Nissan is in the midst of refreshing most of its lineup, and now it's the Sentra's turn. The Sentra is redesigned with a new engine and a more upscale look, inside and out. The compact sedan gets lighter, longer and more fuel efficient for 2013. Competitors include the Chevrolet Cruze, Ford Focus, Honda Civic, Hyundai Elantra and Toyota Corolla.
The new Sentra will be available in base S, SV, SV, SR and SL trim levels. An FE+ package on the S and SV adds aerodynamic tweaks for slightly improved highway gas mileage.
The Sentra grows 2.3 inches longer this year and gets exterior styling updates that tie it to Nissan's recently redesigned Altima. It wears the Altima's new trapezoid-shaped grille and similar wraparound headlights with LED accents.
Sporty SR versions add 17-inch five-spoke aluminum-alloy wheels, sport-oriented front- and rear-end designs, a unique grille, lower-body side sill extensions, a rear spoiler with integrated LED brake light and a chrome-tipped exhaust pipe. They don't include any suspension or drivetrain changes, however.
Inside, leather seats are newly available, as is maple wood-tone trim. They join a redesigned instrument panel and a host of new standard and optional features. Newly standard are a tilt/telescoping steering column, six-way manual driver's seat, two auxiliary 12-volt power outlets and remote keyless entry. Options include Nissan's Easy Fill Tire Alert system, a NissanConnect navigation system with hands-free text message reading (though you can only reply with preset responses) and a 5.8-inch touch-screen. Sentra buyers can also get dual-zone automatic climate control, Bluetooth connectivity and a Bose stereo.
A revised rear overhang expands trunk volume to 15.1 cubic feet, which leads the competitive pack — in the case of the Civic and Corolla, by more than 20 percent. A 60/40-split, folding rear seat is standard.
Under the Hood
All models are powered by a new 130-horsepower, 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine. Transmission choices are a six-speed manual and an updated version of Nissan's continuously variable automatic transmission. Nissan says the CVT is standard across the lineup, but base S models can be equipped with the manual.
The FE+ (fuel economy plus) models will get an estimated 40 mpg in highway EPA ratings, Nissan says. CVT-equipped models are rated at 39 mpg on the highway. The Sentra's combined EPA rating (34 mpg) beats Nissan's immediate competitors, whose mainstream versions range from 29 mpg (Corolla) to 33 mpg (Elantra).
Six airbags, antilock brakes and an electronic stability system are standard. Most models have rear drum brakes, but all-disc brakes are optional on the SR and SL.
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