By Keith Buglewicz
KBB Expert Rating: 8.4
The 2016 Nissan Sentra compact sedan gets a slew of upgrades this year, adding to its already impressive qualities of feeling more upscale, bigger and roomier than its reasonable price tag suggests. In addition to offering tons of interior space with a surprisingly large back seat, the Sentra this year gets refreshed styling, with a new nose and tail, and an upgraded interior. There are other improvements, such as additional sound deadening, a suspension that's slightly stiffer, and advanced electronics like adaptive cruise control. Yet it does all this while undercutting competitors like the new Honda Civic, Ford Focus and many others, sometimes by thousands of dollars.
The 2016 Nissan Sentra is roomy, comfortable and offers plenty of high-tech features. It's also not particularly expensive, even fully loaded. If that sounds like the car for you, it's worth checking out.
We like the styling updates to the Sentra, but despite that, the styling's still on the anonymous side. Additionally, the Sentra sells on value, so if you're looking for a powerful engine or snappy handling, you might be better served by a Volkswagen Jetta, Honda Civic or Mazda3.
KBB Expert Ratings
The 2016 Nissan Sentra gets new headlights, new taillights and new wheels across the board. Inside, there are now piano-black accents. New driver-assist technologies include forward emergency braking and adaptive cruise control. There are also improvements to the suspension, and a slew of new sound-deadening measures.
The 2016 Nissan Sentra is a daily commuter, unconcerned with brisk acceleration or razor-sharp cornering. It's quiet, thanks to the additional sound deadening, and the 4-cylinder engine only makes its...
... presence known at full throttle, and even that's not so loud thanks to the addition of Nissan's D-Step logic to the continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT), which mimics a standard transmission under heavy loads. The suspension got slightly stiffer this year, but just enough to give the ride a more planted feel, not actually make it sporty or anything. Instead, SL and SR models can be ordered with a Technology package that includes adaptive cruise control with low-speed follow function; turn it on, and you can leave the car to monitor its own speed, even in stop-and-go traffic. We'd prefer more than the 130 horsepower the 1.8-liter 4-cylinder musters, but commuters will probably like the prospect of 40 mpg more.
INTELLIGENT CRUISE CONTROL
New to the Sentra this year, Nissan's Intelligent Cruise Control – available on Sentra SL and SR models – takes the pain out of commuting by bringing the car to a stop in heavy traffic. Click the "resume" button, and you'll be back up to speed in no time.
EASY FILL TIRE ALERT
Nissan cleverly integrates its tire-pressure-monitoring system to the horn. The upshot is that if you're filling your tire, the horn will honk when the proper pressure is achieved. It's super simple and handy, and the only question is why everybody doesn't do this.
The Sentra already had one of the nicest interiors in the compact-sedan class, and the 2016 Sentra is even better. New are piano-black accents, better sound deadening, a 5-inch color LED info screen between the main gauges, and an improved audio-system interface. But as comfortable as the front seats are, the rear seats are a surprising highlight. There's plenty of room for tall passengers, and the Sentra offers a ton of legroom. The trunk is equally huge, and there's a reason why: According to the EPA's classification system, there's so much room in the Sentra that it's actually a midsize.
The 2016 Sentra's exterior styling closely mimics the recently updated Nissan Altima; think of it as "Smalltima" if you like. The new headlights and grille treatment are more dramatic, but avoid making sporty promises the car can't keep, and SL and SR trim levels get LED low-beam headlights as well. Additionally, all models get new wheel designs. The rest of the car is untouched, and that's fine. We like the smoothly sculpted sheet metal, which manages to hold your attention without being flashy or overdone.
The most basic 2016 Nissan Sentra is the S, and it comes with a 6-speed manual, three driving modes – Eco, Normal and Sport – and standard air conditioning. It's also equipped with Bluetooth phone and audio integration, a USB port, keyless entry and truck release, electroluminescent gauges, power windows, power mirrors, cruise control, auto headlights, and an audio system with four speakers. For extra cargo space the rear seatbacks fold in a 60/40 split. On the safety front, all Sentras get a modern complement of active and passive safety features including six airbags and electronic stability and traction controls.
The 2016 Sentra SL is the top dog, but the Sentra SR also comes with the LED low-beam headlights, alloy wheels and keyless ignition, and it can be equipped with the same upgraded audio system that includes an 8-inch screen and navigation. A technology package for the SR and SL includes adaptive cruise control and forward emergency braking. The mid-level Sentra SV offers a Driver's Assist package, which adds navigation, blind-spot warning with rear cross-traffic alert, and SiriusXM traffic. An FE+ S model adds underbody panels, low-rolling-resistance tires, and a drivetrain optimized to achieve up to 40 mpg on the highway.
The 2016 Nissan Sentra comes with just one engine: a 1.8-liter 4-cylinder that, with only 130 horsepower, is among the least powerful in the class. But no matter, the continuously variable automatic transmission it comes with works its magic to get the Sentra up to speed with little fuss, and passing power is fine as long as you plan a heartbeat ahead. There is a 6-speed manual transmission available, but only on the base model, and it actually hurts fuel economy, rather than helping it. We'd say skip the FE+ grade, since it only gets one highway mile per gallon more than the regular Sentra (40 mpg is much sexier than 39) and many features aren't available on it.
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), 29/39 mpg (automatic), 30/40 mpg (automatic w/FE+ trim)
The 2016 Nissan Sentra S with a manual transmission comes with a Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of about $17,600, including the $835 destination charge. On the other side of the pricing spectrum, the Sentra SL with the technology package comes out to just under $25,400, which is a pretty solid bargain for a car with adaptive cruise, blind-spot detection and forward emergency braking. Prices are on the lower side for the segment, undercutting cars like the Honda Civic and Ford Focus, but coming in a bit higher than the Kia Forte. As a long-term prospect, the 2016 Sentra's resale value is about average for the compact-sedan class, but its solidity and refinement make it feel like it's worth more. Be sure to check the Kelley Blue Book Fair Purchase Price to see what others in your area are paying for the 2016 Sentra.