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2001 ICOTY Awards - Entry Level
Most Spirited: The Nissan Sentra

ROAD & TRAVEL's 2001 Most Spirited -- The Nissan SentraThe Sentra name has some of us conjuring up images of pizza delivery cars or old beaters that college students run into the ground. And although previous Sentras did well at most such transportative tasks, we can’t help but wonder why Nissan didn’t change the name for this one. Because this is a whole different breed of car.

Rolled out in spring of 2000 as an ’00 model, and thus eligible for our ’01 awards, we sort of expected that we might have another mini-Altima on our hands, which is to say another innocuous—albeit newer—purveyor of basic transportation, along the bloodlines of Sentras past. But within five minutes of our first turning the key, we knew we had a winner, even knowing that Honda was preparing to roll out an all-new ’01 Civic and Hyundai an all new ’01 Elantra later in the year. The new Sentra’s styling is tasteful and substantial, not wild and cartoonish as often is the case in the youth-oriented, compact car class. Inside, the Sentra’s tone on tone, padded textures and luxurious seat fabrics contribute to a Lexus-like ambience. Excellent ergonomics are a feast for the eyes, and the standard seven-speaker stereo is music to our ears.

And fortunately, Nissan’s talented powertrain folks have graced the Sentra with one of the most energetic and smooth powertrains that ever has been put in a compact sedan. So although the new Nissan Sentra is sized and priced like its competitors, its quality, powertrain, features, and appearance make it feel like a car that doesn’t really belong in the entry-level car class. But it sure stands out in the Class of 2001, as the one with the Most Vivacious Personality.

Most Respected
Luxury Car of the Year
Mercedes-Benz CL500

Most Likely to Change the World
ECO- Friendly Car of the Year
Nissan Sentra CA

Most Likely to Survive Anything
SUV of the Year
Ford Escape/Mazda Tribute