The Nissan Sentra is a compact car produced by automaker Nissan Motors and is generally a rebadged export version of the Japanese Nissan Sunny. The name "Sentra" is not used in Japan.

In the United States, the Sentra currently serves as Nissan's compact car and the prices range from $16,430 for a base model to $20,000 for a loaded top-of-the-line Sentra. While previous Sentras were subcompact cars, the Sentra has grown over the years, and now the Nissan Versa has replaced the Sentra in the entry-level area, although it is rated by the US EPA as a mid-size car due to its interior volume.

B11 (1982–1986)

The first generation of the Nissan Sentra was introduced in the United States in May 1982 as a direct replacement for the Datsun 210. Initially the model was imported from Japan, where it was produced at Zama plant. Available in four body styles (two-door sedan, four-door sedan, five-door wagon and three-door hatchback coupe), it was the second car to be marketed in the United States under the nameplate of Nissan and using a model name instead of a number. The first one was the Nissan Stanza, introduced in the 1981 New York Auto Show as a 1982 model. While previous Sunny models had used a front-engine, rear-wheel-drive layout, the B11 Sentra was the first to use a front-engine, front-wheel-drive layout. Engine choice was the 67 hp (50 kW) (E15) 1.5 L four-cylinder SOHC, replacing the old A-Series OHV. This featured semi-hemispherical combustion chambers, high-swirl intake ports and a semi-dual exhaust manifold to provide strong torque at low and medium rpm ranges. Torque peak was 85 lb·ft (115 N·m) at 3,200 rpm. Transmission options were a four-speed manual, 5-speed manual or a three-speed automatic with lock-up torque converter. Drag coefficient was 0.39 for the coupe and 0.40 for two- and four-door sedans.

At the time of its release, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) gave the Sentra MPG the highest gasoline mileage among gasoline powered cars sold at that time, 43 miles per gallon in city and 58 miles per gallon in highway, a combined 48 miles per gallon. Curb weight of only 1,875 pounds helped it to achieve that number. The Sentra MPG was a special configuration that featured a three-way exhaust catalyst and an electronically controlled fuel metering unit to monitor the air-fuel mixture automatically and make adjustments to boost fuel mileage. Trim levels were standard, Deluxe and XE, while price range were between US$ 4,949 for the base two-door sedan up to US$ 6,899 for the two-door XE hatchback coupe. Standard equipment on all models were four-wheel independent suspension, front disc brakes and rear drums, rack and pinion steering, maintenance free battery, rear ashtray and bucket seats. Deluxe models added halogen headlamps, remote-locking gas filler door, carpeted trunk and rear wiper-washer on the wagon. Deluxe and XE offered tinted glass, trip odometer, vanity mirror, dual remote mirrors and door trim. XE offered cut pile carpeting, analogue quartz clock, remote rear window opener, low-fuel warning light, AM-FM Clarion stereo radio, power steering, tachometer and 155/13 whitewall radial tires. Sunroof was available as an option. The Sentra quickly became a success, partly due to the appeal of low fuel consumption. In its first year of sales, it was already the best-selling import in the U.S. and the fourth best-selling passenger car overall, with 191,312 units sold. The Sentra ended the 1983 year as the eighth-most sold passenger car, with 209,889 units.

B12 (1985–1990)

This generation carried on the multitude of body styles that the B11 had, including a station wagon, two-door or four-door sedan, three-door hatchback and the hatchback-bodied Sport Coupé. The B12 chassis was first produced and marketed in 1985 in most parts of the world; however, it was not offered to the United States until 1986. For the 1987 model, all Sentras came standard with the E16s with 69 hp (51 kW) (excepting the Sport Coupé and four-wheel-drive wagon, which came with throttle-body-injected E16i engines) and a five-speed manual transmission. In 1988, all Sentras had the 70 hp (52 kW) E16i, which was offered for this year with throttle body injection (TBI). In many parts of the world the E-series soldiered on in the B12 chassis with some getting the multi-point fuel injection E16E engine. Diesel engines were also offered in some models, but were rare and only available in North American 1987 models and in certain other parts of the world. From 1989 to 1990, the only engine choice was the 90 hp (67 kW) GA16i, a 12-valve SOHC predecessor of the GA16DE. Transaxles offered were the 4- and 5-speed manuals (RN4F31A and RS5F31A, respectively) and a 3-speed automatic with torque converter lockup (RL3F01A).

The B12 carried over a radically modified 4-wheel independent suspension from the B11, with 4-wheel disc brakes an option in some parts of the world. This was the start of the model classes which were standard through the 2003 model year (not all classes were available every year) having the E as the base-level economy car, the XE as the next-up model, the GXE as the top level for the 4-door sedan, the sporty SE coupe, and the SE-R (Not available in the US market) as the top of the line performance model. The GXE (available from 1987 to 2003) had a body colored bumper, aero side mirrors with manual remote control, tachometer as well as standard 13" 175/70R13 alloy wheels along with air-conditioning, variable intermittent wipers, but no standard cassette deck nor any power windows/locks/mirrors. The SE also had dual mirrors, air conditioning, tachometer, and power door locks and windows in some markets and possibly electronic fuel injection.