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2016 Nissan Sentra Review by Steve Purdy +VIDEO

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2016 NISSAN SENTRA - A Mid-Cycle Refresh

By Steve Purdy
The Auto Channel
Michigan Bureau

We just had a look at, and a short drive in, the refreshed Nissan Sentra featuring a few changes that will bring it up to date and into the flow of an ever more competitive compact sedan market.

Sentra, one of many cars built in Nissan’s huge Smyrna, TN assembly plant, has been a bread-and-butter product for the company since 1982 but sales have intermittently waned when they’ve not kept up with other great little cars in the market. Sentra benefitted from a major redesign just a few years ago but now it needs some more updating, mostly in the way of NVH, connectivity and driving dynamics.

Everything we see from the A-pillar forward, they tell us, is new – sheet metal, grille, lighting, even the windshield that is now of the sound-deadening type. It does not look radically different but marginally more attractive than the outgoing one if you look closely. Tail lamps, rear fascia and a couple new 17-inch wheel designs round out the appearance changes.

Inside we find a newly available 6-way power driver’s seat with a 2-way power lumbar support. The outgoing car did not offer that option. A sportier steering wheel, new shift knob, new console design, fresh trim and seat materials define the slightly nicer inside. Our Nissan folks tell us it is significantly quieter inside as well the result of more sound-deadening material in the doors, dash and engine mounts as well as the acoustic windshield mentioned above.

Steering, suspension and body rigidity get a variety of incremental improvements making for better steering feel, stiffer ride, crisper cornering and less body lean. These changes are of a magnitude that would not jump out at anyone who does not regularly drive the current Sentra, but they are still significant.

The big news with this update is the availability of driver assistance and connectivity advances. Forward emergency braking intervention, intelligent cruise control, blind spot warning and cross traffic alert all take advantage of a system of sensors that have now become common and cost effective enough to make it into mainstream small cars. Siri Voice Recognition allows hands free control of some functions. And, in terms of connectivity, you can now get navigation and apps with NissanConnect, a system facilitated by SiriusXM, which also includes traffic congestion alerts.

Our limited driving experience was favorable, particularly around the improved quietness of the cabin. Many of the roads around suburban Detroit where we drove are in dismal condition so we had a good opportunity to evaluate this suspension system that felt a bit more firm than necessary, at least for these conditions. It would be better for decent roads to be sure. Steering felt good and it has an excellent turning radius. We found no reason to criticize the updated chassis.

What still needs attention, in this humble reviewer’s opinion, is the powertrain. No changes have been made in this 130-hp, 1.8-liter engine mated to a wheezy CVT. They insisted that better faux shift points have been programmed in but we could not feel them. Performance seems anemic when we try to push it a bit, though most buyers seldom drive spiritedly enough to notice. We’d love to see another 20-hp out of this car. Good news is you can still get a manual transmission in some models and fuel mileage is very good at 40 mpg on the highway, 30 in town and 34 combined with the CVT.

Sentra’s base S model with manual transmission lists at just $16,780 and top-of-the-line SL with CVT starts at $22,170. With the new driver assist and connectivity options you’re still looking at barely 25 grand.

Is there a turbo or perhaps a sportier version of Sentra in the future? We got no encouragement from the Nissan team – but stay tuned. In any case, this freshened Sentra should be on your shopping list if you’re looking for a mainstream compact sedan.

ęSteve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights Reserved

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