After driving a new 2015 Nissan Sentra SR for almost 10,000 km, we’ve learned a few things about the car that make it a great value. However, there are other characteristics that you need to take into consideration if you’re planning to make this car “the one.”
The Nissan Sentra competes hard with rival Japanese cars — the Toyota Corolla and the Honda Civic — in the compact sedan segment, and as a result there are no weak players. Hyundai and Kia also put together formidable cars in this segment, as do the domestic carmakers, GM, Ford and Dodge. Therefore, there are plenty of choices in this crowded field and it’s important to do your homework to see exactly what you get for your money.
The outgoing 2015 Sentra is a very good car, dare we say excellent even. It’s undergoing a mid-model redesign for 2016 and that’s one of the reasons any remaining 2015s are an excellent value. You get a lot of content in the vehicle as well as great year-end discounts, which are good reasons to take a closer look.
Our tester, the Sentra SR, had a very agreeable, aerodynamic design and good-looking alloy wheels with low-profile tires. It achieves a fine balance between sporty and luxurious, which appeals to a wide range of tastes. LED daytime running lights accentuate the “V-Motion” grill and headlight assembly. The SR comes with foglights, which we think are a necessity, and the trunk and rear of the car finish the exterior in an attractive way.
Trunk space with the rear seats folded down is phenomenal. The back seats were comfortable for guests, though we never tried getting five people in the car.
Where the Sentra gets criticized by automotive journalists is in the horsepower department. The current 1.8L engine produces 130 horsepower and it’s more than adequate to put the car through its paces over 95% of the time. Nissan recently announced new engines for the Sentra, but availability appears slated for 2017.
Where we believe critics get it wrong, however, is when it comes to the way the current engine works with Nissan’s Xtronic CVT transmission. Nissan is the world leader in CVT transmission development and it is constantly refining efforts to provide smooth, fuel-efficient acceleration in its vehicle.
There are two ways to get a more aggressive response from the Sentra SR when needed though. One is to put the transmission in Sport mode. The button, which is on the dash above the driver’s left knee, can be a bit hard to find while driving, but once you learn where it is, it provides a more exciting level of engine tuning and torque. It’s great for brisk, in-town manoeuvres and getting up to speed in a hurry.
The second way is to hit the Over-Drive Off button on the gear shift and you’ll get dramatic charge in passing power and thrust. The Sentra is basically a very comfortable cruiser — our tester consistently returned 44 mpg over a long daily commute — but if you want power, it’s all in the buttons. They’re there for a reason and they work! Our onlly complaint was that the Sport button should be on the steering wheel.
Now when it comes to creature comforts, the Sentra SR really impressed our long-term driver. The seats consist of good supportive materials and bolsters. The sloping front windshield gave and airy feel to the cabin and great visibilty. The SR came equipped with factory navigation and an amazing Bose sound system with a subwoofer that could really thump out dance music.
Manual controls and touch-screen functions were intuitive and easy to operate. Satellite stereo playback was a very nice feature not found on all satellite car radios. Once you build a little data in the radio you can repeat songs or fast forward past ones that don’t interest you.
On the road, the Nissan Sentra SR handled with the manners of a much larger car. Suspension was smooth and well dampened; it could handle potholes and road cracks without much noise or jounce. Parking and steering in and out of tight places was a snap. The car cruises beautifully at 110 km/h and sips fuel sparingly. Approximately 700 km of mixed driving cost less than $38 per fill-up. With today’s fuel price, that would be even less.
Much of our test drive was during a typical Kootenay winter, and here, too, the Sentra’s ABS brakes, traction control and CVT transmission kept the car always aligned and rolling even in some pretty sketchy winter conditions. We outfitted the car with Toyo G3 Ice winter tires and the combination was excellent.
Overall, we give the outgoing Nissan Sentra high marks for all the ways it can satisfy drivers who favour a compact sedan for their driving needs. The Sentra is great for commuting and could easily fulfill the needs of a young family or older couple. There’s just so much car and so much value here that it’s worth checking all the facts against competitors. Getting the outgoing model with Nissan’s current discounts certainly makes the car a winner in our view.