A longtime participant in the compact-sedan segment, the Nissan Sentra remains an appealing choice for the economy-oriented buyer. In addition to good fuel efficiency, you get plenty of rear seat space -- an attribute that’s lacking in a number of compact (and larger) sedans. Value-priced option packages are another bonus, at least for upper trim levels.
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2016 Nissan Sentra Overview
What's New for 2016
Sentras gained a mild refresh for the 2016 model year, including revised exterior styling and newly available active-safety technology, such as blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert, and adaptive cruise control. The new front fascia is clearly influenced by larger Nissan models, including the Maxima. Highlights include a V-shaped chrome grille, boomerang-shaped headlights and taillamps, and new 17-inch alloy wheel design. Upper trims get LED headlights.
Choosing Your Nissan Sentra
All Sentras continue to come with a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 130 horsepower and 128 pound-feet of torque. Those who like to shift for themselves can still have a six-speed manual gearbox -- but only on the base S model, where a continuously variable transmission (CVT) is optional. All other trim levels come with the CVT as standard equipment. With CVT, fuel economy is estimated at 29 mpg in city driving and 38 mpg on the highway (32 mpg combined).
Five trim levels are available:
- Style Package adds a moonroof and 16-inch alloy wheels.
- All Weather Pacakage adds heated mirrors and front seats.
- Driver's Assist Package includes navigation, blind-spot monitoring, and rear cross-traffic alert.
In our view, a mid-range S or SV offers the best value for the Sentra's target buyer. We can't fault Nissan for putting so much into the SR and SL, for only a few thousand dollars more. Still, their prices almost push the Sentra into competition with more premium-level competitors.
2016 Nissan Sentra Review
With a refreshed exterior and interior that introduces Nissan’s new design language, the 2016 Nissan Sentra offers mid-size utility and convenience in an affordable compact package.
Pricing and Equipment
The refreshed-for-2016 Nissan Sentra is a four-door five-passenger front-wheel drive compact sedan.
All 2016 Sentra sedans are powered by a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine. A six-speed manual transmission is standard on the base trim.
Nissan’s Xtronic CVT (continuously variable transmission) is optional on the base S model and the only available transmission on all other trim levels.
- The base Sentra S with the six-speed manual transmission starts at $16,780.
- The fuel-economy special FE+S model starts at $18,030 with the standard CVT transmission.
- Nissan's best-selling SV trim includes some nice standard features, and pricing begins at $18,550.
- The sport-themed Sentra SR includes premium sport cloth seats and a rear spoiler with prices starting at $20,410.
- The top-trim Sentra SL includes leather seating and 17-inch wheels. SL prices start at $22,170.
The 2016 Nissan Sentra is powered by an efficient 130-horsepower 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine with 128 pound-feet of torque. The base S model comes with a standard six-speed manual transmission.
All other trim levels receive Nissan’s Xtronic CVT transmission, which has been remapped to provide a more “natural” feel when driving. Nissan’s tweaks to the CVT help avoid the droning sound that many will associate with a CVT-equipped vehicle under full throttle.
The Sentra includes Eco and Sport modes. The option allows the driver to push a button and electronically reconfigure the CVT transmission and throttle responsiveness. While not dramatically different, the modes do allow you the option of burning a little more fuel in exchange for performance when you need it. I especially found the Sport mode useful in traffic when I wanted the Sentra to stay higher in the revs, the engine's sweet spot, for passing maneuvers.
Fuel economy is in line with the rest of the segment. The six-speed manual earns 27 mpg city and 36 mpg highway. Models equipped with the Xtronic (CVT) earn 29 mpg city and 38 mpg highway, except for the economy-oriented FE+ S grade at 30 mpg city and 40 mpg highway.
The rear drum brakes found in the Sentra S and SV trims feel dated for a vehicle being advertised as new for 2016. The good news is that the higher trim levels receive four-wheel disc brakes.
The Sentra’s fuel economy is right in line with the majority of the compact sedan’s major competitors, but even FE+ S numbers come up a little short compared to the 2016 Corolla LE ECO’s 30 mpg city and 42 mpg highway, and fall even further behind when compared to the performance-oriented, turbocharged 2016 Honda Civic's 31 mpg city and 42 mpg highway.
- The 2016 Sentra treats occupants to a spacious open interior. Of interest, the Sentra’s 111 cubic feet of total interior volume place the Sentra mid-size sedan territory.
- Complementing the generously-sized cabin is the Sentra’s 15.1 cubic feet of cargo space, plenty of room for trips to the grocery store and family road trips.
- The refreshed interior includes comfortable new front seats; I spent the better part of a day driving around in the 2016 Sentra and felt very little fatigue. The available power driver’s seat with power lumbar support adds to the new Sentra’s long-trip worthiness factor.
- With 37.4 inches of legroom, a number you’d expect to see in a mid-size sedan, the Sentra’s rear seats provide plenty of room for two adults or three children making the sedan a strong pick for families looking for value and reliability.
- A new acoustic windshield lends to a quieter driving environment.
- The base Sentra’s simple four-speaker AM/FM/CD audio system includes a USB connection for iPod and other compatible devices. Six-speaker audio controlled by a five-inch touchscreen is standard on the other trim levels and a 5.8-inch navigation touchscreen is available in the SV and SR models, standard on the top-trim SL.
- The mid-grade 5-inch touchscreen audio includes SiriusXM radio, Siri Eyes Free Voice Recognition, Bluetooth wireless connectivity, and the NissanConnect with Mobile Apps system.
- The 2016 Nissan Sentra can be equipped with Nissan’s “Safety Shield” active safety technology including forward emergency braking, blind spot warning, rear cross traffic alert and a rearview monitor.
Nissan has gone to great lengths camouflaging the Sentra’s hard plastic interior surfaces, but there are plenty of them. The limited soft-touch areas are a reminder of the Sentra’s lower price tag.
The Most Pleasant Surprise
I really can’t overstate how important a comfortable driver’s seat is. Being able to quickly and easily find a comfortable driving position can make or break my appreciation of a car. The Sentra’s revised front seats are extremely comfortable and help you forget that you are driving in an affordable compact car.
The Least Pleasant Surprise
I couldn’t believe the roominess of the Sentra’s rear seating. Along with the decent size trunk, the back seat alone qualifies the Sentra as a smart choice for families looking for affordable day to day transportation.
The Bottom Line
In many ways Nissan’s 2016 Sentra reaches beyond expectations. By providing sub-compact fuel-economy ratings, the interior space of a mid-size sedan and a decidedly compact segment price tag, the new Sentra offers great value for individuals and families. Sentra’s attractive new exterior provides plenty of curb appeal too, adding to the sedan’s overall appeal.
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