2012 Sentra New Car Test Drive
The Nissan Sentra compact is bigger inside than it looks outside. Inside is a roomy interior. Sentra offers a commendable level of features, sophistication, safety and technology. And it's fun to drive.
The Sentra, available as a four-door sedan only (there is no hatchback or two-door model) was designed for the American market and American buyers. The spacious cabin is finished like that of a more expensive car and it has comfortable and supportive seats. There's a 60/40-split rear seat that folds flat, opening up the trunk space and creating a large flat cargo area that's handy for hauling long items.
The Sentra is fun to drive, with a level of performance and handling that's a pleasant surprise in a compact sedan. It's powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder of 140 horsepower, which is matched to a very nice 6-speed manual in the base car, with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) optional in the base car and standard on all other trim levels.
Fuel economy is an EPA-rated 24 mpg City, 31 mpg Highway with the manual and a very thrifty 27/34 mpg with the CVT.
Two high-performance versions are available: Sentra SE-R has a 2.5-liter engine with 177 hp and the CVT. The SE-R Spec V has a turbocharged version of the 2.5-liter engine boosted to 200 hp and fitted with a 6-speed manual. Sentra SE-R models also feature suspension modifications for sharper handling. Even though they offer higher levels of power and handling, we found them easy to live with. The SE-R offers the advantages of the standard Sentra and still delivers good fuel economy: an EPA estimated 24/30 mpg. SE-R Spec V is rated 21/28 mpg.
The 2012 Sentra is unchanged. The current-generation Sentra was launched as a 2007 model and benefited from a moderate facelift for 2010.
The Nissan Sentra represents a solid value. It's roomy inside, the engine is modern and competitive, and the chassis provides good handling and a comfortable ride. We like the continuously variable transmission. All told, if you're in the market for a compact sedan that offers a lot of value in a lot of areas, the Sentra deserves your attention.
The 2012 Nissan Sentra comes in six models: 2.0, 2.0 S, 2.0 SR, 2.0 SL, SE-R, and SE-R Spec V.
The Sentra 2.0 models come with Nissan's 2.0-liter four-cylinder aluminum engine, making 140 horsepower and 147 pound-feet of torque. The standard transmission is a high-tech and fuel-efficient Nissan Xtronic continuously variable transmission (CVT), but a six-speed manual is available with the base 2.0.
The Sentra 2.0 ($16,060 with manual transmission, $17,240 with CVT) comes with cloth seats, air conditioning, interior air filter, tilt steering wheel, remote manual mirrors, four-way adjustable manual front seats, 60/40-split fold-down rear seats, power windows, power door locks, electric power steering, AM/FM/CD stereo with four speakers, auxiliary audio input jack, vehicle immobilizer, and P205/60HR15 tires on steel wheels with wheel covers. The CVT version also sports an SE-R style rear spoiler.
Sentra 2.0 S ($17,990) adds a height adjustment for the driver's seat, power exterior mirrors, remote keyless entry, cruise control, illuminated steering wheel audio controls, a six-speaker sound system with RDS and MP3 capability plus iPod interface, vehicle information display, upgraded security system, and P205/55HR16 tires. A Convenience Package ($850) for the 2.0 S includes a leather-wrapped steering wheel, Bluetooth wireless cell phone link, Intelligent Key keyless entry and ignition with remote trunk release, and a cargo net and hooks. New for 2012 is the Technology Package ($650), which adds touch-screen navigation, XM Satellite Radio with NavTraffic (subscription sold separately), and a USB port.
Sentra 2.0 SR ($17,990) is equipped identically to the 2.0 S, but has a sportier appearance borrowed from the performance-oriented SE-R, with a mesh grille, unique front and rear fascia treatments, side sill spoilers, smoked headlights and taillights, driving lights, exhaust tip, SR badging on the rear deck, and aluminum alloy wheels. The SR also offers more options, including a moonroof ($800), and a Special Edition ($1,300) that bundles the moonroof with the Convenience and Technology packages while adding some unique appearance items as well.
Sentra 2.0 SL ($19,390) returns to a more conservative appearance and makes the total contents of the Convenience and package standard, plus an upgraded stereo with USB port and color display screen, XM Satellite Radio, and its own unique alloy wheels. Options include touch-screen navigation ($400), leather seats with front-seat heaters ($900), and a new Special Value Package ($990) that combines the moonroof, navigation, XM NavTraffic, RearView monitor, dual illuminated vanity mirrors, and a cargo net and hooks. Special Value Package buyers can then further upgrade to an eight-speaker, 340-watt Rockford Fosgate audio system ($550).
Sentra SE-R ($20,120) features a 2.5-liter four-cylinder that makes 177 hp and 172 pound-feet of torque and it is mated to a CVT. The SE-R comes with a sports suspension, four-wheel-disc brakes, and P225/45VR17 all-season tires. Optional on the SE-R is the SE-R Upgrade Package ($2,450) with moonroof, dual visor vanity mirrors, XM Satellite Radio, RearView Monitor, Intelligent Key with keyless ignition, and the 340-watt Rockford Fosgate audio system with navigation.
Sentra SE-R Spec V ($20,620) comes with the 2.5-liter engine tuned to produce 200 hp and 180 pound-feet of torque, and a six-speed manual gearbox. The SE-R Spec V has a lowered performance suspension, larger disc brakes, some structural reinforcement (which deletes the folding rear seat), and W-rated P225/45R17 tires. Optional is a Spec V Upgrade Package ($2,600), which is identical to the SE-R Upgrade Package except that it also includes a Helical Limited-Slip Differential.
Accessories available on all models include floor mats ($120), auto-dimming inside mirror ($130), splash guards ($150), and interior accent lighting ($240).
Safety equipment includes dual-stage front airbags, front side airbags, full-length curtain airbags, active front-seat headrests, and a tire-pressure monitor. Antilock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution (EBD), Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC), and traction control are standard on all models as well.