7 Generations Over 34 Years Leads to the Best Sentra Yet
When the third best-selling car in Nissan’s line-up was ready for a mid-cycle refresh, the designers knew customers would have high expectations for an already successful car to become even better. Changes in the suspension resulted in improved ride and handling characteristics, additional available driver assistance technologies made it safer and attention to interior comfort led to the quietest Nissan Sentra ever.
Clean Fleet Report will have a more extensive Road Test Review of the 2016 Nissan Sentra later, but our initial impression is that Nissan has upped the quality, handling and quietness, so the new Sentra continues to be a serious player in the compact car class.
Driving Experience: On the Road
The front-wheel drive 2016 Nissan Sentra is powered by a 1.8-liter, DOHC, 16-valve, four-cylinder engine producing 130 hp and 128 lb-ft of torque. For
California, due to emissions tuning, those numbers are 124 and 125. The base model Sentra comes with a six-speed manual but all other trim levels are standard with Nissan’s Xtronic Continuously Variable Transmission, CVT. The EPA has rated the Sentra mpg, with the CVT, at 29 City/ 38 Highway/ 32 Combined. The Sentra with the six-speed manual is rated a bit less while the fuel miser Sentra FE+ S is rated a bit more. Find the Sentra you like, but have confidence you will be right at or above 40 mpg on the highway.
Clean Fleet Report had the opportunity to spend the day with the 2016 Sentra at a Nissan Press event in Southern California, with much of our time behind the wheel driving Pacific Coast Highway starting in Newport Beach, through Laguna Beach, Dana Point and San Clemente. The route was chosen to showcase the Sentra’s everyday capabilities of negotiating streets and highway and it did so with ease and comfort. The CVT is known for smooth performance because there are no shift points. But for 2016, Nissan programmed-in what they call “Gen 3 D-Step Shift Logic” that produces shift points to replicate a traditional transmission. Apparently consumers feel more comfortable feeling their automatic transmission shift. Not me though! I enjoy driving a CVT-equipped car and never feeling the transmission shift. Oh well.
We gave high marks to the 2016 Altima and 2016 Maxima, Sentra’s larger siblings for their handling, acceleration and fuel economy. The Sentra hits our “40 MPG Club” with the FE+ S model, which achieved the numbers with a low coefficient of drag of .27 – .29 CD (based on which trim level you buy), rear spoiler, underbody aerodynamics and low rolling resistance tires. Nissan’s “Energetic Flow” design language is also seen on the 2016 Murano SUV, Altima and Maxima. This continues Nissan’s “Innovation that excites” design philosophy that for the 2016 Sentra includes active grille shutters, new front fascia, grille, fenders, hood and the recognizable Nissan boomerang headlights.
Clean Fleet Report drove the Sentra SL model with 17-inch 10-spoke aluminum-alloy wheels and 205/50R/17 all-season tires. The cornering was flat with no noticeable drifting of the car through tight or high-speed turns. A factor in this is that Nissan has brought their Active Understeer Control (AUC) technology to the 2016 Sentra (it’s been available on the Altima since 2013). AUC uses “intelligent control logic” to sense, during tight or high-speed cornering, that the front end is close to losing its desired cornering track, which would result in the front end pushing. To combat this loss of cornering control, AUC lightly and automatically applies the inside front brake to slow down the turning speed of that wheel so in effect, the car pivots on this wheel as the outer front wheel continues to turn at the desired speed. If you test it on the same corner repeatedly it can be felt doing its thing, but in reality all you want is to get through the corner safely, so you’ll be glad Nissan brought this technology to their compact sedan.
Driving Experience: Exterior
The exterior of the 2016 Sentra was redesigned receiving Nissan’s signature V-motion grille, boomerang multi-reflector, projector halogen headlights with LED accents, daytime running lights and taillights and a reshaped hood, front and rear fenders, fascias and a stylish sculpted front bumper. During the media event we were treated to an explanation of the design theory by Taro Ueda, VP Nissan Design North America. He demonstrated with painter’s tape the flow lines and angles that make-up the 2016 Sentra design. If you opt for the SR model, you will get a rear spoiler with an integrated LED brake light, lower body side sill extensions, chrome exhaust tip and 17-inch five-spoke aluminum-alloy wheels.
Driving Experience: Interior
While the Sentra interior retains its clean, non-flashy look, it has been upgraded with soft touch surfaces, a 370Z-inspired steering wheel and premium cloth or leather-appointed seats. New for 2016 is the driver information display using thin film transistor technology.
The six-way power adjustable driver seat (standard on SL/optional on SR) made it easy to find a comfortable driving position. The front passenger seat is four-way manual adjustable but could use
a height adjustment. The rear bench seat, which splits 60/40, accommodates three adults, with ample leg and headroom, but for longer trips or commutes, two adults would be a better arrangement to guarantee a comfortable ride aided by the fold down center armrest and multiple cup holders.
The available premium infotainment system starts with a 5.8-inch color display and has a near endless list of features (usually only found on more expensive cars). The NissanConnect system offers a wide choice of convenience features that include being able to, with the punch of a button and a voice command, connect driver and passenger to a live operator for directions and other assistance. New for 2016 is Siri Eyes Free voice recognition that only adds to the cool factor.
Safety and Convenience
The 2016 Nissan Sentra has an optional or standard extensive list of safety and convenience features, which Nissan calls their “Safety Shield Technologies”, that include predictive forward collision warning (PFCW), blind spot warning (BSW), intelligent cruise control (ICC), forward emergency braking (FEB) and rear cross traffic alert (RCTA.) The Sentra comes with eight airbags, ABS with four-wheel disc brakes and electronic brake force distribution, vehicle dynamic control and traction control.
In crash testing by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) the 2016 Sentra received four stars for overall crash protection while the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) awarded the Sentra its top rating of Good.
Pricing and Warranties
Base MSRP for the six 2016 Nissan Sentra models:
S (Manual Transmission) $16,780
S (Xtronic CVT) $17,630
FE + S (Xtronic CVT) $18,030
SV (Xtronic CVT) $18,550
SR (Xtronic CVT) $20,410
SL (Xtronic CVT) $22,170
All prices do not include the $835 destination and handling charge.
The 2016 Nissan Sentra comes with these warranties:
- Basic – Three-year/36,000-mile
- Drivetrain – Five-year/60,000-mile
- Corrosion – Five-year/Unlimited mileage
Observations: 2016 Nissan Sentra
Clean Fleet Report’s initial take, in this First Drive, is that the 2016 Nissan Sentra’s upgrades and improvements will be noticeable to current Sentra owners and Nissan’s automotive competitors,
of whom there are many. Every auto manufacturer has a stout entry in the compact class so Nissan knows they must be on their game to constantly improve not only the Sentra, but all their models.
The 2016 Sentra is quiet and comfortable inside, smooth to drive with the CVT, handles flat with confidence and gets very good fuel economy. But maybe the most important thing is that Nissan has made their driver assistance technology available at a very reasonable price. The Driver Assist Package when added to the most popular Sentra SV trim package, bumps the MSRP to $19,750, without the destination and handling charge. The fact that a compact car can be so well-equipped with convenience and safety features at under $20,000 was unheard of only a few years ago.
Look for our full Road Test soon, but until then, go into your local Nissan dealer and take the 2016 Sentra for your own test drive. We suggest driving the different trim levels to find the Sentra that best fits your lifestyle and budget.
Whatever you buy, Happy Driving!
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First Drive: 2016 Nissan Altima
Road Test: 2016 Nissan Maxima
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Road Test: 2014 Ford Focus Electric
Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle, which does not address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology, during which we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements. Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in their class or are among the top mpg vehicles on the market. In addition, we aim to offer reviews and news on advanced technology and the alternative fuel vehicle market. We welcome any feedback from vehicle owners and are dedicated to providing a forum for alternative viewpoints. Please let us know your views at firstname.lastname@example.org.