Reviews

2013 Nissan Sentra Walk Around

Nissan Sentra is larger than the subcompact Versa and smaller than the midsize Altima. The 2013 Sentra is 2.3 inches longer than the outgoing model and 0.6 inches lower, which makes the Sentra look roomy from the outside, even though it's 1.2 inches narrower. The new design has decreased drag to help with the improved fuel economy.

Certain styling cues are shared with the handsome, all-new midsize Altima. The front grille, with its angular corners, inwardly curved sides and horizontal grille lines, convey the family resemblance. LED accent lights around the headlamps add a contemporary and sophisticated touch. Headlights wrap around slightly without looking too extreme.

From the side, the Altima looks clean, with a high belt line, curvaceous nose and softly angled rear. A bold, high character line gently sweeps around the front fender, then continues straight across into the rear LED wraparound tail lamps. Standard 16-inch wheels are steel with covers; we prefer the 17-inch alloys on the SL. The 17-inch sport alloys on the SR, on the other hand, look overdone and resemble mutant arachnids.

In the rear, LED tail lights echo the angular shapes found elsewhere on the Sentra. A deep cutline around the hood makes the rear bumper prominent, even bulbous. Sentras fitted with the optional FE package have a rear decklid spoiler, which is sporty but understated.

Interior

Inside, the Sentra continues its clean, sophisticated styling. The instrument cluster is large, clear, and easy to read, with an attractive white-on-black color scheme. The steering wheel is comfortable in hand, although its myriad buttons on SV models and above can feel oddly placed and take some getting used to.

On the center stack, climate control buttons and knobs are intuitive. Standard audio controls are simple. The optional 4.3-inch display on the Driver Package is large and easy to read, but without navigation or a backup camera, all that screen space seems wasted. Spring for the nav package, and you get a bigger, color touchscreen with NissanConnect's interface, which will read text messages aloud when paired with a compatible iPhone or Android device.

Fabric seats are comfortable, especially with the upgraded cloth. The top-end SL model gets features found normally on larger, more expensive cars, like dual-zone automatic climate control and wood trim. Although we aren't fans of the Sentra's fabric armrests and door inserts; they were soft, but were already dirty after a few hours of testing. We question whether they will be durable long-term. To avoid the fabric armrests, one must choose the SL and upgrade to the leather package. The optional leather upholstery is nice but nothing special, and it does bump up the price.

Space in the Sentra is perhaps one of its most compelling attributes. Front legroom is a roomy 42.5 inches, which is enough to accommodate tall drivers, but still can accommodate petite people without them feeling swallowed up. Nissan brags that rear legroom in the Sentra is a roomy 37.4 inches. That beats the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla and Mazda3. However, the Sentra's low roofline takes its toll on rear headroom, which measures at 36.7 inches. So while taller passengers still have plenty of space, the head-to-leg room ratio seems rather disproportionate.

Trunk space in the Sentra measures 15.1 cubic feet, 2 cubes more than the outgoing model. That makes the Civic's and Corolla's 12.5 and 12.3 cubes, respectively, seem measly, and even bests the Hyundai Elantra's 14.8 cubic feet. Standard 60/40 split seats fold flat for even more carrying capacity.

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