You’ve heard us talk the decline of midsize sedan sales in the face of rising SUV and crossover popularity. Well, an alternative theory is that with all sedans growing larger, that four-door people are finding compact models are the right size for the right price. Indeed, sales in that segment are doing ok, including this class stalwart, the Nissan Sentra. It’s new for 20-16, so let’s see if it’s still a bargain.
The Nissan Sentra is one sedan that’s been able to buck the slumping 4-door sales trend, as sales are up significantly over last year. And, Nissan performed a multitude of updates for the 2016 model year to keep things heading up.
But we’ll actually start with one of the few things that hasn’t changed, and that’s the 1.8-liter I4 engine and CVT transmission combo. Horsepower is 130, with torque at 128 lb-ft. We try to take everything into consideration, and not be too power hungry around here; but this car’s acceleration does feel needy.
On the other hand, Government Fuel Economy Ratings are impressive at 29-City, 37-Highway, and 32-Combined. We averaged a great 33.4 miles-per-gallon of Regular. For a pretty decent Energy Impact Score, with just 10.3-barrels of oil burned and 4.6 tons of CO2 emitted annually.
A 6-speed manual transmission is still available, but only in base S trim. And while there may not be much power coming from under the hood, there’s not much noise either; thanks to additional sound deadening materials.
Safety features are updated for ’16, with Forward Emergency Braking now available as part of the Technology Packages. In our testing, we found it to chime a warning early and brake late; with good if not perfect consistency.
The updated exterior easily favors big brothers Altima and Maxima. Everything from A-pillars forward is freshened, along with new 17-inch wheel designs for SR and SL trims.
In back, the revised fascia adds Nissan’s boomerang-shaped tail lights.
Now, the suspension gets a total rework with both stiffer springs and dampers; as well as the Altima’s Active Understeer Control system.
And we did indeed find the Sentra to be at the spirited end of the compact sedan segment. With only a mild bit of understeer, it was easy to point and eager to be driven fast. Admittedly, our expectations were low, but we did come away impressed with how ably it performed.
As for clocking acceleration, it took us 10.2-seconds to reach 60; and 18.2 to clear the ¼ at 78 miles-per-hour.
Nissan’s Xtronic CVT now includes simulated shifts; and while it’s perhaps a little more pleasing to the ear, you don’t feel any additional power surge.
But, in powertrain land, help is on the way; as ’17 model year adds a new SR Turbo with a 188-horsepower 1.6-liter I4-turbo engine. Check back with us on that!
Inside our Sentra we found things nicely dressed up with a new center console and shifter knob, refined materials, an available 6-way power driver’s seat, a new steering wheel patterned after the 370Z’s, and a TFT panel added to gauge display.
Navigation is standard with SL trim, optional on all others; except for base S trim, which is also the only trim that doesn’t get a backup camera standard.
No matter the seating position, it still feels like one of the roomiest compacts around. Front seats offer good comfort, but could use a few more adjustments as the headrests seem to really push your head forward.
Trunk capacity, at 15.1 cubic-ft. is indeed comparable with midsize sedans; and 60/40 split-folding seatbacks are standard.
Sentra pricing starts at just $17,615; so if you’re looking for affordable family transportation, the Sentra is one of your best options out there. Even in top SL trim with both Luxury and Technology packages added; we were barely over $25,000.
So, with both the space and price of midsize sedans a decade ago; it’s easy to see why many buyers are upgrading their ride by going down to compacts like this 2016 Nissan Sentra. While not the most impressive sedan we’ve driven this year, it does everything just fine; and even feels sportier than it needs to. All good reasons why being “simply Sentra” is a good thing.
Engine: 1.8 liter
Torque: 128 lb-ft.
0-60 mph: 10.2 seconds
1/4 mile: 18.2 seconds @ 78 mph
EPA: 29 mpg city / 37 mpg highway,
Energy Impact: 10.3 barrels of oil/yr
CO2 Emissions: 4.6 tons/yr