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2013 Nissan Sentra SL Rocky Mountain Review By Dan Poler

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2013 Nissan Sentra SL

2013 Nissan Sentra SL Review
By Dan Poler
Rocky Mountain Bureau
The Auto Channel

Once upon a time, small cars were featureless, boring machines. Cheap, noisy, four tires, a steering wheel, bottom-of-the-line stereo, that’s about it. As demand for good fuel economy goes up, manufacturers have begun to put a great deal of effort in refreshing their smaller vehicles to be competitive in this new landscape, and we now have a number of solid choices in this segment. We’re pleased to add the 2013 Nissan Sentra to that list as well.

The Sentra is fully redesigned for 2013. On the outside, the familial resemblance between the Sentra, Altima, and Maxima is clearly evident – curves and lines in the bodywork take the same shape, and the angled edges of the headlights and taillights are instantly familiar. Those headlights and taillights, by the way, include LED features, a surprisingly nice touch for this segment.

Our tester came to us in the range-topping SL trim, which includes 17-inch alloy wheels, fog lights, heated exterior mirrors, automatic dual-zone climate control and wood-tone accents. It also carried the navigation package which adds (you guessed it!) navigation, a rear-view monitor, and Bluetooth audio connectivity, as well as the leather package which adds leather upholstery, heated front seats, and disc brakes in the rear – we can’t figure out the relationship between leather upholstery and disc brakes either, but this is the upgrade needed to get disc brakes in the rear rather than the standard drum setup.

All told, our very generously-equipped tester carried a sticker price of $22,400.00. As you sit in the cabin, one of the first thoughts that may occur to you is… This doesn’t feel like the interior of a $22,400.00 car. It’s really, really nice. There’s a bit of confusion between chrome and matte-look plastic, but generally, everything looks and feels well-assembled without odd seams, and the leather upholstery is soft and comfortable. Soft-touch materials and wood-tone trim abound to the degree that you’d be forgiven for thinking you’re in fact sitting in an Infiniti.

For the driver, controls are logical and within reach. The double-DIN navigation and audio system is easy to control and its eight-speaker output sounds great. Our one quibble – and it’s a minor one – is that roads disappear off of the navigation screen even at really low zoom levels, which can make finding your way an interesting experience.

Despite the niceties of the redesigned Sentra, driving is a different story, and unfortunately it’s just something of a boring experience. The ride is quiet and comfortable without being the slightest bit jarring, at the expense of a bit of lean and roll in corners. Steering doesn’t have a great deal of feedback to it, and we found that it took a great deal of correction to go where we wanted – turning a corner felt like it required turning the wheel quite far, further than one would expect necessary.

Our real challenge was with the 1.6-liter inline four and its accompanying CVT – good for just 130 horsepower, a reduction of 10 from the outgoing Sentra, and it shows. While the engine is happy to rev high – almost to its 6,500 RPM redline, acceleration is frustratingly slow, and high-speed highway merges are something of a nerve-wracking experience. Although switches are included for Sport and Eco modes, we didn’t detect a great deal of difference between the various modes other than lights illuminated in the instrument cluster.

All told, if you’re willing to sacrifice some performance for interior comfort, the Sentra is a great choice, and the redesign has been beautifully executed, far from the boring base sedans of old. However, we can’t help but notice that the as-tested price of our Sentra places it squarely in the territory of a mid-range Altima – with it’s 2.5-liter base engine, we’ve experienced substantially better power with just about the same fuel economy, and the Altima brings with it greater interior room and functionality for the day-to-day. If buyers are willing to give up some of the higher-end features like satellite navigation and leather, they may find that the Altima is more suited to their needs at very nearly the same price.

2013 Nissan Sentra SL

Base Price: $15,990.00
Price as Tested: $22,400.00
Engine Type: DOHC 4-cylinder
Engine Size: 1.6-liter
Horsepower: 130 @ 6,000 RPM
Torque (lb-ft): 128 @ 3,600 RPM
Transmission: Xtronic Continuously Variable Transmission
Wheelbase / Length (in): 106.3 / 182.1
Curb Weight: 2,822
Pounds per HP: 21.7
Fuel Capacity (gal): 13.2
Fuel Requirement: Regular unleaded
Tires: Continental ContiProContact; 205/50VR17
Brakes, front/rear: Ventilated disc / drum (leather package includes rear disc brakes)
Suspension, front/rear: MacPherson strut / Torsion beam
Ground clearance (in): 6.5
Drivetrain: Front-wheel drive
EPA Fuel Economy - MPG
city / highway / observed: 30 / 39 / 35
Base Trim Price: $19,760.00

Options and Charges

Navigation package: $650.00 (NissanConnect™ w/ navigation system, 5.8” color display, Nissan voice recognition for audio & navigation, NavTraffic & NavWeather, streaming audio via Bluetooth®, hands-free text messaging assistant, RearView monitor)

Leather Package: $1,030.00 (Leather-appointed seats, heated front seats, rear disc brakes)

Carpeted floor mats and trunk mat: $170.00

Delivery: $790.00

Price as tested: $22,400.00