Nissan has delivered one of the most remarkable redesigns of the year with the new Sentra. The compact sedan had begun to lag behind rivals such as the Honda Civic, Ford Focus and Mazda3, but an all-new interior and exterior and impressive fuel economy numbers make the 2013 Sentra difficult to overlook.
There is no mistaking the old car for the new edition, even at first glance. The front grille and headlight stack are a dead ringer for the midsize Altima, which also was redesigned for 2013. The body was stretched by 2 inches and the roofline was lowered. The matte black trim around last year’s windows is gone, replaced by the same chrome accents that decorate the new Altima.
The interior was completely revamped with no hard plastics or cheap fabrics in sight. The 2-inch stretch added front and rear legroom, and the trunk remains among the most spacious in the class. The OEM’s NissanConnect electronics interface displays navigation, weather and music — including Pandora, Sirius satellite radio and iPod — on an available 6-inch touchscreen.
Under the hood, the prior generation’s 2.0-liter, 140-horsepower (hp) inline four was replaced by a new, 1.8-liter powerplant that delivers 130 hp at 128 pound-feet of torque. The performance-edition SE-R and SE-R Spec V are off the market, maybe for good.
If Nissan’s goal was to join the 40-mpg club, it came darn close. Equipped with a newly revised continuously variable-speed automatic, the S, SV, SR and SL burn a 34 combined mpg. The gas-sipping “FE+” editions of the S and SV meet the 40 mpg standard, but only on the highway.
The base S is equipped with a six-speed manual transmission and standard features such as full power, air conditioning and a four-speaker sound system. The SV adds upgraded sound and upholstery and cruise control. The FE+ editions save fuel by adding an aerodynamic undercarriage, low-rolling resistance tires and a rear spoiler.
The SR comes with 17-inch wheels, sportier sheet metal and a rear spoiler, and the SL includes several options available on the lower trims, including keyless ignition and Bluetooth connectivity, as well as an upgraded interior, dual-zone climate control and more.
The 2013 Nissan Sentra is in showrooms now. The base model starts at $15,990; the less expensive of the FE+ models is $17,720; and the top-of-the-line SL is listed at a hair under $20,000.