In the 20 years that the Nissan Sentra has been available in Canada, it’s gone from being an econobox to sort-of-sporty to now an “upscale” compact sedan. Their second-in-line entry vehicle after the Versa, it would have been hard to imagine way back when that one day it would sport technologies like a continuously variable transmission (CVT), Bluetooth hands-free phone system and satellite radio. Depending on how much you want to spend above MSRP $14,848 for the base model, the 2013 Sentra can have all that and more. It even features the vaunted push button start that was once found only in F1 vehicles and plain clothed sports cars, something, however, the Sentra certainly is not.
Our press vehicle featured the SR package ($1,100, also requires $1,300 CVT option) complete with a shiny badge on the trunk indicating the same, meaning the car came equipped with rear disc brakes, fog lights, body aero, 17-inch alloy wheels, driver’s seat back pocket (!) and not much else to add any actual performance. Painted in a very vibrant Metallic Blue ($135), the Sentra isn’t an eyesore but as mentioned earlier there’s no pretense of sportiness here. The car sits high off the ground giving it an awkward top-heavy look, and following the industry’s current affection with chrome there is plenty of that surrounding the large black grille, window trim and on the door handles. On the inside, the “premium” cloth seats are comfortable enough for long stretches of driving and and the audio system is attractive and easier to navigate than most.
It’s clear that this generation of the Sentra is geared more towards bragging rights over how much fuel you saved during your last drive rather than 0–100 km/h numbers. An Eco Mode button modifies engine and transmission settings to maximize fuel efficiency to help you achieve Nissan’s estimated 5.8 L/100 km (combined), the only annoyance being having to press the button to activate the feature every time you turn on the car. The smooth operation of the CVT means there’s not a whole lot of audible or physical feedback from the 1.8 L engine that provides 130 hp and 128 lb-ft of torque. In fact, every voyage in the car is quiet and civilized that will make this vehicle appealing to a more grown-up segment as opposed to previous iterations that sported SE-R and Spec V emblems.
Amongst its peers — and there are many — its well-equipped and does the job just fine. But is that enough to stand out in today’s crowded and ever-growing market? Personally, I would have liked it if the Sentra were a little more sleek and/or nimble like the Kia Forte or the Mazda3. For those that want a reliable, fuel-efficient A to B car with all the bells and whistles, though, then the Sentra will fit the bill.