By Jason Allan
Completely redesigned for 2013, the excellent new Nissan Sentra feels less like a compact car and more like a downsized mid-size sedan. The look is substantial and mature, the interior is refined in look and feel, and from front to trunk it's downright roomy. The growing number of tech-dependent drivers will appreciate a robust and intuitive NissanConnect infotainment package with cool Google, Pandora and text messaging features, and anyone who hasn't won the free-gas-for-life lottery will appreciate the Sentra's class-leading combined city/highway fuel economy of 34 mpg. And while it's neither as fun to drive as a Mazda3, nor as quiet and comfortable as a Chevy Cruze, the new Nissan Sentra rides and handles better than most buyers need it to.
Whether you're looking for style, refinement, room, fuel economy or just some cool in-cabin technology, you'll find the 2013 Nissan Sentra worth your time, scoring high marks on all fronts.
The new Sentra isn't as fun to drive as the Ford Focus, Mazda3 or Dodge Dart, and it's not as isolated from the noisy, bumpy world as the Chevy Cruze.
The 2013 Nissan Sentra is as new as new gets. In addition to all the improvements you can see and touch, the Sentra is built on a new, lighter platform and driven by a new engine and transmission setup.
Driving Impressions Even though it rides, handles and responds very well, how the new Sentra drives is one of the least remarkable things about it. The uninitiated might need some time getting...used to the continuously variable transmission (CVT) – a gearless automatic – but Nissan is doing CVT better than anyone and in some applications we're starting to prefer it to a traditional automatic. The engine's 130-horsepower rating is at the low end of the segment, but the flexible CVT compensates some. It doesn't make the car any faster, but the new Sentra includes a 3-mode drive selector with Eco, Normal and Sport modes to maximize economy or responsiveness. Electric power steering continues to improve across the industry, and the Sentra offers better steering feel than the Hyundai Elantra, for instance. Highway ride is right in line with what we expect from a good compact sedan nowadays, and the front seats are comfortable for at least a couple of hours (the longest stretch we've tested them to this point).
You can send directions from your computer to your Sentra via Google. You can listen to Pandora Internet radio. You can have your text messages read to you, and send replies without taking your hands off the wheel. How great is the future?
EASY FILL TIRE ALERT
Keeping your tires inflated is key to maximizing fuel economy, and Nissan's new system makes it really easy. Just start filling and the car will give a quick honk of the horn when the tire reaches the recommended pressure.
High-quality materials, electroluminescent gauges and a tasteful, contoured design help create what is arguably the finest interior in all of Compactsedanland. The rear seating area is another inside highlight, offering backseat drivers more legroom than some of the smaller mid-size sedans, along with similarly generous headroom. The theme continues all the way back into one of the category's biggest trunks. The new Sentra is roomy enough, in fact, that it's one of a handful of compact sedans classified as mid-size by the EPA.Exterior
Softly sculpted sheet metal, substantial proportions and shiny-object LED headlight accents and taillights all combine to give the 2013 Nissan Sentra class-above parking lot presence. All models feature a chrome-finish grille, chrome-finish door handles and body-color painted side mirrors, while up-level versions feature alloy wheels, fog lights and side-mirror-integrated turn signals. The sportier-looking but similarly tuned Sentra SR includes a rear spoiler, chrome exhaust tip finisher, unique 17-inch alloy wheels, and other sporty add-ons all around.
The base-model 2013 Nissan Sentra S has a starting sticker price of $16,780 with the 6-speed manual transmission, $18,050 with the automatic transmission. For those prices you get a Sentra with air conditioning, a 4-speaker AM/FM/CD/Aux audio system, electroluminescent gauges, basic cloth seats, a 4-way adjustable steering wheel, 16-inch covered steel wheels, and a modern complement of active and passive safety features including six airbags and electronic stability and traction controls.
A fully loaded 2013 Nissan Sentra SL tops out in the $23,000 range with some equipment you couldn't have had for $100,000 just a few years ago. In addition to a moonroof, leather seats (heated fronts), more stylish 17-inch wheels, dual-zone automatic climate control and automatic headlights, a fully optioned Sentra includes keyless entry and push-button start, a backup camera, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, USB/iPod integration, satellite radio, an 8-speaker Bose audio system and NissanConnect with Navigation featuring a 5.8-inch touchscreen infotainment system with all the Google, Pandora and texting goodness outlined above.
The Sentra's 1.8-liter 4-cylinder engine is among the least powerful in the segment, but we can attest that it moves at least two adults up to highway speeds just fine. With four adults, though, highway merging might require a bit more planning. In addition to the CVT there's a 6-speed manual transmission available, but only on the base model and it delivers about 50 fewer miles per tankful. The FE+ grades achieve one more highway mile per gallon with some aerodynamic adds and low-rolling-resistance tires, but it's mostly a marketing ploy (40 mpg is much sexier than 39) and not worth the extra $400. Even if you drove exclusively on the highway, the FE+ package would save you just $50 and 10 gallons per year (at $5/gallon, 15,000 miles/year).
130 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm (124 horsepower w/CA emissions)
128 lb-ft of torque @ 3,600 rpm (125 lb-ft w/CA emissions)
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 27/36 mpg (manual), 30/39 mpg (automatic), 30/40 (automatic w/FE+ trim)
Ranging from $16,780 to more than $23,000, the 2013 Nissan Sentra is priced in line with its competitors on a features-per-dollar basis, between the Ford Focus at the high end and the Hyundai Elantra at the low end. Looking ahead, we expect the new Sentra to hold its value better than its predecessor and better than the category average. The 2013 Nissan Sentra shouldn't cost you significantly more or less than its competitors in the long run, but it qualifies as a solid value because it feels like a more substantial, more refined car than many of the others.
By Vincent (NC) on Monday, May 13, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 770overall rating 7 of 10rating details
Pros: "Price and value and new design look"
Cons: "Initial engine pick up, or lack of it."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 7
"I was in the market after driving a 95 Honda Civic for years. I checked a few models, Prius, Honda Fit and Chevy Cruze, ect and was floored by the Sentra SR. The features and styling makes it look indeed like a "mini-altima", for thousands less. Now, I was not use to the CVT tansmission, nor the 130 hp 1.8 liter engine. If there is a drawback to the car... it is the initial lackluster performance. You will not win any races trying to reach 30-40 speed. After it reaches past that and gains momentum on the highway it is a pleasure to drive. I like the electronic power steering, makes a big difference to me. That being said, the flip side is great gas mileage, combined 33 mpg so far. Now, this car is big....really! The back seat and trunk surprising roommie. I believe the US classes it as a Mid-Size, or it should. Interior materials are well laid out, though looks of no frills, but the quality is there. I find the seat very comfortable and have no issues like some others. I bought the SR model with bluetooth, spoiler, and sport alloy wheels...sharp! Without question, this is a commuter car. I hope it is as trouble free as my 95 Honda Civic was."
2 people out of 2 found this review helpful
By PM (CT) on Friday, May 03, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 200overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Interior layout, tech, Style & comfort, ECO button"
Cons: "Wind noise from side mirrors, Loose steering"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"Just purchased a 2013 Sentra SL for my wife. We have owned the last two generations of Sentra's and this is buy far the most well thought out car yet. Comfort, style, features, and efficiency all put this car ahead of most competitors today. I think Nissan played this redesign very, very well. Can it really get up to 40mpg hwy consistently? It really does depend on your driving habits so mpg numbers from companies sometimes is over-hyped. With that said, fuel economy, ride comfort, interior room, and exterior styling are this Nissan's trump card. Ive read reviews that have talked about the lack of horsepower. Dually noted, it will not win you many races. But what I think you are seeing is a departure from car companies catering to the "Fast and Furious" generation. This car reaches a growing demographic of budget conscious buyers that want style, proven reliability, good tech features, and low fuel expenses. As for the car itself, it has enough power to get you up to 80mph without flooring it. The CVT transmission does feel different than the last generation (which I miss actually), but this car comes with the Eco/Sport buttons which all make the CVT behave differently. I've found the ECO mode to behave most like the old tranny. It is a bit too jumpy in Sport mode, even if you are trying to beat someone off the line when the light turns green. I've also heard people talk about the "moaning" of the CVT at low rpms. Maybe somewhat, but nothing to take your eyes off the road or think something is wrong with the car. The CVT transmission is very unique in that it reacts to various inputs and situations (throttle, road conditions, temperature). Once you learn how to work the CVT in different situations, you will learn to appreciate it's versatility and wide range of ratios. Interior is very well laid out and has some great soft touches. Our SL even has the (faux) woodgrain which is a nice touch. The steering is nice but is a bit light. Car wasn't designed to be whipped around on the back roads but it does handle corners fairly well. Oversteer is very noticeable. If you want something to whip around on back roads and take out to speed around on weekends, look elsewhere...this car is not for you (until the SE-R comes out) This car is a tremendous value. There may be other cars out there with better driving dynamics, but this new Sentra is a smart buy for anyone looking to get around comfortably and in style. More than enough car for my wife. If you're gonna buy one, get the SV or SL, may only cost you an extra $10/month...it will be worth the features. Best wishes."
3 people out of 3 found this review helpful
By Treads04 (TX) on Thursday, May 02, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 1,000overall rating 4 of 10rating details
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1
"We bought a 2013 Nissan Sentra. Automatic transmission. It is only two weeks old. It is leaking transmission oil. We have the leather seats, and other great stuff. The head rest on the front seats is uncomfortable. I am the main driver of the car. My back was hurt for two weeks because of the headrest on the front seats. Also the recall on the front passenger seat airbags does not cover the time when my car was made. My daughter weighs about 160 pounds. I have found that the airbags turn off from time to time when she is in the seat. She has to move around to get the airbags to turn back on. It hugs the road really well. Not much pick up on entrance ramps on freeways and highways."
2 people out of 3 found this review helpful
By Missy (CA) on Wednesday, May 01, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 650overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Great price, great options, sporty"
Cons: "XM/Live traffic cost, eco/reg/sport drive buttons"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 8
"I'm not sure what the unhappy reviewers are saying. Did they not test drive this vehicle before they bought it? I will agree that it's not the fastest off the line, but what do you expect? It's an entry level car with a small motor. But you know what? Perfect for me, and probably lots of other people too. I could get a Lexus, but didn't want to spend that kind of money on a car. I take the train to work, so I just need something to get me to the train station (in stop and go traffic), and leave parked in public parking all day. I didn't want to park a $50k car in public parking, but I did want a car that offered some bells and whistles, and had some style to it. This new Sentra fit the bill perfectly. 98% of my driving is City/stop and go driving and I'm getting 31-32 mpg. The one freeway trip taken, we got about 38 mpg. The armrest is a bit far back, but you get used to it, and I think it promotes better posture not having it to lean on too much. I do wish the XM/LiveTraffic was a bit cheaper (yes, I already got a bill to renew, since it only comes with 3months of service). Not sure I'll renew since I don't really drive that far, but it is fun to have. The only other weird thing, altho not a deal breaker, is that the eco/regular/sport drive buttons are in a weird hard to see place, and hard to see while driving. But overall, this is a great car."
5 people out of 5 found this review helpful
By Unhappy (NY) on Thursday, April 11, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 600overall rating 4 of 10rating details
Pros: "Roomy rear seating, better gas mileage"
Cons: "lacks power, uncomfortable & noisy"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 2
"This is my FOURTH Nissan Sentra and my LEAST favorite out of all. I actually liked the boxier shape of the 2010 model, but the style is something I have no control of. I stayed with Nissan because the transition was easier with having an existing lease already and it was always a comfortable and reliable little car which got me where I needed to go, as well as being affordable. Although the gas mileage does seem better (always a plus) and the back/rear is extremely comfortable and roomier, the drivers seat is not comfortable at all. It feels like something isn't right and I find myself adjusting everything each time I get in the car. It feels like the space between the wheel and the top of your legs is limited and no matter how many ways I adjust the seat and wheel, my legs do not feel comfortable. Also, my arms are not relaxed or comfortable either - it feels like I am stretching them it's not because I am too far back. I am very disatisied and unhappy with the way this car drives. It feels like something is wrong with the car - like it doesn't want to move - like it's stuck in the wrong gear - or almost like the emergency break is on - it jerks - its NOISY which is distracting - it is not easy or pleasant to drive - it feels like you have to work to drive it if that makes sense - not smooth at all. This happens when pulling out, stopping at a light or stop sign, turning and even braking. I am told by the dealer (salesman, sales manager, service manager, and supposedly an outside engineer that looked at the vehicle) that this is "just the way the car is manufactured" and that nothing is wrong with it - that it is the result of the new CVT transmission."
5 people out of 8 found this review helpful
By gbbg (TX) on Saturday, April 06, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 256overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "price, comfort, features, interior and boot volume"
Cons: "acceleration from stop, ride a little stiff"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 8
"We bought a new 2013 Sentra SV w/navi and alloy wheels. The car is smooth and super efficient. However, remember it's not an Altima even though it looks closely like one and hence is slow to pick up or accelerate. We found no problems with entering freeways or ramps, however this usually happens from about driving at 40-50mph. Accelerating from traffic stops though is a little pain. More so in the ECO mode. In the 256 miles we drove, we reached about 29.8mpg in combined driving conditions (starting from 26) and expect it to go higher. The interiors are huge and ride is smooth, if not a little stiff but we are upgrading from a 2003 Mitsubishi Galant so hey no complaints on that! The voice recognition is spotty and we are yet to figure out a way to train the system. The boot space is awesome, rear cam is good. Be mindful of the rear view/blindspots. The rear (C-pillars I presume) could block out some of the view and the high boot reduces the view (but most new cars are like this). For the money, it is worth it. Though, 256 is still relatively new. Would wait to see how it performs further."
6 people out of 6 found this review helpful