Nissan Sentra
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Overall

After a full 2013 redesign that increased size and efficiency, the Sentra is a significantly better-driving and roomier sedan.

Drivetrain

One-size-fits-all 130-horsepower four-cylinder engine mates with a six-speed manual transmission, or optional continuously variable unit; still no sign of a Spec V performance model.

Nissan could be accused of going just a little too far in rubber-stamping its corporate design when it comes to the compact Sentra. That’s because the design of the compact four-door so closely mimics the mid-size Altima that, from not too far away, you could easily confuse the two. Both cars share similarly styled grilles and muscular-looking fenders and the sweep of the roofline that ends at a short rear deck also appears familiar. Compared to the previous Sentra, this version is slightly wider, lower and longer and has about the same interior volume, but the optical illusion is that it appears larger than it actually is. Under the hood is a 130-horsepower four-cylinder engine that connects to a six-speed manual transmission or optional continuously variable (gear-less) unit. When equipped with the latter, Sentras are rated at 30 mpg in the city and 39 on the highway (40 mpg highway if the specially tuned FE+ version is selected). Standard features include air conditioning, tilt and telescopic steering column, power windows and door locks and remote keyless entry. Content levels increase as you head up the remaining four trims, topping out at the SL that comes with dual-zone climate control, premium sound system, 17-inch wheels (16-inch wheels are standard), push-button ignition and a fancier interior. However you’ll need to head beyond that point to add leather-covered seats, a touch-screen navigation system, rearview monitor and other niceties that can take the Sentra as far away from a bare-bones econo-box as you can imagine. There’s no hint that a sporty SE-R model (or a Spec V for that matter) with a larger engine and added performance is about to reappear anytime soon, but Nissan did listen to critics and has revised both the electrically assisted power steering and the bouncy suspension. Not bad in less than a year.

Base price (incl. destination): $16,800 (2013)
Type: Four-door sedan
Engine (hp): 1.8-liter DOHC I4 (130)
Transmissions: Six-speed manual; CVT (opt.)
MPG (city/hwy): 27/36 (MT); 30/39 (CVT)
Safety: Front airbags; side-impact airbags; side-curtain airbags; anti-lock brakes; traction control; stability control
Weight (lb.): 2,820