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Nissan Sentra: Practical Panache

By Sue Mead, October 4th, 2014

For 2015, Nissan makes more refinements to its seventh-generation Sentra. This compact sedan was completely redesigned in 2013 to "look and feel a class above its competitors", with enhancements added for both the 2014 and 2015 model years.

Manufacturer photo: The Sentra continues to offer class-above design standards inside and out, as well as efficiency in engineering
Manufacturer photo: The Sentra continues to offer class-above design standards inside and out, as well as efficiency in engineering

Sentra regularly appears on Top 10 lists as one of the best low-priced new cars based upon both its sticker price and the cost to own. Prices for the Sentra average from $15,990 to $19,590, depending on the trim level and optional equipment.

The Sentra receives added once-optional equipment or packages as standard equipment on many trim 2015 levels, and has packages available for other grades that were not available before. Most, but not all, changes for 2015 are on the interior.

There are some notable exterior features, like Sentra's front grille with standard headlights illuminated by LED accents and LED taillights. Sentra's outside styling may not be a standout, as others in its class, such as the Hyundai Elantra, but inside buyers will find higher-quality interior design materials not typically found in everyday compacts, including soft-touch instrument panel and front door armrests, available leather-appointed seating and available Maple wood-tone trim.

The Sentra is sculpted to be a sleek-looking sports sedan with a gleaming chrome-framed grille, which is capped by arrow-point headlamps accented with LED bulbs lined up dot-to-dot under the larger lights. The beltline and aerodynamically shaped roofline cut a sophisticated profile; the back end is wide and low-slung, with wraparound taillamps and a liftgate with an integrated spoiler on some trims. Chrome also accents the door handles and windows. Sixteen-inch wheels and tires are standard; 17-inch wheels are available, as are a few other exterior premium features, such as integrated rearview mirror turn signals.

Manufacturer photo: The Sentra continues to offer class-above design standards inside and out, as well as efficiency in engineering

Inside, is a pleasant interior that is roomy for its city-runabout size and a comfortable cabin that is defined by soft-touch panels and easy-to-read gauges. The center stack flows seamlessly into the console area, where the shift lever and handbrake are easy to reach. There is good visibility, a large glove box, and a few cubbies for stowage. Front seats include six-way driver and four-way passenger-side seat adjustments. Rear seats have good legroom and split 60/40 for trunk access and creative stowage.

The base-level stereo is an AM/FM/CD with four speakers, but higher end options include six-speaker kits with a 5.8-inch color display and an eight-speaker Bose system.

Sentra also offers an info/nav/tainment system, NissanConnect, as an option, which includes Bluetooth connectivity, Pandora radio streaming access and hands-free text messaging. A wide range of smartphone apps for both iPhone and Android were added last year including Pandora, iHeartRadio and Facebook.

Sentra's power comes from a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine that gets 130 horsepower and 188 lb.-ft. of torque. Base models are mated to a six-speed manual transmission, while all other models in the lineup get a Xtronic continuously variable transmission (CVT); both come with Normal, Sport and Eco modes. Fuel economy is rated at 30 mpg in the city, 39 mpg on the highway.

We liked Sentra's handling on the road and enjoyed the sport-feel to the suspension. The compact sedan received reduced passenger cabin noise in 2014 by employing greater body insulating and sealing, along with a change in the engine mount layout.

Manufacturer photo: The Sentra continues to offer class-above design standards inside and out, as well as efficiency in engineering

strong>A quicker steering ratio (16.3:1) and electronic power steering system were added. Body roll was reduced and a D-Mode step shift program was added for better acceleration feel. Our small complaints were the intrusion of noise from under the hood with hard throttle, as well as some road noise that was a result of the vehicle's low-rolling resistance tires. New Sentra exterior colors are added for 2015: Titanium, Cayenne Red, Gun Metallic and Red Alert.

Specifications

Base price $15,990 (as tested: Est. $17,540)
Curb weight 2,847 lbs.
Displacement 1.8-liter
Engine type 16-valve 4-cylinder w/SMPFI
Epa mileage rating 30 mpg city, 39 mpg highway
Fuel capacity 13.2 gal.
Horsepower (net) 130 at 6000 rpm
Overall length 182.1 in.
Torque (lb.-ft.) 128 at 3600 rpm
Transmission CVT
Vehicle type 5-passenger compact FWD sedan
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