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Why the 2013 Nissan Sentra Stands Out From Its Competition By Holly Reich

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
2013 Nissan Sentra


By Holly Reich
Automotive Journalist
Special to The Auto Channel

Trying to compare economy-priced compact cars is kind of like trying to wade through the mid-priced dress department at Macy’s. It's overwhelming.

It comes down to this: Whether it’s cars or clothing, finding the product you like is based on packaging, presentation, quality (technology) and that major sense called intuition.

The 2013 Nissan Sentra sits in a hefty line-up of compacts that are vying for the same customer. It competes with (in alphabetical order): Chevy Cruze, Ford Focus, Honda Civic, Hyundai Elantra, Mazda3 and Toyota Corolla. Being that the compact car segment is the 2nd biggest grouping in the industry and growing to over two million in sales per year, the sixth generation Sentra needed to stand out. True, the Sentra that launched in 1982 has evolved from a boxlike vehicle to a sophisticated coupe, but more changes were definitely in order.

"Nissan’s challenge was to make the Sentra roomier, lighter, more fuel efficient and pack in more amenities for the money,” explained John Curl, Senior Manager, Product Planning, at a recent launch in San Francisco. "One out of every three cars sold in the US is a compact. We want to sell the Sentra to everybody and we feel that good styling shouldn’t cost extra.”

To stand out, here’s how the 2013 Sentra has evolved:

To begin with, the vehicle has lost 150 pounds.

On the outside:
Honed aerodynamics for a Cd of 0.29 giving it a lower roofline with a wider and lower stance.

Amped up exterior styling with LED accents and taillights.

Increased rear legroom to 37.4” so that adults can be comfortable in the back seat.

Enlarged trunk space by 2.0 cubic feet (the size of a medium to large microwave).

On the inside:
Dual Zone Automatic Temperature Control with white illuminated displays.

The blower sound has been reduced for more comfort.

Richer interior fabrics with a choice of leather-appointed seats, silver or maple wood-tone trim and soft to the touch armrests and other surfaces.

Improved wizardry:
NissanConnect satellite Navigation - with speed curve warnings built in - has a hands free text message assistant that will read missives to you, Pandora radio capability, Bose Premium Audio System with eight speakers and an amplifier tuned for a cloth or leather interior.

The Drive:
We drove the 2013 Nissan Sentra from San Francisco to Napa Valley on a full range of highways, road surfaces, hills and twisters. The performance was confident, responsive and energetic enough to wind out of turns and climb up inclines. Truly, that’s really all one needs in a well-priced compact. The choice of driving modes: normal, eco or sport adds some spice to the transmission.

The new 1.8 4-cylinder engine with next generation Xtronic CVT offers competitive fuel economy of 30 mpg in the city and 39 highway.

To produce this kind of lean fuel efficiency the engineers revisited the shape of the valve springs thereby reducing friction of the CVT by 30% and weight of CVT by 13%. These seemingly small changes make a noticeable difference.

The model that spoke to me was the SR sports. It was tricked out with 17-inch five spoke alloy wheels, front and rear fascia, rear spoiler, chrome exhaust tip, sport silver interior trim and handsome cloth seats.

"It’s much harder to put tons of innovation in a car and bring the price down,” noted Fred DePerez, Director, CMM, explaining the pricing strategy.

The 2013 Nissan Sentra starts at $15,990 for Sentra S 6 MT ($440 less than the outgoing model) and ascends to $19,760 for Sentra SL.