Few small cars are as unimpressive as the Nissan Sentra. Though comfortable and roomy, its handling is subpar, the interior is bare, and the base model is extremely slow. The lowest-output version has just 124 horsepower and comes with a fun-sapping CVT. The SR Turbo at least addresses the power issue with the inclusion of a turbocharged 1.6-liter engine with 188 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque. But it didn't keep this editor from picking the Sentra SR Turbo as his least favorite car of 2016. Still, a NISMO variant was on the way, and we still held onto a little hope that maybe, just maybe, Nissan's in-house performance division could make the little sedan enjoyable. And now that we finally got to drive one, we have an answer: it's still not good. In fact, with the CVT, it's actually rather bad. Yes, Nissan sent us its sportiest Sentra equipped with a CVT. We have no idea why because this transmission shouldn't be anywhere near a performance car. It may be acceptable for a lower trim model, but it sucks out whatever life the 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder has. Matting the gas is met with the feeling that something is slipping, and that you're not getting power to the ground. Putting it into manual mode doesn't help either, since the pre-set ratios aren't fixed. Instead, the transmission can still adjust its pulleys as it sees fit, so you still get an odd rubber-band feeling. Long story short, it makes the car feel slower, and makes it hard to tell what the car is doing. Both big no-nos in the performance car world. It's a real shame, too, since the engine actually isn't too bad. It's not the most responsive turbo engine out there, thanks to how the CVT exaggerates the lag in throttle response. But once it makes boost, it pulls with some gusto. We're sure that the available manual transmission would make it more enjoyable. Unfortunately, even with a manual, the NISMO would still only be working with the same 188 horsepower as its lesser SR Turbo counterpart. To be taken seriously as a sport compact, Nissan needs to give the Sentra NISMO more power. Nissan needs to give the little sedan a limited slip differential, too. Even with just 188 horsepower, it's easy to get the NISMO's inside front wheel spinning by giving it gas in a tight corner. Adding more power without addressing this would make the Sentra maddening to drive. Where the NISMO really differentiates itself from the SR Turbo is with the suspension. The NISMO has firmer springs and dampers, and sits just under half an inch lower than its normal sibling. The result is a Sentra that takes turns with much less body roll. But, again thanks to the NISMO's unique suspension, it has a particularly firm, bordering on harsh, ride. It was bad enough that one of our editors said he would prefer a normal SR Turbo to get that cruising comfort back. The …
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|MPG||27 City / 35 Hwy|
|Transmission||6-spd man w/OD|
|Power||130 @ 6000 rpm|
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