Full 2013 Nissan Sentra Review
What's New for 2013
The 2013 Nissan Sentra is fully redesigned. Highlights include a roomier interior, improved fuel efficiency and a new electronics interface. For now, the high-performance SE-R and SE-R Spec V models have been discontinued.
It's been a while since the Nissan Sentra has been a major player in the small-sedan segment. The previous-generation car, last redesigned in 2007, has been increasingly outclassed in terms of design, features and fuel economy over the past few years. Yet the fully redesigned 2013 Nissan Sentra is a much-improved car, boasting significant improvements that should thrust this formerly forgettable sedan out of the shadows and into the spotlight.
For starters, the 2013 Sentra rides atop an all-new platform. Overall length has grown by about 2 inches, yet Nissan says the new car is 150 pounds lighter than before. The Sentra's styling has grown up at the same time, with a cleaner, more upscale look. Notably, the car's grille, silhouette and headlights/taillights are now more closely related to the similarly redesigned Altima's. This premium vibe continues into the cabin, which features higher-quality materials and a more handsome-looking design. The Sentra's extra length has also freed up greater amounts of rear passenger room and trunk space.
Under the hood is a new 1.8-liter engine. It's slightly smaller than last year's 2.0-liter engine, and makes less peak power (130 horsepower versus 140 hp). This may seem odd until you realize Nissan's goal was to compete with the Sentra's rivals, which advertise 40-mpg capability on the highway. Indeed, the Sentra FE earns this same impressive rating, while overall fuel economy is impressive throughout the lineup. A newly revised continuously variable transmission (CVT) comes on all but the base model, which has a six-speed manual transmission as standard.
Overall, the 2013 Nissan Sentra makes a strong showing in a segment that is chock full of great choices, each with its own advantages. The 2013 Ford Focus and 2013 Mazda 3 provide a more involving driving experience along with a slightly more youthful vibe. And you can't leave out the 2013 Hyundai Elantra and 2013 Honda Civic, with their well-rounded nature and generous lists of standard features. Yet if fuel economy and a spacious and upscale interior are priorities for you, then the 2013 Nissan Sentra is worthy of serious consideration.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2013 Nissan Sentra is a small sedan offered in S, SV, SR and SL main trim levels. There are also the "FE+" versions of the S and SV that prioritize fuel economy.
The base Sentra S comes with 16-inch steel wheels, a six-way manually adjustable driver seat, air-conditioning, a tilt-and-telescoping steering column, a trip computer, full power accessories and a four-speaker sound system with CD player and auxiliary audio jack.
A step up is the SV, which adds cruise control, premium cloth upholstery and a six-speaker sound system. The sporty SR gains bolder styling elements including 17-inch alloy wheels, foglights, lower body skirting and a rear spoiler. The optional Driver's package for the SV and SR adds automatic headlights, rear disc brakes (SR only), keyless/ignition entry, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, Bluetooth phone connectivity and a six-speaker sound system with a 4.3-inch display, satellite radio and a USB/iPod interface.
The FE+ versions of the S and SV add a rear spoiler, underbody aerodynamic deflectors and low-rolling-resistance tires, all of which promote slightly higher fuel mileage.
The SL comes with the SV's standard features and equipment from the Driver's package. It also boasts unique 17-inch alloy wheels, foglights, heated exterior mirrors, dual-zone climate control and wood-tone accents.
Optional for the SV, SR and SL is the Premium package, which adds a sunroof, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and an eight-speaker Bose audio system. The Navigation package includes a navigation system, NissanConnect (hands-free text messaging and Pandora radio), a rearview camera and Bluetooth audio connectivity. The Leather package (SL only) includes the rear disc brakes, leather upholstery and heated front seats.
Powertrains and Performance
Every 2013 Nissan Sentra gets a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine rated at 130 hp and 128 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed manual transmission is standard on the base model, with a CVT being optional. All other Sentras have the CVT as standard.
Nissan estimates that the CVT-equipped Sentra returns 30 mpg city/39 mpg highway and 34 mpg combined, making it one of the most fuel-efficient cars in its class. The FE+ model is expected to achieve an EPA-rated estimate of 40-mpg highway.
In Edmunds testing, a Sentra SL accelerated from zero to 60 mph in 9.7 seconds, which is about a half-second slower than average for this class of car.
The 2013 Nissan Sentra comes standard with antilock brakes, stability control, front-seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags and active front head restraints. Most Sentra models come with rear drum brakes, although rear discs are an option.
In government crash tests, the Sentra earned an overall rating of four stars (out of a possible five), with four stars for total frontal impact protection and five stars for side-impact protection. In Edmunds brake testing, a Sentra SL stopped from 60 mph in 126 feet, an average distance for the segment.
Interior Design and Special Features
Taller drivers will welcome the new Sentra's standard tilt-and-telescoping steering column, while all adults should be pleased by the unexpectedly spacious front seats. Rear-seat passengers aren't left out either, since they have nearly 3 more inches of legroom than before, making the Sentra one of the most spacious cars in its class.
Fit and finish throughout the cabin is excellent, and the SL trim, in particular, stands out with its generous use of soft-touch materials and wood-tone accents; its available leather upholstery, with its handsome stitching, is especially appealing. The NissanConnect enhanced electronics interface allows one to search (via its 5.8-inch touchscreen) the Internet, stream Pandora or Bluetooth audio, and even hear and compose text messages hands-free using a mobile phone's Bluetooth connection.
Luggage capacity is generous. At 15.1 cubic feet it's comparable to that of many midsize sedans.
Around town and on the freeway, the 2013 Nissan Sentra provides a fairly smooth and quiet ride. Driving over severely broken pavement may result in an occasional jolt reaching the cabin, but it's nothing worse than what you'd likely experience in most of the Nissan's rivals. Though the Sentra's handling abilities around corners are respectable, the steering is rather numb. Other small sedans are more rewarding to drive.
The Sentra's new engine is pleasantly muted while accelerating moderately and while cruising at freeway speeds. Only under hard acceleration does the engine get vocal, but it's nothing objectionable, especially given the segment in which it competes. During aggressive driving, throttle response could be crisper, but the Sentra's CVT is one of the better ones out there, offering fairly linear response, quiet freeway cruising and little of the strangely elastic "rubber-banding" sensation some of these transmissions have. On that note, the Sentra's acceleration isn't as energetic as the top models in this class, but it's perfectly adequate for everyday driving.