The B12 Nissan Sentra didn’t really make shockwaves in the American car market, but according to Motorweek, it was once the best-selling import in the US. Not only that, but the car review program actually named the Sentra their top pick in a comparison of compacts. But even though it sold in apparently large numbers, 1985-1990 Sentra, especially the 3-door hatchback model, is all but extinct.
Even in Los Angeles, where you can see any manner of 1980s Japanese cars still truckin’ along many decades after their counterparts have disappeared from northern climes, the B11 hatchback is non-existent. I can’t even tell you the last time I saw one, and rallymaster Patrick Strong and I have an appointment to check out a survivor TE72 Corolla Sport Coupe later this afternoon.
Motorweek gives the 1986 Sentra hatchback high praise for its styling and spaciousness, but dings it on its handling. Sure, the front-driver isn’t going to compete with what Toyota had going on in 1986 in terms of three-door hatches, the AE86. Still, it’s almost certainly got better feedback than most drive-by-wire cars out today, has a tiny 32-foot turning radius, and in 5-speed form the testers got a combined 39 mpg.
It also comes with snazzy 13-inch alloy meshies, split-folding rear seat that my even my purportedly luxurious 1986 Cressida Wagon lacked, and snazzy rear vent windows activated by a lever in the rear center console. It would probably make an excellent city car for the discerning Nissan nut or 80s car enthusiast today, but the first trick would be finding one.