Change is a sign of progress.
And Nissan certainly showed plenty of those signs last year when the 2016 Sentra debuted with a new face, new wheels and an upgraded, more refined interior with a new steering wheel, new controls and a long list of other added goodies and modern techs.
But the Sentra still seemed outgunned within the compact segment. Its 1.8-litre engine’s 124 hp and 125 lb/ft of torque was falling short of just about everybody else’s power ratings, like, for example, Corolla
, Civic, Elantra
, Focus, Cruze
, Mazda3, Rio, Jetta, umm…, I think you get the picture.
Slightly embarrassing for a lineup ranging from the base S sedans to SV trims, SL lux versions and SR wanna-be sport models.
And, especially in the case of the SR, while many customers care more about styling cues than content, true gearheads and auto writers tend to pooh-pooh any poseurs that can’t “walk the talk”.
Well, the boffins might be at the blackboard working on tweaking that base engine. But, for the 2017 model year, Nissan has already added an interim solution, hijacking the 1.6-litre direct-injected (DIG), turbocharged MR16DDT engine from the Nissan Juke
and slipping it under the hood of a new, more exciting, and sportier 2017 Nissan Sentra SR Turbo model.
The 1.6-litre turbocharged mill makes about 50 per cent more power - 188 hp and 177 lb/ft of torque - with a good deal of that oomph coming on early at a low 1,600 - 5,200 rpm.
Yeah, that might sound like a blast from the past for Sentra loyalists who remember sporty SE-R and SE-R Spec V predecessors with power numbers in the same ballpark. But this is actually Sentra’s first turbo application in North America.
Power is sent to the front wheels via a standard six-speed manual (tested here) or an optional Xtronic CVT automatic with a manual shift mode ($1,300). Normal, sport and Eco modes are available.
Our as-tested powertrain offers enough oomph to skip-shift if you’re feeling lazy but anyone who enjoys rowing through the gears will be doing it early and often.
While the increase in power is notable, with the standard shifter, Nissan seems to be making the most of the extra ponies with a short-geared selection of cogs.
You’ll find yourself in sixth gear quickly, even when just swanning about town. Get up to speed on the highway and the SR’s engine spins at around 2,500 rpm in top gear, or at about 3,000 revs at everyone’s agreed upon 120 km/h.
Don’t bother with the Eco setting at lower speeds. It numbs the response too much, making manual shift departures clumsy and awkward.
A Super Sonic?
Fuel economy with this powertrain combo is rated at 9.1/7.3L/100km (city/hwy). My real world bag of mixed driving conditions averaged out to 7.7L/100km (comb).
The SR Turbo model also adds performance enhancements to correspond with the added thrust - a sport-tuned suspension with 10 per cent stiffer springs, front damping increased by 23 per cent, rear damping up by 50 per cent, and it also incorporates bigger brakes and steering tweaks.
LED lighting all around sets this trim level apart, along with fog lamps, lower body side sill extensions, a rear spoiler with integrated LED brake light, a chrome exhaust finisher, heated outside mirrors with LED signal repeaters and unique 17-inch wheels.
A pared-down five-colour palette includes our as-tested optional Pearl Blue ($300).
Inside, the SR Turbo benefits from one of the roomiest interiors in the segment, and all models in the lineup have been upgraded for 2017 with a bigger storage console compartment and thicker front and rear window glass for a quieter, more refined ride.
The seats feel a little on the small side but our tester’s cabin is refined, if a little grey, with an acceptable mix of soft and hard textures contrasted by faux carbon fibre trim pieces and satin-finished highlights.
The Sentra lineup ranges from the base S model ($15,898) to the popular SV ($20,058) and luxed-out SL ($26,058). And the SR Turbo ($21,598) offers sportiness at a fair-to-middling price.
As tested, our model’s inclusive content level gets a bonus from an extensive Premium Package ($3,400) that adds NissanConnect with navigation and mobile apps, blind spot and rear cross traffic alerts, eight-speaker BOSE premium audio and leather-appointed seats with blue sport-stitching coincidentally complementing our Pearl Blue exterior.
Anyone looking to push the performance envelope further might be tempted by a new NISMO model ($25,698) that takes the same turbo power package and adds racing seats, a red interior and NISMO
body kit and wheels, while pushing the sport suspension tuning even further.
But the new 2017 Nissan Sentra SR Turbo already does a pretty good job of perking up the power levels and adding a sporty spark to Nissan’s compact Sentra sedan lineup.
2017 Nissan Sentra SR Turbo
Four-door, five-passenger compact sedan
Front-wheel drive, six-speed manual transmission
1.6-litre direct injection turbocharged inline four-cylinder (188 hp, 177 lb/ft)
9.1/7.3L/100km (city/hwy). As tested 7.7L/100km (comb).
Sentra SR Turbo $21,598; as tested $25,298 including Premium Package ($3,400) and Blue Pearl paint ($300)