By on October 25, 2012

It’s not easy being Nissan’s middle child. Big brothers Maxima and Altima steal the limelight and even the Versa has upstaged the Sentra since 2011. With the seventh generation, Nissan has decided to completely redesign the Sentra giving it some much needed love. This refocus on the C-segment isn’t surprising with so much competition swirling from the stalwart Corolla and Civic to the upstart Dart and Sonic. In order to compete in this cut-throat market Nissan has whipped up a compact car so big on the inside it’s EPA classified as a mid-size sedan. Did Goldilocks get it right? Is the middle the best place to be?

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Exterior

The Sentra’s design has never stirred the soul and the seventh generation is similarly unlikely to make your loins burn. I don’t call that a bad thing as edgy designs can age poorly, instead Nissan has gone for a flowing form that is decidedly elegant compared to other entries in this segment. Up front we get the new Nissan grille with plenty of chrome (a look that I found quite attractive) and out back we get trendy LED tail lamps. The exterior treatment finally makes the Sentra look like one of the family and not the redheaded stepchild. Under the new sheetmetal is a distinctly different car than the outgoing Sentra. The new platform has been stretched by 2.3 inches and the wheelbase has grown slightly as well. Despite the dimension gains the new Sentra is 150lbs lighter than the outgoing model.

Interior

As you would expect with a car slotted between the Versa and Altima, the Sentra’s interior lands between them in terms of feature content and quality. Unexpectedly however, the quality side of the picture leans more toward the Altima than the Versa with soft touch plastics galore and a pleasing color palate. My only cabin gripe is: for some reason Nissan continues their love affair with faux-tree.

Front seat comfort proved above average on our full day with the Versa but the lack of an adjustable lumbar support would concern me on longer trips. All Sentra models feature a tilt and telescopic steering column, but you should spend some time behind the wheel before you buy as the range of motion is somewhat limited. Out back the Sentra offers the most rear seat leg room of any Nissan or Infiniti product at 37.4 inches. Yes, you read that correctly, that’s more leg room than Altima, Maxima, Quest and the Infiniti M.

The stubby trunk lid belies the true nature of the Sentra’s cargo hold. Nissan is claiming it is finally competitive at 15-cubic feet of space, however, I discovered something the marketing folks at Nissan didn’t mention however: a 22-inch roller bag (largest carry-on size on domestic flights) fits upright in the trunk. This means that despite having a trunk smaller than may full-size sedans I was able to jam more luggage in the Sentra due to an intelligent use of the space. As with any vehicle that has a stubby trunk however the opening is more of a cargo slot precluding some bulky items from entering.

Infotainment

In order to achieve the low price point Nissan targeted, the base Sentra S model is fairly basic with cheaper cloth seats, few options and a 4-speaker AM/FM/CD radio with no AUX input, iPod/USB interface or Bluetooth. As a result anyone interested in music should step up to the SV model which gets a standard 6-speaker sound system or an optional 8-speaker system by Bose. SV buyers also get the option of a display-free radio, a 4.3-inch display audio system or the new “NissanConnect” navigation system with a 5.8-inch display. The NissanConnect system is a revised version of Nissan’s well known “Low Cost Navigation System” which at $650 is a great buy. The only thing worth noting here is that in order to buy the NissanConnect system, you have to also get the $1,000 “Driver Package” which includes keyless-go, XM Satellite Radio, a leather wrapped steering wheel, auto head lights, Bluetooth and an iPod/USB interface. Even at $1,650m (should you decide you don’t want all those other luxury goodies) the nav system is a great buy when the cost of entry for Nav on the new Pathfinder is nosebleed high. The navigation interface should be familiar to anyone with an aftermarket nav system and I am told that map updates will be similarly cheap. If you want to see more on the infotainment system just watch the video review above.

Drivetrain

Instead of rehashing the old Sentra’s engine, Nissan crafted a new 1.8L four cylinder engine that appears to be closely related to the 1.6L engine Nissan developed for the Versa sedan. The downsized engine cranks out 130HP and 128lb0ft of torque, unless you’re in one of the 14 states that follow California’s stricter emissions standards which drop output to 124HP and 125lb-ft of twist. Those that are paying attention will note this is a 10HP and 21lb-ft reduction from the 2012 Sentra’s 2.0L engine. To improve fuel economy and emissions, Nissan added dual variable valve timing to the engine, but direct injection is strangely absent. Power is sent to the front wheels via, you guessed it, a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT). Borrowing another page from the Versa, the Sentra’s CVT uses a 2-speed planetary gearbox to broaden the range. In broad terms, the way this works is: you start out with the gearset in low and the CVT in its lowest range. When the CVT hits the highest ratio, the planetary gearset switches to high and the CVT switches back to low. The shift is almost imperceptible, but the improvement to driveability. The transmission’s effective gear ratio is lower than Nissan CVTs of the past giving it better performance from a stop in addition to improved fuel economy. Nissan does offer a 6-speed manual, but it is relegated to the S model only.

Drive

The first thing I need to disclose is that I don’t have a problem with CVTs. Why? Because in my experience driving a wide variety of small cars, the CVT equipped econoboxes are usually better at hill climbing and merging acceleration than the competition. Nissan’s new CVT with its broader range (Nissan says it is similar to the average 7-speed automatic) further proves this point. Of course when you pit 130HP against 2,850lbs you shouldn’t expect any great urgency in acceleration, but I clocked a respectable 9.3 second run to 60 which is as underwhelming as everyone else in this segment.

On the rough back country roads of Napa a few things became obvious. First, the Sentra has a well sorted chassis and only lost its composure when the potholes approach the size of smart cars. This is more than can be said of the Elantra and Forte which seem upset when driven over mildly broken pavement. On the flip side, Nissan’s choice for narrow and hard rubber mean the Sentra’s handling potential is seriously curtailed, so don’t expect a stock Sentra to hang with the Mazda3 or Focus. While that is something the buyer can obviously correct more easily than trying to iron out the wrinkles in the Korean competition’s suspension, keep in mind your fuel economy numbers are inexorably tied to the amount of rubber on the road and how grippy it is. Lastly, the Sentra surprised with steering that is light and vague, more so than the last Versa or Altima I drove. While not a concern for most driving situations, the lack of feel and precision was annoying when canyon carving.

While the Sentra may offer a middling experience in terms of performance and handling, Nissan’s aggressive pricing excites my inner skinflint. Ignore that low $15,990 starting price, almost nobody wants a base Sentra with four speakers and a manual transmission. It’s a well optioned SV or SL model that has my value-hunting nose twitching. The SV model starts at $17,970 and ends at $21,610 while the SL starts at $19,760 and tops out at $23,430. Regardless of the options you select, these two trim levels of Sentra undercut the Focus/Civic/Mazda3 competition by a wide margin and even manage to be cheaper than a similarly equipped Hyundai/Kia. While the Versa has the distinction of being the cheapest car in America and the Altima is as competitive as the other entries in its segment, the Sentra seems to have pulled ahead. Anyone wonder what the 2013 Civic has up its sleeve? I know I do.

Nissan invited us to a local media event, put us up in a hotel and stuffed us with food

Specifications as tested

0-30: 3.5 Seconds

0-60: 9.3 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 17.2 Seconds @ 80 MPH

Average Fuel Economy: 36.2 over 145 miles

 

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92 Comments on “Pre-Production Review: 2013 Nissan Sentra (Bonus Video)...”


  • avatar
    MarkP

    Others have commented on how expectations change. A 0-60 time of under 10 seconds used to be considered pretty good for a non-performance car. Yeah, I know, that’s when cars were propelled by your legs sticking out the bottom, but still.

    Also – I hate to nitpick an otherwise good review, but I think some of the TTAC articles could benefit from a good editor. Things like “Mazda3 of Focus” instead of “Mazda3 or Focus” are not end-of-the-world bad, but they do tend to distract. I noticed a few other such slips.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      I don’t see what the issue is. Every car in this segment is roughly 8.5 seconds to 10 seconds 0 to 60. There is nothing inherently bad or dangerous about that.

      When I’m driving the weather beater GM U-Body around I commonly pull away from Camry SEs and other cars/SUVs/CUVs that should smoke the anemic 185 HP U-body any day of the week. The average driving slob never throws the loud pedal to the floor in the first place.

      • 0 avatar
        burgersandbeer

        9.3 to 60 and a 17.2 1/4 mile is pretty damn slow. The Focus is typically listed at no slower than 8.3 to 60 and 16.6 in the 1/4 mile.

        I’m not trying to drag race economy cars through spec sheets, but those are noticeable differences. I agree that around town you can easily ambush cars with twice the power by actually stepping on the gas, but a car this slow would suffer on the highway. No passing power. Generally not dangerously slow, but pretty inconvenient and a long way from fun.

      • 0 avatar
        dolorean

        Seems to me that Nissan has done to Toyota with the Sentra what Toyota had done to Buick with the Avalon. Recreated the other brands mark. The Avalon in its inception was the perfect Buick; floaty ride, wide-cushy seats, near bullet proof reliability, done for a lot less and better quality than Buick was doing at the time. Nissan has the same idea recreating the Corolla appliance for the Sentra, distilling the original formula for not many frills, quality built, and well-equipped for a satisfying price.

  • avatar
    Alex L. Dykes

    Mark,

    Sorry for the typo, as you know everyone is rushed to get back in the office from events like this and type furiously before the embargo lifts. Our apologies and our thanks for bringing that to our attention.

    I find that the more cars I drive the more that a 0-60 time of 9-10 seconds doesn’t bother me. Of course that could be me aging as well. Although I personally find myself torn, I would probably give up performance for the sake of economy and I sense that there is a demographic that agrees.

    • 0 avatar
      kuman

      Sorry if i must ask about what do you mean by “Anyone wonder what the 2013 Civic has up its sleeve? I know I do.” on the last paragraph? i honestly don’t catch it. would you care explaining what you had in mind?

      Thanks

  • avatar
    philadlj

    Man, that back seat is HUGE. How far back are the front seats in your back seat photos? Judging from the high, dome-like roofline and large DLO, I’ll bet there’s more than enough headroom back there too.

    • 0 avatar
      Alex L. Dykes

      The front seats were almost at their farthest back position. The rear seat is enormous.

      • 0 avatar
        DeadWeight

        I nagged you for not mentioning back seat room in a past review of a sedan (you actually did cover that topic on the video, but not in the accompanying article).

        Thanks for doing a thorough job on an important dimension in this review (rear area room is a critical measurement in even compact sedans, IMO).

  • avatar
    MarkP

    Alex, I debated even mentioning the editing thing, since I figured that TTAC writers are their own editors, and I know from embarrassing personal experience that self-editing is darned hard.

    • 0 avatar
      Alex L. Dykes

      Mark,

      Personally, I appreciate the feedback. I think we all strive for perfection and while we do have a crack editorial staff, sometimes things fall through the cracks.

  • avatar
    philadlj

    Going over to GCBC, I was surprised to learn that while the Sentra has been in the second-tier of compact sedans for some time, over the past ten years it’s been remarkably consistent, never dipping below 82K sales and averaging 103K since 2002. Despite there being almost nothing remarkable about it, the Sentra has sold…okay. I’m betting this bigger, better new Sentra is ready for the first-tier.

  • avatar
    bkmurph

    Pet peeve: The beige plastic trim inside the B-pillar doesn’t stop at the beltline, but instead continues for a couple inches before giving way to charcoal gray plastic. Tsk tsk. A little attention to detail would make that spot look much neater.

  • avatar
    carguy

    While this car does not appeal to me, I have little doubt that it will sell well for Nissan. The combination of larger size, good mileage, build quality and competitive price are usually a winning combination for sales numbers in this segment.

  • avatar
    dts187

    Maybe it’s just the pictures, maybe it’s just me, but that interior looks nice. Maybe it even looks classy. Most cars in this class go for a very futuristic, spaceship look. This looks mature and very tasteful.

    Also judging by the pictures, this thing looks like it has a ton of space up front and in the back. I’m looking forward to checking one of these out in person and see how it feels. My girlfriend has been disappointed with her 2010 Corolla ever since she bought it. This could be a good replacement.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    I am very impressed with the interior improvements on this Sentra versus the outgoing model. The last one has needed a replacement for quite some time, and it’s nice to see them put the face of an ES350 on it, bringing it upmarket (though I frown on style copying, seems to be the norm nowadays.)

    I can’t see why someone would buy the de-contented Civic over this, especially when the interior is this tasteful. It looked better in the darker color, and BOTH colors looked better with “fake tree,” than “fake aluminum.”

    I don’t understand the manufacturers obsession these days with putting fake aluminum and fake carbon fiber on everything. Fake wood is much more convincing, and at least it can have a gloss/decent texture when you touch it, UNLIKE fake aluminum, which always feels like the liner from a box of chocolates.

  • avatar
    Tennessee_Speed

    Alex,
    This is an excellent review; especially the video portion. One of the best auto reviews I’ve come across in a long time.
    I was wondering what the noise level was in the new Sentra. Often the lower priced models don’t have much sound insulation and you have to pay up to a higher level model to get a quieter car. Some also use very cheap tires than add to the noise.
    I’ll be looking forward to your next review. Keep up the great work !

    • 0 avatar
      burgersandbeer

      I’m curious about road noise as well. It’s something that I think makes a big difference for anyone commuting at highway speed, and is rarely mentioned. Very informative review otherwise. The video does what words can’t quite describe with the rear seat leg room.

    • 0 avatar
      Alex L. Dykes

      It is fairly average. The Focus is strangely quiet in this class but all of the recent redesigns have had a focus on cabin noise.

      • 0 avatar
        burgersandbeer

        I had a 2012 Focus rental three days ago, and I thought it was surprisingly loud on the highway considering all the superlatives I have read about it’s NVH refinement. Could be tough to judge since the damn DCT would not stop shifting. This was on 280 up the peninsula and eventually onto 1/101. It was a pretty high trim level too. Leather seats, automatic climate control, moonroof, 17″ alloys. No MFT though. SEL?

        In contrast, I rented a Cruze yesterday. That car lived up to the hype as far as being a quiet cruiser. It was shocking to have quiet like that in a compact. The Cruze was only an LT too. Same route.

      • 0 avatar
        dbcoop

        I’ve had several new Focii as rentals and I think it depends on the quality of the roads. The first Focus I had in Denver left me unimpressed with how noisy it seemed. I recently had a Focus hatchback in Phoenix and was shocked at how quiet it was at 70mph on the silken smooth Phoenix freeways.

      • 0 avatar
        DeadWeight

        This is what has bothered me about a few TTAC reviewers, who are ordinarily quite thorough, but who’ve for whatever reason, given what seems to be a “gloss over” to Ford Focus and new Fusion when it comes to ride quality.

        Michael Karesh is typically thorough and I think he does fair reviews usually, but he in particular has heaped praise on the Focus and Fusion, while either implicitly (new Fusion) or expressly (Focus ST) admitting that the roads he was testing the vehicles on were smoother than those most would typically drive upon everyday, and yet he still managed to praise the ride quality of each.

        In his Focus ST review, he essentially drove the car on a pre-planned route (by Ford) with billiard table smooth roads.

        As one who feels ride quality is perhaps the 2nd most important attribute of vehicles, with reliability/durability being the most important, it irks me to see a lack of particular carefulness and Focus (pun intended?) when reviewers either give a pass or “freebie” regarding ride quality to the manufacturer when reviewing a vehicle.

        This is all the more significant because most test drives of new vehicles last probably less than 15 minutes or so, and many of these test drive are done on highways or better roads than buyers may actually travel over on their typical day.

  • avatar
    Conslaw

    Judging from the pictures,the interior on the 2013 Sentra is light years ahead of the 2012. The biggest reason the out-going Sentra didn’t sell was that you could buy an Altima for almost the same cost, and for a better lease price. That might still be a problem now. The Sentra holds its own with the interior, but the Altima’s engine and performance blows the Sentra away, for a tiny MPG hit.

  • avatar
    icemilkcoffee

    Looks solid. The styling is honestly not bad. At least you wouldn’t be embarassed to be seen in this car, unlike the current rental heap Sentra. Any EPA numbers yet?

  • avatar
    willbodine

    With a name like Dykes, were you Dutch-born? In Nederlands of = Engels or.

  • avatar
    sketch447

    To my knowledge, this is the very first extensive review of the new Sentra. Who cares if there are a few minor typos?? Kudos to TTAC!! Great reading!!

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    This is the first time I hear a reviewer put down the new Dart’s interior, every other review I’ve read praises Chrysler for creating a world-class interior for this car.

    • 0 avatar
      dbcoop

      I had a new Dart as a rental earlier this month and I wouldn’t describe the interior as world class. Tastefully done for the price point sure but not world class. Also the front seats are very oddly bolstered and I wondered how comfortable they’d be on long highways jaunts. I’d personally elect for a Focus hatchback if I wanted a sporty compact car. Overall it’s a more refined car to drive than the Dart.

      • 0 avatar
        Volt 230

        Well, I suppose those reviewers were just trying to throw Chrysler and Marchionne a bone, or perhaps they are so giddy over a new car that they get carried away with their praises, I never forgot how Motorweek praised the Yugo when they got a hold of one back when they first came out.

  • avatar
    TEXN3

    Nissan just built the perfect rental car. Fits a couple folks, maybe a small family, luggage, gets good mileage, has some nice features, reasonable price for fleets, and probably still considered a compact. I guess Hertz will be dumping the Altimas now.

  • avatar
    Angus McClure

    Have always been a Nissan fan. That is primarily due to the longevity and economy of their driveline. The only exceptions to that are the fragile head gasket on the Z24 truck engine and the CVT. Not that I have any real experience with the latter but reports on the CVT did not mention the words CVT and durability in the same sentence.

    Much as I love a stick I am afraid that I need to buy an auto as well. How are they holding up and does anyone else have this type gearbox. I think a Prius has something similar.

    • 0 avatar
      froston13

      I had a 2010 nissan maxima with the CVT. My sister has it now and its at about 40k. No issues thus far, but reliabiity still needs to be seen. In the maxima, the CVT is not worrysome at all. It never bothered me during the year I had the car. However, I was treated to a CUBE rental with a CVT, and that anemic engine really shows the badness of the CVT (droning).
      Realize the tranny will never shift in a CVT. It simply goes up to a certain RPM depending on how much GO you put down, and stays there.

      The prius also has a CVT, like most hybrids.

    • 0 avatar
      Pinzgauer

      The early CVTs were a problem. The current breed seems to be far better, my Juke has 40k and no issues so far. I prefer the CVT in my Juke to a conventional automatic, much smoother and I feel it utilizes the power of the car much better.

    • 0 avatar
      Angus McClure

      The idea of a CVT is one that I like. The execution is one I don’t like nearly as well. 40K is a very new car for me. Out 2010 Nissan has 62k and would keep it for over 200 but the clutch knee of the wife is a disaster. Probably need to keep the car and fix the knee.

  • avatar
    gearhead77

    One could argue that as good as the Altima with the V6 is, the Maxima is unnecessary. There hasn’t been too much to justify the Maxima’s existence IMHO since Altima is so close in the last few MY’s

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      +1

      Agree. That’s their fault for making them the same size, and both FWD, and similar in the looks department.

    • 0 avatar
      Dan

      The 2013 Altima is awfully close to the Maxima but the previous gen wasn’t.

    • 0 avatar
      froston13

      Yeah, the maxima wasnt bad compared to the last gen altima, but the new altima gives little reason to pay up for the maxima.

      However, dealers are discounting maximas like crazy.
      My local dealer is offereing 9500$ off all new maximas…
      I almost got one, their number was 23k OTD for a 2012 maxima S.
      At that price, the maxima IS worth it, even against the new altima (unless MPG is your number concern)
      I went with a civic SI for the stick.

  • avatar
    gearhead77

    When I leased my 2010 Altima in 2011, there was only a $10 difference between the Sentra SR and the leftover Altima S I leased, both being new cars.

    The Altima was simply more car for the money and I don’t mean just size. The Altima’s handling felt more secure, the suspension was more compliant while not being too floaty in normal driving. The Sentra felt like the old car it was and the 2.5 felt much better suited to the CVT than the 2.0.

    The old Sentra was trying to be too many things to too many people. The new car appears to be a roomy commuter in the trim shown, no more than that.

    • 0 avatar
      dbcoop

      I agree, one really needs to cross shop this segment with mid sized cars and do a reality check on the price difference. The mid size cars are almost universally better cars in NVH, refinement, ride quality, interior space etc. The previous generation Altima 2.5S could be purchased for $18,500 which was a alot of car for the money.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    “Ignore that low $15,990 starting price, almost nobody wants a base Sentra with four speakers and a manual transmission.”

    No! Nein! Nyet! As far as I’m concerned that’s the one worth reviewing.

    CVT you say? Surely you jest Mr. Dykes. The stickshift should be good for the real long haul and you can always throw in some nice floormats from Autozone or Ebay as well. No use paying $$$ for something that’s only $25 everywhere else.

    Now what you do from there is wait until another one gets wrecked and stored at your friendly neighborhood auto recycling center.

    Pet the salivating dog. Go to the parts counter. Buy the radio display you want. The leather seats. The cheap chromium crap you guys call satin nickel (although I prefer fake tree plastic). Maybe even throw in a few door panels that come with those high quality vinyls and plastics that are becoming all the rage these days.

    Voila! You now have a high end car on the cheap! It only will cost a little patience, $17,000, a potpourri of high taxes, and the usual litany of bogus fees.

    Now all you need is a sunroof. Now start with a can opener…..

    • 0 avatar
      Dan

      Ignore that $15,990 starting price because it’s a boldfaced lie. Delivery isn’t optional and it’s another $800.

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      Alan, ignore that Lang guy; he’d take your excess tip if you left it on the restaurant table.

    • 0 avatar
      burgersandbeer

      You might be on to something. I don’t know what other options the S lacks, but if it is just infotainment that is easily fixed. Especially since the car appears to use a standard double DIN head unit.

      That said, why should buyers have to workaround these limitations? I can’t understand why manufacturers only offer manual transmissions in lower trim levels. It’s becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy – manufacturers complain manuals don’t sell, but at least part of that reason has to be that they aren’t offered on desirable trim levels.

      If you are going to go through the trouble of meeting the various regulations to sell the engine/transmission combo, why not offer it in a trim that gives you a chance of breaking even or even profiting on that effort? Is it that expensive to set up production lines to make manuals in the higher trim levels?

  • avatar
    Acd

    This looks like a huge improvement over the current Sentra especially the interior. The current car screams out that its poor owner has given up on life; this one actually looks like it could make a decent rental. Progress.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Definately sounds like an improvement over the previous model. Does the S model have less sound deadening than the upgraded models? If not then the hot ticket would be S model with 6 speed manual and then upgrade the stereo from there.

  • avatar
    cgjeep

    The current Sentra must be one of the most unloved cars ever. I don’t think I have ever seen a clean or well maintained one.
    Performance should be fine for most people and I bet there is an SER version coming for those that want/need more.

  • avatar
    johnny ro

    Looks like an OK utility car. Not exciting at all. Last pretty Nissan was the 240sx, in my humble opinion.

  • avatar

    This new Sentra undercuts other similarly-equipped compact vehicles by over $4,000 on certain trims. And it has a tremendous amount of space for a compact (midsized) sedan. Those two things alone are going to win a lot of people over. This is likely to be a car that just “works”, rather than employing gimmicks like the Civic, Dart and Focus.

    The only element I see that could be a problem is that Nissan is not using very much style differentiation between its sedan models. The Versa looks a lot like the Sentra, which looks a lot like the Altima, which looks a lot like the Infiniti M. Generally that sort of thing works for luxury automakers like Audi, BMW and Volvo, but it might backfire here…

  • avatar
    Joss

    Couldn’t tell from the photos – is there a front center armrest?
    How was the ride was it firm like outgoing SER/SPEC V? Or floaty like the base? What are the brakes – all disc? Is there a moonroof option and does it impact headroom?

    I’m on my third Sentra in 20. Forecast: Dull & reliable or in Sentra tradition reliably dull and low maintenance. I’d avoid the first few months of production from warm springs MX. Count on early start-up flaws. The likes of things not labelled properly under the hood, interior trim not glued down properly and ‘popping’ strut bushings not seated right.

    I’d even hazard deep discounting within a couple of years. So why buy early and pay full retail and fix flaws?

  • avatar
    gslippy

    Based on this review, this car looks and sounds excellent. I still think the Dart’s looks beat anything in its class (with the Focus second and Elantra third, but all close).

    When I bought my former Scion xB1, I was sold as soon as I stepped inside the cavernous interior. This may do wonders for Sentra sales, although at 79.9″ total legroom it still doesn’t come close to the xB1′s at 83.3″, but closer than most cars in any class.

    The review didn’t mention fuel economy, but Nissan is claiming about 30/34/40 mpg, which is right in the thick of the competition.

  • avatar
    chicagoland

    “The exterior treatment finally makes the Sentra look like one of the family and not the redheaded stepchild.”

    Using ‘red head stepchild’, is cliche;, hackneyed writing and an insult to adoptees. And people who say ‘don’t be so sensitive’ don’t get it.

  • avatar
    ravenchris

    Thank you for the reviews Mr. Dykes
    Typos and such are like an occasional lump in the mashed potatoes, they remind you that you are getting the real thing.

  • avatar
    shaker

    I guess that I would have 2 problems with this car – first, it’s another car that squishes the trunk lid and the front seat travel to give taxicab-level rear seat legroom; secondly, its design is reminiscent of the 2008 Elantra that I already own.

    I also wonder about the CVT with the two ranges – that’s a completely new box, right? Of course, with so little power, it’ll probably hold up fine.

  • avatar
    nikita

    Having just had a 2011 Sentra as a rental, which seemed as roomy as my old 99 Camry, why make the new one bigger? Is this another sign listening to focus groups to the extreme. The old 2.0 didnt lack for power, even climbing a 10,000 foot mountain (Haleakala). My big beef with the CVT is coming down that same mountain road. With only D and L, you are riding the brakes or slowing to 15mph. It reminded me of the old Powerglide. Sorry I still hate CVT’s. Give me a Chevy rental with bad brakes and a full selection of gears instead. I realize the majority of Americans never drive in mountains, but I do, even where I live on the mainland.

  • avatar
    Roberto Esponja

    What exactly is SM Satellite Radio? Is this a typo?

  • avatar
    I_Like_Pie

    That video review is excellent! Thank you TTAC for putting it together.

  • avatar
    mjz

    Alex: You mention the Chevy Sonic as a C-segment competitor to the Sentra, but the Sonic is a B-segment car that completes with the Versa, Fiesta and Accent. The Cruze is Chevy’s C-segment offering.

  • avatar
    chiefmonkey

    Both the new Altima and this Sentra seem like a substantial improvement over the previous models in terms of design language. The old Sentra and Altima, frankly, looked weird. Wonder what the next Maxima will look like. The current one is the type of car you either lease cheaply or rent as a “premium” car from Hertz…

  • avatar
    SqueakyVue

    This whole article looks like an advertisement for Nissan. Call me crazy but isn’t downplaying and/or ignoring a products low points (acceleration, ride quality and road noise) and exaggerating its high ones (cabin room and trunk space) the same thing they teach you during marketing classes in community college? All the same things could have been said about my 1992 cavalier wagon. I understand this is a full redesign but fail to see what makes it so special.

    • 0 avatar
      Alex L. Dykes

      The problem there is that I don’t find the acceleration, ride or road noise to be an issue with the Sentra. Ride is excellent, grip is mediocre, road noise is competitive with the segment mainstream and a notch louder than the Focus.

      • 0 avatar
        SqueakyVue

        I simply implied the Sentra fell short of some smaller cars in this segment(the focus comes to mind here) and how it was barley touched on in the article. The powertrain alone, or lack there of, is enough to knock this car down a few pegs.

  • avatar
    oldowl

    Videos are a welcome addition to the written reviews, but keep your eye on the road.

  • avatar
    Mr Butterfly

    I just took one for a half-hour drive from the dealership today, so I thought I’d share my thoughts. It was an SR model(Canadian model, if it matters) with a mandatory CVT tranny.
    Visually the car is definitely an improvement over the outgoing model, however the SR adds very unnecessary “sporty” touches that look quite ridiculous – particularly the side skirt and awful fake carbon inside instead of fake wood.
    I’ve never driven previous generation of Sentras AND until today I haven’t had any experience with CVT (so far I’m devoted to the manuals), so my reference points are limited. Having said that, I wasn’t really impressed with the car. I didn’t expect any revelations, but I was hoping to see more comfort. While the road/tire noise level was fine, I didn’t like the buzz of the engine – I found it less refined than either 2013 Focus or Accent. So no excuses for equating small engines with the lack of refinement – it doesn’t have to be like that. Sentra did remind me of the Impreza’s current 2.0L boxer, and that’s not a compliment.
    My other gripes about comfort are cheap hard plastic on upper door trim (I like to rest my arm there), highway wind noise around the side mirrors, and the fact that engine vibration is distinctly felt on the steering wheel. I can also relate to Alex’s comment regarding the seating position – I wish the steering wheel could telescope a bit further out.
    I try to keep an open mind towards CVT’s, however I can’t say that I enjoyed the experience most likely due to the engine’s shortcomings above (i.e. too much buzz to my liking) as well as my lack of previous encounters with these gearboxes. Highway acceleration is definitely something to get used to with CVT, but no issues around town.
    Not sure if SR provides grippier tires over other trims, but nonetheless I thought handling was decent. Other than moderate body-roll there were no issues in sharp(ish) corners.
    Overall my feeling is that the Sentra is about mid-pack average in the class, definitely better than Corolla or Civic, and perhaps most similar to the Cruze. If I were shopping in the segment right now then I would prefer the more expensive Focus despite its rather questionable design. But then again new Mazda3 is around the corner, so there may be a good reason to wait a little while.

    All of the above is strictly my personal opinion.

    • 0 avatar
      mic

      I own a 2010 Versa Hatch and the “buzzy”ness of the engines in Nissans is tied to the ridiculous “tuned” air intakes that they have. I ripped out the various plastic boxes and constricting tubes, threw a K&N filter in it and the engine sounds great. Better acceleration and a bit throaty even. Its a bunch of plastic crap snapped together and when the engine is sucking air through it under hard acceleration, it vibrates like crazy, hence the buzzing.

  • avatar
    cheezeweggie

    Pick your size and price and get the same look (more or less)between the Altima/Sentra/Versa. With the Murano/Rogue similarities, I’d bet the soon-to-be redesigned Versa hatchback will be a Mini Murano/Rogue. What’s with the 160MPH speedometer ? It’s obvious this car cant go that fast unless falling off a cliff.

    • 0 avatar
      DeadWeight

      I lol’d at the 160mph speedometer, also.

      I though that was a bygone era thing. I remember vehicles in the late 80s that could barely manage 90mph that had 130mph speedos.

  • avatar
    Lorenzo

    My sister had a ’93 Sentra which was a sub-compact, and I had a ’95 Altima, then a compact. This Sentra is the same width, 3″ longer and 3″ longer wheelbase as the ’95 Altima. They weigh about the same too. The big difference is the engine, 1.8 vs. 2.4, with the latter getting 150 HP, and the transmission, with the latter having a 4-speed auto. I thought “longer, lower, wider” was dead.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    This review made me think some more about Nissan, and how I’d like to see a Junkyard Find of one of the Stanza Canopy (hatch) things from the mid 80s. If that’s what they are called(?). I haven’t seen one in years.

  • avatar
    CelticPete

    Like others have said – nice rental. I would never own a low torque FWD CVT car though. Well with the planetary gears its kind of a hybrid tranny. This is firmly in the growing appliance car catergory. Something oddly enough this site is fond of..

    I say you only live once and you don’t want to waste years driving something this forgettable.

    • 0 avatar
      ICARFAN

      Well said, been doing some shopping and test drives in this segment for a second vehicle that is decent in winter, will fit a roof rack and get good MPG. Nothing so far has had that fun to drive factor at all. Even though the old 510′s, Fiat 128′s and 2002 of my youth where probably slower, I just don’t remember them being boring to drive. I do a lot of road trip miles and I indeed don’t look forward to driving them in something I don’t even like, add a automatic or cvt and things are even worse and that seems to be about all the dealers carry anymore.

  • avatar
    Bimmer

    I just went to a Canadian Nissan website, unless specs changed from this pre-production review, I’m surprised that American 2013 Sentra gets 10 less HP, 19 less lb ft of torque, but 2 extra cubic feet of trunk space:

    MR20DE – 1.8-litre DOHC 16-valve 4-cylinder engine Horsepower – 140 HP @ 5100 rpm
    Torque – 147 lb-ft @ 4,800 rpm

    Cargo volume – L (cu. ft.) 371 (13.1)

    And lo and behold, Canadian Sentra starts cheaper than US model! Base MSRP $14,848 vs. $15,990. But Canada does not get A/C as standard equipment, it’s $1,050 option, making it $15,898 vehicle.


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