-new SE-R model replaces the SE model (covered separately).
“The 2002 Sentra remains 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 2002 Sentra 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.
2002 Sentra is available in well-equipped XE and GXE models, with a powerful 126-horsepower DOHC 1.8-liter 4-cylinder engine and a limited production Sentra Clean Air (CA) model with 122 horsepower. The 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.
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 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.
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 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, 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, 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.
An additional third floor pan crossmember improves torsional rigidity and expandable foam has been utilized in body pillars as well as marked reduction in noise, vibration and harshness (NVH).
The 2002 Sentra XE is available in five different exterior colors, while GXE is offered with eight colors, including two new exterior colors – Mystic Green and Molten Silver.
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 many unique features not commonly found in other sedans in its class, 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 (GXE, 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. 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, CA) 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 gauge cluster design with large, easier-to-read figures for enhanced visibility and instant understanding.
The 2002 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 2002 Sentra XE and GXE is 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 engine features 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 engine delivers an estimated 27/35 mpg City/Highway for the 5-speed manual transmission and 27/33 mpg City/Highway with the 4-speed automatic transmission. Sentra meets the California Air Resources Board’s stringent requirements for Low Emission Vehicles (LEV).
A 5-speed manual transmission comes standard on all models except Sentra CA. 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 is standard on Sentra CA 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.
The Sentra CA - Breakthrough Emissions Technology
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 and obtain partial zero emission credits. The SULEV standard is part of CARB’s LEV II regulatory package for 2004 and subsequent years, meaning the Sentra CA currently meets SULEV emissions levels years earlier.
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.
According to CARB, the Sentra CA qualifies for zero emission vehicle credits, which used to only be awarded to pure electric vehicles, because it also has zero fuel evaporative emissions and has adopted CARB’s 15-year/150,000-mile limited emissions warranty. The 2002 Sentra CA also fulfills all OBD II standards, which require emissions systems to detect minute changes in emissions and to notify the driver when service may be needed to keep the engine running in its cleanest possible state.
Tailpipe emissions from the Sentra CA are about six times cleaner – one-fourth of unburned hydrocarbon (HC) levels, one-tenth of oxides of nitrogen (NOx) – than Ultra Low Emission Vehicles (ULEV), the cleanest gasoline-powered automobiles currently being sold in California.
A number of key technologies combine to make the Sentra CA possible: double-wall exhaust manifolds, a combustion control sensor, quicker catalyst warm-up (three 3-way catalysts are utilized in the emissions system), 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.
The 1.8-liter DOHC Sentra CA engine produces 122 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 122 lb-ft of torque at 2,400 rpm. With a standard 4-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission, its estimated fuel economy is 26 mpg City/33 mpg Highway.
“Sentra CA proves that you can build a safe, affordable, environmentally friendly vehicle without sacrificing styling, comfort or performance,” said Bill Kirrane, vice president and general manager, Nissan Division, Nissan North America, Inc.
The CA looks and drives like any 2002 Nissan Sentra – distinguished only by special ‘CA’ badging on the trunk. The only concession the driver will notice is the vehicle’s need for low-sulfur gasoline, which is currently available only in California. There is no effect on performance or mileage if the CA is driven on higher sulfur content fuel, however SULEV emissions levels may not be attainable.
“The most significant feature of the Sentra CA is zero evaporative emissions, a feat thought extremely difficult, if not impossible, to attain just a few years ago,” adds Kirrane. “Fuel vapors, which are potentially harmful to the environment, can seep from fuel systems, whether a vehicle is being operated or parked. Some of these gases react with sunlight to create smog, which has been linked to a range of health problems. Sentra CA eliminates nearly all of those vapors.”
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 2002 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. Sentra XE and GXE offer standard 14-inch wheels and tires, with 15-inch alloy wheels and tires standard on CA models (optional on GXE).
Safety and Security
The 2002 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.
A Vehicle Security System with Immobilizer is standard on the CA model.
2002 Sentra Model Availability
The 2002 Sentra is offered in the limited-production Sentra CA (available only in California), the value-leading XE and the well-equipped GXE. Available options include an automatic transmission (standard on CA), 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 (GXE).
“The Nissan Sentra has it all – value, styling, comfort and out-of-category performance,” said Kirrane. “Along with Maxima and Altima, 2002 Sentra gives us the strongest three-sedan lineup in the industry.”