Nissan has delivered a significant mid-cycle update to its compact competitor, the Sentra. With 200,000 unit sales in the last iteration, stakes for this revision are high, and the prospects look solid.
The Nissan Sentra gets a pretty significant mid-cycle refresh for the 2016 model year. In the super competitive compact segment, Nissan wanted to bring its A game by offering top-quality content for buyers’ hard-earned bucks. In addition to living up to the competition, the Sentra also has to live up to its own standards. It sold over 200,000 units in the 2015 calendar year, and sales have grown by 91.2 percent since 2012.
So, in a grand effort to live up to expectations, the 2016 Sentra gets 20 percent new content (that’s more than 550 new parts, for those keeping track). Nissan put a big focus on NVH, driving dynamics, and content (yeah, they pretty much checked all the boxes), making the car quieter, smoother, safer and more convenient.
- The updated Sentra’s design is an example of Nissan doing Nissan well. The whole front of the car has been nipped and tucked, getting a sportier, sleeker appearance. The front and rear fascia and lighting are new, and the contoured hood helps make the car look faster than it is. If this is what a mid-cycle refresh looks like, I’m curious what sort of major undertaking the next generation will involve.
- The price is nice. Combine the range-topping SL trim level with the Premium and Technology packages, and you still have to include the destination and handling charges to crest $25,000. The $1,230 Technology package includes helpful features like intelligent cruise control and forward emergency braking. The base Sentra S starts at just $16,780 (plus $825 for destination). For less than $20,000, you can get a Sentra SV with the Driver’s Assist Package, including blind spot warning, rear cross traffic alert, navigation, and mobile apps. Across the board you’re looking at sub-Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla pricing.
- Along the same lines, Sentra drivers will save some money over time with the benefit of very respectable fuel economy. Equipped with the CVT, the Sentra is rated at 29 miles per gallon city and 38 mpg highway. The FE+ S spec, with some aerodynamic bits and low rolling resistance tires, gets 30 mpg city / 40 mpg highway.
- It’s got a nice feel going down the road. The suspension lets you feel what’s going on between the rubber and road, yet it didn’t knock my fillings out on Michigan’s crater-pocked spring roads. It traces the more gradual undulations nicely, too. The steering feel is quite natural, and the weight builds up progressively in corners. The revised, Z-inspired steering wheel is the cherry on top.
- The only engine option is the 1.8-liter four-cylinder providing 130 horsepower and 128 pound-feet of torque. In all but the very base version with its six-speed manual transmission, that power is directed to the wheels via continuously variable transmission. While it’s great for efficiency, putting the pedal to the floor is met with strained acceleration. More to the point, the output figures are shamed by those 2.0-liter fours made by Honda and Mazda, for instance, which deliver similar fuel economy figures.
- Compact means compact. Even though I had enough room, I did have the feeling that the roof and windshield were close to my head. The Sentra seems to make up for this, though, with rear seat and cargo room.
- The styling is still a bit conservative. While its updated looks are an improvement, it still looks dull from certain angles. A bit of contrast inside the cabin would also go a long way toward livening things up.
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|Output||130 Horsepower / 128 Pound-Feet|
|EPA Fuel Economy||
29 City / 38 Highway / 32 Combined
|Cargo Volume||15.1 Cubic-Feet|
|Price As Tested||$25,545|
|Estimated Lease Price (As Tested)||$425 / Month|