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Nissan Tsuru: The Sentra That Time Forgot

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author photo by Aaron Gold January 2017

In my article on the original Sentra SE-R, I talked about what a brilliant piece of kit the B13 Sentra was when it appeared in 1991, and how much it was missed when it went away in 1995.

Except... it didn't exactly go away.

While the Sentra was duly replaced in the U.S. after just 4 short years, Nissan continued to build it for other markets, most notably Mexico. In fact, they're still building it, and they'll continue to do so until spring of 2017. You can buy one, right now, for the low, low price of 141,300 pesos. In U.S. dollars, a brand-new Nissan Tsuru will cost you just $6,900. Plus taxes and fees, of course.

The Tsuru has been a runaway success in Mexico. Introduced in its present form in 1992, it went on to become the best-selling car in Mexico for a number of years. Over the last quarter-century, Nissan sold nearly 1.9 million of them. The automaker sells more modern cars in Mexico -- the Versa, the Sentra and the March (Micra) are all on the menu -- but the people of Mexico still love the B13. Why? Probably because they're cheap to buy, easy to fix and virtually indestructible. The roads in Mexico are largely terrible (this is the voice of experience talking here), and the simplified Tsuru is built to withstand the abuse.

The Tsuru replaced the Volkswagen Beetle as Mexico's taxicab of choice. If you hail a cab in Mexico City -- a fascinating place that's well-worth a visit, especially now that the peso is just under 5 cents and dropping -- chances are you'll be stuffed into the cramped back seat of a Tsuru.

And you'll quickly discover that the Tsuru you can buy today isn't that much different from the one that left the States back in the '90s. There are no airbags and no antilock brakes. In fact, that's why the Tsuru is going out of production -- Mexico is finally getting around to improving its safety regulations. The engine is the 1.6-liter GA16NDE, a simplified version of the GA16DE used in the original B13, here tuned for 105 horsepower and 102 lb-ft of torque. Base models come with nonassisted steering, and only the top-of-the-line model (the $7,900 GSII) gets a stereo, a thumpin' 4-speaker unit with a CD player. (At least it will read MP3s... off the CD, that is.) And in a sign that Mexico may well be gearhead heaven, the Tsuru cannot be had with an automatic transmission.

Of course, before you make that run south of the border to buy a Tsuru of your own -- or start searching the Autotrader classifieds for U.S.-spec B13s -- you might want to watch this Insurance Institute of Highway Safety video of a Tsuru crashing into a modern-day Nissan Versa. That's the Tsuru's one little flaw: It has a 0-star crash-test rating.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
Nissan Tsuru: The Sentra That Time Forgot - Autotrader