2013 Nissan Sentra SR Road Test Review

Jennifer Hofmann - CAP staff
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Published on March 02, 2013

Published on March 02, 2013

Published on March 02, 2013

Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press

Published on March 02, 2013

Published on March 02, 2013

Published on March 02, 2013

Published on March 02, 2013

Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press

Published on March 02, 2013

Published on March 02, 2013

Published on March 02, 2013

Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press

Published on March 02, 2013

Published on March 02, 2013

Published on March 02, 2013

Published on March 02, 2013

Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press

Published on March 02, 2013

Published on March 02, 2013

Published on March 02, 2013

Published on March 02, 2013

Published on March 02, 2013

Published on March 02, 2013

Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press

Published on March 02, 2013

Published on March 02, 2013

Published on March 02, 2013

Published on March 02, 2013

Published on March 02, 2013

Published on March 02, 2013

Published on March 02, 2013

Published on March 02, 2013

Published on March 02, 2013

Published on March 02, 2013

Published on March 02, 2013

Published on March 02, 2013

Published on March 02, 2013

Published on March 02, 2013

Published on March 02, 2013

Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press

Published on March 02, 2013

Published on March 02, 2013

Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press

Published on March 02, 2013

Published on March 02, 2013

Published on March 02, 2013

Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press

Published on March 02, 2013

Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press

Published on March 02, 2013

Published on March 02, 2013

When I first met the 2013 Nissan Sentra, I felt that perhaps I was on a blind date. I thought I was meeting a car that I was familiar with, yet it offered up a few surprises. It was like driving an ordinary sedan, but then I found a feature that allows you to switch between driving modes. There's an Eco button if you're thinking about saving fuel for either an economical purpose or an environmental one (imagine a date that likes to be creative to save money, or alternatively one that would rather save the whales). You can have it in Normal mode for its average fuel economy and nice smooth driving experience (really who doesn't like normal when on a blind date?), or you also have the option of pushing the "fun" button to drive it in Sport mode for quicker acceleration and a more responsive feel (we've all dated cars like that, right?). Whatever mood you're in you are assured a quality date with a worry free guy (I mean ride!!).

The Sentra comes with a 1.8-litre four-cylinder engine optionally mated to Nissan's Xtronic CVT (continuous variable transmission); it comes standard with a six-speed manual. The CVT allows you to never have to worry about being in the right gear for optimal fuel efficiency. It makes it seem as if the car is smoothly driving along without feeling any shifts at all. The CVT is standard in the SV with the SR package that I drove (or more specifically, ordering the SR package forces you to take the CVT as well), although with the regular SV or the less expensive S model it's an add-on for $1,300. Keep in mind though, while it's only $1,300 extra in the SV, adding the CVT to a base model will force you to initially upgrade to the $1,400 Value Option package that includes air conditioning, illuminated steering wheel audio and cruise controls, plus Bluetooth hands-free, increasing the price from its base $16,415 including destination, to $19,115.

If you're truly interested in a sportier experience, you're not going to feel a lot of pull off the line in any 2013 Sentra. Although it's approximately 150 lbs (68 kilos) lighter than the previous version, 130-horsepower still makes it one of the least powerful engines in its class. I have to say that it was still powerful enough to enjoy some fun with now and then, and definitely offered a sense of security that might be of greater interest to you.

The Sentra has a long tradition of dependability. Nissan has been building it since 1982. That's over 30 years of experience on the road. It's now in its seventh-generation, so you can imagine they've learned a thing or two. Some of the things they've learned along the way can make a big difference to your safety, such as its standard anti-lock brakes, traction control and electronic stability control, which helps keep you from sliding around on a slippery road. In case the worst happens, it's fully equipped with all the usual airbags too.

Now that we're talking about things that really matter, I think you'll certainly be interested in the Sentra's best in class fuel efficiency, claimed to be a combined rate of 5.8 L/100km. In the city it works out to 6.6, and it's estimated to get 4.9 on the highway. As I mentioned, the Sentra offers different driving modes. I often had the "Eco" button pushed and found it to be pretty economical, even with the odd burst of "fun" button thrown in. I did find it frustrating, however, that there isn't a way to choose a preference and stick to it. Once you turn the ignition off and then turn it back on, you need to push either the Eco or Sport button again to continue driving in that mode. I'd often forget to push it until I had been on the road for a while, which made it difficult to work out the exact fuel efficiency I was able to achieve in the different modes. I appreciate that it might be equally frustrating if the preference didn't default back to Normal mode. For example, if I had been driving around the city in Sport mode before I'd shut it off and it stayed there when I started driving again later, then I might be wasting gas in Sport mode when I meant to be saving it in Eco mode. Given the choice, I'd like the mode I selected to stay the same, and face the possibility of paying a little bit more in fuel because I'd likely leave it Eco mode more often than not anyway.

Turning to the interior, the Sentra boasts the best front and rear legroom in its compact sedan class, as well as the best front headroom. It felt roomy all-round actually, and also has one of the biggest trunks in its class; up 57 litres from the previous model to 428 litres, which is an increase of 25-percent. The seats fold forward in a 60/40 split for even more room when necessary, although they don't lay completely flat.

The Sentra comes pretty well stocked in SV trim, especially when adding in the extras that come with my test model's $1,100 SR package. These include sport silver interior accents on the doors and gear shifter surround, and sporty premium fabric seats on the inside, plus a black sport grille, sport front and rear fascias, fog lights, lower body side sill extensions, a rear spoiler, a chrome exhaust-tip, and rear disc brakes inside a set of 17-inch forked five-spoke alloy wheels on 205/50 all-season tires.

The SV trim level the SR package is based on is also nicely featured, with automatic on/off headlights, proximity sensing access with pushbutton ignition, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, air conditioning, cruise control, a colour monitor for the audio system, a USB port and Sirius XM satellite radio (I wish these last two were included in every car I've driven), Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity (ditto), and more. If you want additional luxury you can opt for the top of the line SL package that adds leather upholstery, dual zone automatic climate control, a Bose audio system upgrade, a navigation system with NissanConnect, and the list goes on and on.

Incidentally, NissanConnect enables you to access apps like Google Send to Car (more on that in a minute) and POI (point of interest) powered by Google, plus Bluetooth hands-free calling and the new hands-free text-messaging assistant. This last item is great because it allows you to text and receive messages without even looking at your phone! Of course, if you were on a real date you might want to turn it off to save some potentially awkward moments, as the person you're with will be able to listen to your texts. The Google Send to Car feature allows you to look up a destination on any device that has been connected to the car, such as you cell phone, and the address will be loaded into the address book in the NissanConnect enhanced navigation system; very handy for anyone who, like me, didn't come with a map and compass built into their brain.

The SL package might be a bit pricey for some at $4,150, so alternatively you can consider filling in the gaps with the $2,000 Luxury package or the $2,000 Premium package, the first requiring the CVT and then adding 16-inch alloy wheels, heated front seats, and the aforementioned audio upgrades as well as a powered moonroof; the second requiring the CVT and SR packages before adding all of the above except for the alloy wheels (the SR already comes with 17s) plus a rearview camera, navigation system and NissanConnect. You're probably better off to check Nissan's website and choose the options you'd like, although I'll warn you now that it's a bit confusing. If you were to add up the SR package and the CVT that I was driving, plus $135 for Metallic Blue paint, my "blind date" came in at $23,217 including freight and pre-delivery charges.

Overall I was impressed with the Sentra SV's luxury-geared interior, but while the blue and black upholstery of the SR package was nice to look at the seats weren't all that comfortable. The soft-touch material around the instruments and armrests, however, was attractive and appealing. I also liked the sporty silver trim on the doors and around the gear shifter. It's not a luxury car, but it's still a nice little ride.

At the end of our time together, I felt that I really didn't have many complaints about this little sedan. I really didn't need much time to become relaxed in its company. I'd say that Nissan hit the mark by giving me a worry free companion. I didn't have to think a lot about driving, but rather was able to easily concentrate on the road ahead no matter of the wintery conditions around. If I was asked how my date went I'd say, "I'd like to go out with the Sentra again."
©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: Sedan, Nissan, 2013, Sentra, $10,000 - $19,999, $20,000 - $29,999,

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