Reviews

2017 Nissan Sentra Driving Impressions


Until 2016, all Sentras held what’s now the base engine. Not especially quiet, lacking somewhat in power, the 1.8-liter four doesn’t provide a stimulating experience. Basically, it does its job without fuss.

Nissan’s latest CVT performs decently, as expected, but acceleration tends to be sluggish. A base-engine Sentra seems overmatched when traversing hilly terrain or carrying several passengers. Programmed virtual gear ratios in the CVT can simulate a conventional automatic transmission, but the engine grows quite loud when accelerating hard or tackling an upgrade.

Compared to a Mazda 3 or Ford Focus, even the Sentra SR Turbo trails in driving enjoyment. Performance clearly reaches past that of the base engine, but the Turbo won’t remind anyone of Nissan’s old SE-R models. The 6-speed gearbox for the SR Turbo is loose and notchy, lacking in precision.

All Sentra drivers can select from three modes: Normal, Eco, or Sport. Unfortunately, the selection buttons aren’t easily seen, but they affect throttle response as well as transmission operation.

Handling has never been Sentra’s strong point. While the sedan is competent enough and corners capably, thanks to its brake-controlled steering assistance, it doesn’t inspire spirited driving. Steering, on the other hand, is well-weighted and confidence-inspiring.

Ride comfort is sufficiently smooth and relatively soft. The suspension absorbs bumps and pavement roughness effectively. During highway cruising, the cabin is serenely quiet.

Only SR and SL models can have all-disc brakes, but the rear-drum system halts sufficiently well. Expect some nosedive and excess body motion when halting hard in a Sentra.

Fuel economy ranks as respectable, EPA-rated at 29/37 mpg City/Highway, or 32 mpg Combined. The SR Turbo is EPA-rated at 27/33 mpg City/Highway, or 29 mpg Combined, with CVT; but 26/32/28 mpg with manual shift.

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