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2013 Nissan Sentra SL


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3. April 2013

While I probably shouldn’t admit it, when I was told I was going to be getting a 2013 Nissan Sentra to drive, I winced.

Call me spoiled.

You see, while there is nothing wrong with the Sentra, when I thought about the car, it seemed as though it is an awkwardly designed (too high a roof with too narrow a width) small car that wants to pretend like it’s a big car.

Call me stupid.

2013 Nissan Sentra

Because had I realized that the 2013 Sentra is an all-new car, I would have recognized that this is a small(ish) car that, both inside and out, punches way beyond its weight class (speaking of which, the new car is 150 lb. lighter than its predecessor).

It is a damn nice car.

Al Castignetti, vice president and general manager, Nissan Div., Nissan North America, had this to say about the car: "The 2013 Nissan Sentra is the most revolutionary design in the nameplate's 30-year history, a worthy addition to what is without question the most innovative, highest quality, highest value sedan lineup in Nissan history. With the complete redesign for 2013, Sentra is closer in look and feel to Altima than to a typical compact sedan. Like Altima, the new Sentra offers numerous attributes, such as high fuel economy and easy-to-use connectivity, that offer real customer value and convenience."

2013 Nissan Sentra

While I don’t necessarily want to argue with Mr. Castignetti, while there is certainly a familial resemblance with the Altima from the front end of the vehicle, with the trapezoid-shaped grille, pulled-back headlamps, and LED accents, the Sentra is so well designed that it really stands on its own.  Yes, they both offer plenty, but there is no reason for anyone to think that the 2013 Sentra is in the shade of its bigger brother.

Small cars that have 130-hp engines and spoilers generally look rather silly to me. Yet in the case of the angular-yet-smooth Sentra, it looks relevant. . .and it actually may be beneficial, as the car has a fairly low coefficient of drag: depending on trim selected, it can be as low as 0.27.

The car provides keyless entry and pushbutton start. The pushbutton is better than that found in some cars with a higher price point. Much better. Some companies feeling rather smug about the plaudits they’re receiving for design ought to get inside the Sentra—which, I should hasten to point out has a base MSRP of $19,760, so we’re talking about a vehicle that can be accessed by a number of people—because it is nicely appointed and well-thought out. It doesn’t pretend to be a luxury car, not does it insinuate, “Gee, if you had bought a more expensive vehicle, you’d have much better looking appointments.”

2013 Nissan Sentra

The vehicle—like Nissans large and small—has a continuously variable transmission, which helps provide better fuel efficiency. Some people (these would be people who write about cars, by and large) are often dismissive of CVTs because they don’t find them to be as responsive as step-gear transmissions (which are both automatics and manuals—they have lots of gears whereas the CVTs run with belts and pulleys). Perhaps it has something to do with the size/weight of the Sentra, but I found it to be sufficiently peppy for what it is (a car that someone is likely to buy to drive to work, etc., not buy to run quarter miles on Telegraph).

So when you think “Sentra,” don’t make the same mistake that I did.

Selected specs

Engine: 1.8-liter, DOHC I4

Material: Cast aluminum block and head

Horsepower: 130 @ 6,000 rpm

Torque: 128 lb-ft @ 3,600 rpm

Transmission: continuously variable

Wheelbase: 106.3 in.

Length: 182.1 in.

Width: 69.3 in.

Height: 58.9 in.

Curb weight: 2,851 lb.

Base MSRP : $19,760 (destination: $790)

EPA: 30/39/34 city/highway/combined mpg

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