Monday, July 22, 2013

Used Car Review - Nissan Sentra Exalta (2001-2004)

This week, a tag team of compact sedans would go under Myk Belmonte's scrutiny if they are great buys for you and the first one emphasizes luxury for less cash.

2001-2004 Nissan Sentra Exalta

Sentra, Pulsar, and Sunny; these are the names used by Nissan for the Sentra in markets outside North America that often times, they are used for totally unrelated vehicles (read: different styling) in some markets. Some badges overlap one another which includes the Almera (the N17 Sunny) and the Versa (US and Canada). Let's leave this paragraph before I get a headache here.

What you see here is the sixth generation Pulsar under the N16 platform code. Names used include the Pulsar (Australia and New Zealand), Sentra (Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Taiwan), Bluebird Sylphy (Thailand), and Almera (Europe). OK, they might have the same body but carry different rear designs to distinguish one another. By this year, the N17 Pulsar would be revived since its 2005 discontinuation but the Sentra counterpart lives on as the B17 model.

Yulon's takeover had resulted to a slew of new models, which includes the N16 Sentra Exalta basically the continuation of the smash hit B14 Sentra Exalta. Introduced in 2001, it battled with the E120 Corolla Altis and the ES Civic, but caught dead three in the sales charts. It may not replicate the success that it had in the past, but it found a niche. The Exalta badge was used until 2004, with the updated model used the Sentra name only. Variants include the GX (no Exalta badge was used), DS, LS, Superio, and Grandeur.

Value and Costs
Luxury for less starts at P190,000-P290,000, and this price range does not include the B14 Sentra Exalta. If you want one, pay attention to the body styling since some B14's were assembled between 2001 and 2002 due to popularity. Remember, some GX models are previously taxis, so its safe to spot for a high model which had private usage for most of its life.

Parts are aplenty, but costs more than the equivalent of a Toyota or Mitsubishi. Since the current N16 model uses the same engines, there is no problem on searching the components but exterior ones are different. A moon roof comes standard in the Superio but check if it works properly.

Exterior and Interior
Styling is a mixed bag, while some perceive it luxurious, some say it is bland and tacky no thanks to some chrome bits present. While parked side by side with the Altis, the front and side looks dated while the side profile is current looking.

For the interior, let me delve some features (noteworthy ones which one can recall later on) that are available on each trim. GX models do not have any power windows as standard, the DS does not have any airbag or wood trim, LS has gauges sprinkled with chrome and wood panels, Superio models sports a heads-up display and a moonroof, and lastly for the Grandeur model, a pop up LCD screen which has a six disc CD/ VCD changer. The leather material used is top notch, and so with the interior quality (well except for the GS, which has acres of hard plastics). While the car looks big outside, the wheelbase is the same with the B14 model and suffers the same problem, the lack of interior space. Four is almost tight, and five necessitates the call of a road trip with those you are close with. Trunk space is huge that you can nearly fit a body (or the fifth passenger) but at the expense of a suspension problem, just kidding.

From launch, two engines were made available and this is not anymore the GA series used before. The standard power train among DS models is the QG15DE 1,497cc which has 103hp at 6,000rpm and 135Nm at 4,400rpm. LS, Superio, and Grandeur variants has the QG16DE 1,597cc with 115hp at 6,000rpm and 149Nm at 4,400rpm under the hood. Added in 2003 is the QG13DE 1,295cc that possess 87hp at 6,000rpm and 130Nm at 4,400rpm. How do they perform, if the 1.3 is in the question, it can propel the 1,000kg plus body but can face some difficulties in the higher range. The 1.5, on the other hand, has the capacity of motivating the vehicle but the 1.6 is smooth and can reach the redline without drama. All of them are quiet performers, with virtually no engine noise (except when the vehicle is not in good condition).

Driving Impressions
You'll love the Exalta during long road trips since the suspension set-up gives you a smooth ride. It may be shaky (no thanks to the bulky body) but still tolerable for your daily city jaunts. Steering feedback is not on its vocabulary, especially when reliving your Fast and the Furious fantasies that understeer is very common. Braking for variants with ABS is spot on.

If long drives (you travel most of the time) are the need, the Exalta fits your requirements. Sure it may have numb steering and the lack of space, but it is quiet and the luxury features for less money is a surprise here.

The Good: 
  • Luxury for less money
  • Comfortable
  • Classy looks
The Bad:
  • Boring to drive
  • Good luck if these electronic gadgets fail
  • Lacks interior space
The Pick: 1.6 LS

Engines: 1,295cc QG13DE (2003 onwards), 1,497cc QG15DE, and 1,597cc QG16DE I4 gasoline
Power: 87hp @ 6,000rpm (1.3), 103hp @ 6,000rpm (1.5), 115hp @ 6,000rpm (1.6)
Torque: 130Nm @ 4,400rpm (1.3), 135Nm @ 4,400rpm (1.5), 149Nm @ 4,400rpm (1.6)
Fuel Consumption: 8-10km/L (city), 10-12km/L (highway) (*estimated and varies)
Transmission: 5-speed manual, 4-speed automatic
Suspension: Front independent McPherson strut, rear rigid axle with multi-link beam

Price (New): P550,000-P890,000
Price (Now): P190,000-P290,000
Rivals: Toyota Corolla Altis, Mitsubishi Lancer, Honda Civic, Ford Lynx
On Sale: 2001-Early 2004

Nissan Mantrade - (02) 812-6789
Nissan Gallery Ortigas - (02) 635-5888
Nissan Gallery Quezon Avenue - (02) 731-5808

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