1996 Nissan Sentra

Nissan has either one or two new models on offer at Toronto,

depending on how you count.

There’s the new Sentra four-door sedan, and a two-door version

of the same car. Nissan’s calling it the 200SX, but “two-door

Sentra” isn’t far off.

The sedan has a hint of Saab in the profile. Otherwise, it’s

pretty much what you’d expect in a Japanese entry-level car

bland, but likely reliable.

Nissan used to be thought of as a suspension company. Their

reliance on the new multilink beam rear axle seems to have

killed that image, since the setup is decidedly nonsporting.

It’s being fitted to just about everything they make these days,

including the new Sentra and 200SX.

Today, engines and transmissions seem to be Nissan’s strong

points. The Sentra and 200SX base models continue with the 1.6

litre four-cylinder twin-cam engine with variable valve timing,

mated to a slick, precise five-speed manual gearbox.

I rate this the best entry-level powertrain in the business.

The range-topping version of the 200SX offers the 2.0 litre

four-cylinder engine, also seen in the departed NX 2000 and the

continuing Infiniti G20. (The Americans used to get an

old-generation Sentra SER with this engine, but it never crossed

the border. At least, not legally.)

The extra power turns the 200SX into something of a pocket

rocket, a car with which you can really surprise people at a

stop light.

All Canadian Sentra models, plus our Altimas and pickup

trucks, come from Nissan’s gigantic-and-still-growing assembly

complex in Smyrna, Tenn.

Nissan’s upscale Infiniti division is introducing its latest

model, the I30, at the show. In Infiniti’s ultralogical

nomenclature scheme, the I30 ranks below the J30 in

price/pecking order, but both have 3.0 litres of displacement.

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