Little known fact: This guy took his driver’s test way back in 1984 at the wheel of, wait for it, a Nissan Sentra. I failed.
It wasn’t the car’s fault. The cream coloured first generation Sentra belonged to my Young Drivers of Canada instructor and was a perfectly delightful little econobox. The problem was that I was used to driving a ’78 Dodge Monaco station wagon that was just a tick under 18 feet long, a full four feet longer than the Sentra. When it came time to parallel park, a skill which I had mastered in the Mopar, my sense of geometric movement(is that even a thing?) was all out of whack. It took two tries to get the job done and I failed my test.
The Sentra has changed a lot over the years, not the least of which is its size. The current model, the seventh generation, is now 182″ in length, a full 15″ lomger that the original. Two inches longer than a first generation Altima. This seems to be a trend within the industry, where each generation of vehicle is larger than the next. So where does that leave bump in stature leave the Sentra in Nissan’s model line-up?
To be truthful, Sentra still slots in below the now much larger Altima, but it is no longer the lowest rung on the brand’s model ladder. The excellent Versa Note is the Sentra’s next smaller sibling, while the economical Micra (here in Canada at least, sorry America) is now the entry level Nissan.
Suitably, the Sentra has stepped up its interior quality game, while adding a bunch of more upscale options as buyers will expect. It has also become that tough character that many auto scribes fret over: the nice car. In other words, the Sentra is a nice car. There is nothing horrible one can say about it, while at the same time there is nothing that makes a reviewer go off his nut with enthusiasm.
Attractive styling is evident inside and out. Cargo space is decent for a small sedan and interior fit and finish are what you would expect of a vehicle at this price point. The driving experience of the 2016 model was less than exciting though, mostly due to the rather disappointing 130 horsepower generated by its 1.8L four banger. The CVT transmission offered on most models did not help, but thankfully a 6 speed manual was available, which spiced things up a bit.
For the 2017 model year, Nissan has made an effort to bump the Sentra up from being a nice car to being a sporty car with the addition of a turbo charged version. That led many of us within the enthusiast community hoping that at least the spirit of the historic SE-R models would be riding along with the Sentra SR Turbo. The bump to 188 horsepower is substantial and squashes any commentary about the car being under-powered, but doesn’t go so far as to inspire any boy racer wet dreams.
What we have here is a really nice compact sedan which has just the right amount of oomph. In other words, a nice car.
Bear in mind that I have a bit of history with the brand and I am in their corner. I heartily recommend the boosted Sentra to those in the market for a nice little sedan. I however, want more.
The company takes its motorsport seriously these days, from international endurance racing to the born and bred in Canada Micra Cup. That passion for motorsport has led the company to create a bevy of NISMO branded machines that typically back up their aggressive looks with much improved performance. I would suggest that it is only a matter of time before a Sentra appears sporting NISMO badges, big brakes, stiffer springs, fatter tires, grippy seats and noisy exhaust.
When that car arrives, and it will, I will get excited.