The Nissan Sentra was introduced for the 1982 model year as the US export name for the Nissan Sunny. Many other countries in the Americas, such as Brazil, sell their versions of the Sunny as the Sentra. In Mexico, the first three Sentras were called Tsuru (I, II and III), and the 1994 one keeps on sale after three facelifts along with the newer Sentras.
This subcompact automobile was the first of the Sentras and was a direct replacement for the Datsun 210. While previous Sunnys had been rear-wheel drive, starting with the B11 they now sported front-wheel drive FF layout. The B11 also dropped the A series (OHV) engine in favor of the E15 SOHC engine out of the Datsun 310, and was the first car in the United States to carry the Nissan name solely. In 1983, all Sentras had the E16 as the only option with 4-speed manual as standard with a 3-speed automatic and, in some years, a 5-speed manual, as options. A 1.7-litre CD17 I4 diesel was also available from 1984 to 1987 (from 1983 to 1985 in the US). The diesel version was produced in small numbers and because of its rarity is becoming popular with collectors. There were several models of the B11 ranging from the Honeybee, a holdover from the 210 that achieved 35 mpg, or the Deluxe that had air conditioning, Clarion tape deck and dual side mirrors. All Sentras had 4 wheel independent suspension and front disc brakes.
In most markets, this model line was marketed as the Nissan Sunny and was available with 1.3 and 1.5 gasoline (petrol) engines. A five-door wagon (estate car) version was also marketed, too.
This generation carried on the multitude of body styles that the B11 had, including station wagon, 2 and 4-door sedans, 3-door hatchback and the Sport Coupe. The B12 chassis was first produced and marketed in 1985 in most parts of the world; however, was first offered to the United States in 1986. For 1987, all Sentras but the Sport Coupe came standard with the E16(s) with 69hp (51kW) and a 5-speed manual transmission. In 1988, all Sentras had the 70hp (52kW) E16(i), 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 certain parts of the world. From 1989 to 1990, the only engine choice was the 90hp (67kW) GA16i, a 12-valve SOHC version of the later GA16DE. 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 low level economy car, the "XE" as the base model, the GXE as the top level for the 4 door sedan, the sporty "SE" coupe, and the "SE-R" as the top of the line performance model. The GXE (available from 1987 to 2003) had a body colored bumper, areo side mirrors with manual remote control, tachometer as well as standard 13" 175/70/R13 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, tachmoeter, and power door locks and windows in some markets and possibly electronic fuel injection. Back seats only came with safety lap belts and shoulder belts probably didn't exist until later models or perhaps until the next generation.