2013 Nissan Sentra SV

It certainly carries the family resemblance to the recently redesigned Altima, but is that a good thing?  I’m not saying the Altima isn’t an attractive midsize but I thought the Sentra was after a more youthful demo, the kind that most often buys a Civic or Focus.  And the one immediate impression this car made on me is that is just lost those younger buyers.  Why?  Because it feels, looks and drives like yesterday’s news.  Nissan wasn’t happy with the previous Sentra’s sales so they overcorrected and produced this.  In fairness, the Sentra offers big space and excellent fuel economy at a very reasonable price.  For example, this mid-trim Sentra SV with the optional Driver and Navigation packages stickers for $20,470, adding features such as auto headlights, intelligent key with push button start and this navi unit bundled with traffic, weather, Pandora and a rear view monitor. I could see where older buyers and ambivalent types might find the Sentra to their liking.  But discriminating drivers will take umbrage.  (Stand-up 2)

            Nissan champions the continuously variable transmission as a fuel-saving component like no other, and in certain vehicles it can be a non-story, but each time you’re on the throttle the Sentra sounds sick.  And why on earth the springs and struts are tuned for such firmness is beyond me.  Otherwise, the Sentra has a confident 1.8-liter engine making 130 horsepower, a premium steering feel Hyundai and Kia should copy and a respectable agility to its handling…a tradeoff for the feel-it-all ride quality. 

            Though very spacious with excellent rear seat leg room and trunk space, interior design is a letdown with a look and feel that is out of step with the segment leaders…again, forgoing any youthful whimsy and riding that ultra-conservative wave that embodies the entire car.  The infotainment system uses Google for its POI searches and that takes too long to connect, though the send-to-car feature for driving directions is a nice touch. 

            A base Sentra S starts at under $17,000.  An available FE+ model adds low rolling resistance tires to achieve a 40mpg highway rating. Then you get to this SV trim followed by the sporty SR and more luxurious SL, which when fully loaded, still comes in at under $24,000. 

            First the Versa, then the Altima and now the Sentra, Nissan’s latest trifecta of redesigned cars has veered off its course for success.

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