New Car: 2013 Nissan Sentra

The new Nissan Sentra has 130 hp. That’s a number surpassed by every car in its class. Plus, it’s less than the outgoing Sentra had. In fact, the 2013 Sentra is outgunned by the ’94 Sentra SE-R. To paraphrase Dr. Zoidberg: Nissan, your horsepower numbers are bad and you should feel bad.

Last November, Nissan’s head of design told us that he didn’t feel Nissan needed a consistent, familial design language. He must have been talking about the difference between the Juke and Xterra, because the addition of the Sentra to Nissan’s lineup gives the company three very similar-looking sedans.

Only nominally changed from the global Sylphy sedan we saw in April, the Sentra is a dead ringer for the Altima up front, and a familial resemblance to the Versa is clear. Nissan says the Sentra’s beltline is lower than the outgoing car’s, but with oversized design elements like giant taillights and bulbous front wheel arches, the new Sentra suffers from smallsedanitis. The stubbiness is especially pronounced with the optional Sport front and rear fasciae and lower sill extensions, making the Sentra look even fuller vertically. Often, a zaftig appearance like the Sentra’s is lessened in person—but the cars in these photos already are wearing optional 17-inch wheels.

Those are real LEDs you’re seeing dressing up the headlights and taillights; they’re standard equipment. The chrome-ish door handles, window trim, and a strip on the trunk are decent upscale touches.

Have any doubt that size sells? Look at the Versa: Unremarkable in virtually every category, underpowered, and cheap-feeling, it’s big and has a large back seat. And Nissan is on pace to sell more than 100,000 in the U.S. this year. Good thing, then, that the Sentra also is substantial inside.

Here’s how Nissan’s engineers and designers did it: compared to the outgoing car, Nissan stretched the Sentra’s wheelbase 0.6 inch and lengthened the sedan 2.3 inches overall. As a result, the Sentra has 37.4 inches of rear legroom, topping the Hyundai Elantra (33.1 in), Chevy Cruze (35.4), and even the Honda Civic (36.2), and falling about a half-inch short of VW’s Jetta (38.1). Other dimensions seem ample, too.

How this is all executed is critical. Many of the Sentra’s competitors have high-quality interior materials with great fit and finish, and a Versa- or Jetta-like cheapening will scare off customers. Nissan says that the instrument panel and driver’s door armrest—yup, just that side—are done in soft-touch plastic, and the Sentra has attractive-looking electroluminescent gauges. We’ll have to wait for an in-person session to find out whether the end result is as premium as Nissan claims, though.

Thanks to: Car and Driver


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