2013 Nissan Sentra 1.8SV

The Good:
– Superb fuel economy
– Cabin space and features
– Fairly comfortable ride
The Bad:
– Droning engine at full throttle
– Steering too light
– Some hard cabin plastics

It may have become obvious by now that we generally try to avoid testing “economy” cars, unless someone asks us really nicely. So it may come as no surprise that we weren’t too keen on spending a weekend with the Nissan Sentra, the Japanese carmaker’s new Thailand-built compact offering in the GCC. However, we were indeed asked nicely, and coupled with the fact that we were among the first media to test it, we took one in. After one weekend, let’s just say this is one “economy” car that didn’t feel like one at all. It could compete with midsize sedans!

On the outside, the new-for-2013 Sentra looks like a squished Altima in length, but is almost as wide and actually taller than its midsize sibling. The top-heavy styling won’t sit well with those looking for a “sporty” ride, but from what we gathered, the general consensus among its target market is that it looks good. It even grew on us eventually, somewhat.

Our test car was one grade above basic, but we didn’t find it lacking in terms of cabin trim. The big brown dashboard is made up of soft-touch materials, while all the door inserts and and armrests are generously padded with cloth upholstery that matches the seats. The upper door sills are hard plastic, as is everything below elbow-level, but that’s acceptable for its class. The car may be built in Thailand, but the build quality is better than the likes of the Korean Chevy Cruze, and on par with at least the Hyundai Elantra.

If we had any complaint, it’d be that the brown dash reflects a little too much onto the windshield. The entire cabin design is also a bit generic, and the grey-painted centre-console looks a bit cheap. But we’re nitpicking here.

The most astounding feature of this car is its cabin volume. It is immense in there, with possibly more legroom and headroom in the back than the Altima even. The front seats offer moderate bolstering, while the rear bench has three headrests and a pull-down centre armrest. The rear floor isn’t flat like in the Civic, but it’s manageable.

Features-wise, our car is decently equipped, with power windows and mirrors, trip computer, two airbags, LED tail lights, average 4-speaker CD/MP3 stereo, AUX port, steering-wheel buttons and Bluetooth phone even. Our car had a manual a/c, which had no trouble handling January afternoons, but more importantly it even came with rear vents, which is a rarity in this class. There’s also rear parking sensors, useful considering the car’s high butt. Up front, the halogen headlights look like they’re lined with LED running lamps, but there’s no little bulbs in them. To get the LEDs, you have to move up to a higher trim level. Moving up also adds such upscale goodies as dual-zone auto a/c, sunroof, touchscreen navigation, smart key, fog lamps, cruise control, USB port, better stereo, ESP, more airbags, and all that.

The Sentra can be had with either a 1.6-litre or a 1.8-litre engine. We thankfully had the larger engine, although the specs suggest it isn’t up to class standards, making only 130 hp at 6000 rpm and 174 Nm of torque at 3600 rpm. However, Nissan manages to extract the most out of the limited juice with the help of a CVT automatic. We timed it in the 0-100 kph run at 9.7 seconds while burning fuel at an indicated rate of 7.9 litres/100 km, which is impressive considering the 1.8-litre Chevy Cruze took two seconds longer and burned much more petrol in our previous tests. It helps that our Sentra tips the scales at only 1239 kg, keeping weight in check rather well for its size.

We generally hate CVT-equipped cars, but truth be told, it is largely unnoticeable in casual driving. In the Sentra, the gearless CVT makes itself very known under full throttle, when the engine drones loud enough to wake the neighbourhood, and it doesn’t sound like a sweet-revving Honda Civic either. Sometimes it can be lazy to respond even. However, its advantage becomes obvious when, at 120 kph, the Sentra’s silently doing only 2000 rpm, when that same Civic would be doing 2300 rpm. The Sentra accelerates quicker too, whether from a standstill or overtaking. The CVT’s occasional laziness can be overcome by shifting to either “low” or “sport” mode, both of which seem to do the same thing, namely pump the revs high at the slightest touch of the throttle, while embarrassing yourself in the middle of traffic with all that engine noise as you hustle away.

But the Sentra still offers relatively-good refinement on the highway, with a ride almost as smooth as any popular midsize sedan, and almost as quiet too. The only car better than it would be the less-spacious Ford Focus, which uses much-fancier suspension than the Sentra’s front strut and rear torsion-beam setup.

The Sentra’s focus on ride quality on the cheap means that the handling cannot be as sharp as that of the class-leading Focus, but it still manages to be better than a Toyota Corolla. Body roll is noticeable, but not particularly excessive, and there is no bouncy rebound as you straighten out after a sharp turn. It is very easy to reach the grip limits of the 195/65 tyres on 15-inch steel wheels, then safely understeer and go wide, with no weird snap-oversteer on sudden directional transitions.

The power steering offers decent feedback, but that doesn’t do a whole lot for enthusiastic driving due to its overly-light and springy nature. Still, that makes city-driving a breeze, especially in parking, that too with the aid of rear sensors, which some pricier cars don’t even have. We also liked how responsive the foot-controls are, with no throttle delay in most cases, and a brake pedal that offer a little weight and nice linear application. The standard ABS-assisted brakes themselves are also surprisingly good, even with only rear drums backing up the front discs. There is a tendency for the rear to snake around by a bit under hard stops, a characteristic of cars with rear drum brakes, though it is less so than in, say, the smaller Honda City.

Repeating ourselves again, we hate economy cars, but we love to be surprised by ones that don’t feel like economy cars. The all-new Nissan Sentra falls in that latter category. It is among the quickest in its class, probably the most spacious, packed with features, trimmed decently inside, drives well enough despite the CVT, and priced to compete. What’s not to like? This one is going on our recommended list.

Price Range:
Dh 63,000-81,000

Current Model Introduced in:
2013

Body Styles:
4-door sedan

Engines:
1.8L 130 hp Inline-4 / 174 Nm

Transmissions:
CVT automatic

Setup:
Front-wheel-drive

Suspension:
Front: independent
Rear: semi-independent

Brakes:
Front: discs
Rear: drums

Curb Weight:
1239 kg

Length:
4625 mm

Wheelbase:
2700 mm

Top Speed:
190 kph

Test Acceleration 0-100 kph:
9.7 sec.

Observed Test Fuel Economy:
7.9 litres/100km

34 comments to 2013 Nissan Sentra 1.8SV

  • vivek

    9.7 secs for a 1.8?? Now that will give some tough time for the Civic V-Tec fanboys!

    • moaz

      more than that it’s a far superior package for a young family I got my self one and never looked back its one small big caaaaar

  • jatin

    Looks like its going to be Nissan’s Game changer model !!!

  • Umair

    Loved your detailed review.. guess will book the car once I get a test drive later next week..

  • E-Mad

    Wait a second! The starting price of this Sentra is equivalent to that of a mid optioned sonata or optima! Pathetic!
    Admitted, its a good car. But wasn’t it meant to compete with the likes of Elantra, which is priced at almost 20 thousand Dirhams lower. I wouldn’t, even if i was beaten and tortured to insanity, would i pay 71,000 Dhs for this. When oh when will the Japanese hire someone that is going to tell them that with their current pricing strategies, they are going to go nowhere.

    In any case, that the Japanese decide to read this review, I shall attach my CV with this. Just Kidding, I wouldn’t want to work with people who lack creativity.

    Regards,
    E-Mad

    • Nero

      WEll, you can always buy that Hyundai if you want to kill your passenger in an accident. Thank goodness for only one airbag!

  • prado

    prado’s prediction: FAIL

  • Marwan

    i guess they should get rid of the infamous new sunny and concentrate on this one. it is good but i believe that these days a rear camera is more important than a navi. Also the price braket is aint so big..from 71 to 81k this is acceptable.

  • Tammam

    Made in Thailand, enough said

  • Lemmy

    The price should be between 63,000 – 71,000…come on Nissan…

  • MABINI

    71-80K
    Mid Option Optima and Sonata are there in this price range.

    More space, More power and Stylish with the Nissan Sentra.

  • Joe

    “It may have become obvious by now that we generally try to avoid testing “economy” cars, unless someone asks us really nicely”.

    Slow down Jeremy Clarkson !!

    • Mashfique Hussain Chowdhury

      We don’t generally test supercars either, if you noticed, just because we don’t want to deal with the snooty people representing those companies.

  • azq

    Japs over the koreans. ….any day of the wk.

  • Sach

    is it worth buying sentra now? as it is newly launch in UAE because i have found not much satisfactory review.or should wait…..

    mid range which car to go?

    • moaz

      bought the top spec and don’t look back only car in class price range to give proper saftey and proper rear leg space so you can your parents and a baby sit around for driving in UAE with no complaints infact all praises every one once in back seat gets like woooh this is big roomy car just little short on width but hey it’s a mid size family car don’t worry n take my word I traded my 2011 maxima for it yes u read right 2011 maxima!!

  • bunkie79

    by the way as per Wikipedia sentra and sunny is the same car named different as per the market. mash does the sentra feel like an upscale sunny like camry and aurion situation.

    • PS454

      As per Wikipedia, “is generally a rebadged export version of the Japanese Nissan Sunny. The name “Sentra” is not used in Japan.” but this is for older models before 2006!

    • Mashfique Hussain Chowdhury

      The new Sentra is a completely different car from the new Sunny.

  • Kiyoshi Manabe

    0-100km/h is 9.7sec…..That’s quite respectable for a 1.8-litres/130hp compact sedan armed with CVT automatic transmission.
    She would be compared with the turbocharged 1.4-litres league,as the likes of VW Jetta 1.4T and Renault Megane 1.4TCE,to European standards.
    On this point,the Nissan Sentra seems no-nonsense player in my image,yet booming engine is very regrettable!
    In Japan,my country,she is designated as “Nissan Sylphy”,as a successor of the Bluebird Sylphy medium-compact sedan.

  • Hassan Morshed

    Does anyone know about Nissan Qashqai 2013?
    It will be very much helpful if anyone tells me about this compact crossover since I’m planning to buy one.
    the problem is, we dont see that car at all on the road. :s

    So, is there anyone who drove Nissan Qashkai and give me little bit idea on the followings:
    a. Cost of Spare Parts
    b. Air Conditioning
    c. Driving Experience
    d. Resale Value (if you’ve already sold it)

  • Khodor

    All CVT equipped vehicles are noisy and drone.
    If we were to have CVT when transmissions started and then later on the normal Automaic GearBox was introduced, we would also badly comment on that Transmission.
    I have a Nissan Altima, and it is CVT, surely would prefer old school manual GB, but CVT is fine, consumes less petrol, has better acceleration against a GB with shifting gears

    That is my opinion

  • newbloc

    Was considering buying 1.8 Nissan sentra (64K) or 2.4 Kia optima (which now comes with 2 airbags and ABS) at 71k….Kindly advise which is a good buy guys

  • ADEEL

    nice drive ( nissan Sentra )

  • Yousuf Yasir

    I got a 1.6 litre basic spec Nissan Sentra from my employer lastweek. Just passed 1k kms today with regular rides inside Abu Dhabi town and one weekend drive to Al Ain. i must say, this is an impressive car with the price they quote.
    i used a 2010 model corolla 1.8 high spec before this. The acceleration is noticeably low but still not poor on comparison.
    Extra breezy steering, Exceptional fuel consumption [above 665 kms/full tank], awesome interior and exterior designs, and lighting, Superb cooler. I am new to CVT so didnt notice what difference does it make.
    In a word, desent job Nissan. Never expected something like this from a manufacturer who had no interest over economy buyers.

  • Nibin John

    I have a very very bad experience NISSAN with my nissan sentra.Its AC failed just after 8 months and Nissan Service center told its Compressor needs replacement.Complaint Ref No:8202. They told no parts available all over UAE and it will take more than ten days.They are not even ready to provide a back up during these time.I am now struggling hard.I never suggest any one to go for NISSAN as there after sale is very bad

  • K

    Looks pretty ugly in front of Civic and Corolla.
    Civic reigns supreme in this market if you don’t mind spending a little more.

  • Sameera

    We have been using Sentra for last 2 years and no issues so far. Excellent Cooling, mileage and space.

  • Hawkar hawrami

    why the front LED lights doesnt turn on!? Except there is another simlple lights it has. Does any one knows about this please ?!?

  • Mohd

    lovely car have had it for the past 18 months , highlight is the after-sales service Al Rostamani offer , got the 35k km package with the car, saturday morning to evening is all it takes them to service , plus it rides comfy with family and luggage , although the 1.6l is slow for passing on highway but use the sport and it gets the job done . Value for money :D

  • Ahmad

    It’s nice car with sleek and decent body.

  • rashid seevayi

    We have been using Sentra for last 6 months and no issues so far. Excellent Cooling, Excellent mileage and space. really nice car…luv u sentra

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