All grown up

2013 Nissan Sentra 1.8 SV SL Review

By Miranda Lightstone
2013 Nissan Sentra 1.8 SV SL Review

Summary Rating: 73%

Styling

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Accessories

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Space and Access

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Comfort

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Performance

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Driving Dynamics

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Safety

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General Appreciation

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Finding its place in the lineup
Eventually, we all have to grow up. I know, it sucks – believe me. But it’s a necessary step in life, and it seems the 2013 Nissan Sentra has finally put on its big-boy pants and is ready to take its place in the Nissan lineup as an affordable grown-up car for the middleclass looking for a stylish, functional vehicle that’s good on gas.

I admit in the past I’ve not been too keen on the Nissan Sentra (my take on the 2012 Nissan Sentra 2.0L was less than favourable), but I think I may have warmed up to this new model ever so slightly.


What is the Nissan Sentra?
First, thank goodness the Sentra doesn’t go by its Japanese name in North America (which would be “Sunny”)…

First introduced in the U.S. in 1982, the Nissan Sentra arrived to replace the Datsun 210. A sub-compact car at the time, the Nissan Sentra didn’t cross over into the compact car class until 2000 (as an ’01 model) -- and that particular model was my very first car. Yup. For 2013, I think the Sentra has been given a chance to shine as a compact family sedan.

Technicalities
The 2013 Nissan Sentra is equipped with a 1.8L 4-cylinder good for 130 horsepower and 128 lb-ft of torque. There are two Sentra trims available: 1.8 S and 1.8 SV. The SV opens up to two further trim level options: SR and SL. Cosmetic and technological additions are made via the trim levels.

Standard transmission on the Nissan Sentra is a 6-speed manual transmission, however, Nissan’s Xtronic CVT can be had for $1,300. The SR package (which adds 17” alloy wheels, fog lights, and a few other external goodies) can be had for $1,100. While the SL package combines the SR’s exterior trim additions with the Luxury Package’s technological goodies for $4,150.

The 2013 Nissan Sentra 1.8 S (in base trim with 6M) starts at $14,848, and tips the scales at $22,998 for a 1.8 SV SL (with a CVT, as tested).

2013 Nissan Sentra 1.8 SV SL engine
The 2013 Nissan Sentra is equipped with a 1.8L 4-cylinder good for 130 horsepower and 128 lb-ft of torque. (Photo: Philippe Champoux)

Driving the Nissan Sentra
So, here’s the area I always seem to have an issue with when it comes to the Nissan Sentra: the drive.

Let’s start with the good. The 2013 Nissan Sentra 1.8 SV feels quite solid on the road. The Sentra feels more upscale when driven on the open road. Steering is good and the suspension was all right, until pushed around the twisties.

Now, on to the rest. My Sentra 1.8 SV was equipped with Nissan’s Xtronic CVT, a transmission I’ve never liked. As the revs climb and the engine noise (not to mention wind noises…) climb as well, it takes everything I have not to scream at the tachometer “JUST SHIFT” even though I know it won’t. Throttle response is laggy and slow, unless the all-important “sport” button is pushed. According to Nissan, this means “maximum responsiveness” which to me just felt normal. However, I did crack a smile when in Sport mode, the CVT faked downshifts under hard braking at higher speeds -- made it all feel quite “sporty.”

There is also an ECO mode that basically makes the 2013 Nissan Sentra 1.8 SV feel like it’s driving through tar. It’s designed for maximum fuel efficiency and keeps revs low and throttle response choked. I chose this setting once.

2013 Nissan Sentra 1.8 SV SL
As the revs climb and the engine noise (not to mention wind noises…) climb as well, it takes everything I have not to scream at the tachometer “JUST SHIFT” even though I know it won’t. (Photo: Philippe Champoux)

Inside and out of the Nissan Sentra
Here’s where the 2013 Nissan Sentra 1.8 SV SL gains some serious points in my books. If you can look past the CVT (or don’t care about such things), you’ll see nothing but a well-designed, mature-looking vehicle that’s taken all the right steps in the direction to be attractive. Like a shrunken Altima, the Nissan Sentra actually pulls off the look much, much better. The proportions are spot on.


Inside, my 2013 Nissan Sentra 1.8 SV tester was decked out in SL trim with leather seating, a leather-stitched steering wheel (quite an attractive touch) and faux-wood inserts. All touches I’d not expect to see in the Sentra, but clearly Nissan are aiming for an older audience, leaving the Versa to fill the younger more budget-conscious generation’s shoes.

I quite like Nissan’s onboard entertainment and nav system, and the Luxury Package Bose stereo was also well suited to the size of the cabin and delivered well on the acoustics.

2013 Nissan Sentra 1.8 SV SL inside
Inside, my 2013 Nissan Sentra 1.8 SV tester was decked out in SL trim with leather seating, a leather-stitched steering wheel (quite an attractive touch) and faux-wood inserts. (Photo: Philippe Champoux)

Comparing the Nissan Sentra
The 2013 Nissan Sentra 1.8 SV sits amongst some stiff competition with the likes of the Toyota Corolla, Honda Civic and Hyundai Elantra. What does the Sentra offer that the others don’t? Essentially, nothing. In terms of styling I’d say it’s on par with the Civic, and then on equal footing with the others for all other aspects.

Can I finally say I like the Nissan Sentra? I’ll let you decide.

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