Nissan brings the Sentra back into the family tree


Automotive refreshes are pretty mild affairs and, if we’re being blunt, not usually something that stirs your senses at an auto show. Fancier headlights, a few new seat fabrics…it’s all very ‘been there, done that.’

However, here at the L.A. Auto Show, Nissan has taken its freshened 2016 Sentra sedan towards a much stronger and more well-rounded new direction. As refreshes go, think more along the lines of an ice bucket challenge, and less a moist towelette.

The first thing you’ll notice about the Sentra is that it shares the same familial face found on Nissan’s larger sedans, such as the Altima and Maxima. A V-shaped nose and boomerang-style headlamps give the Sentra a more distinctive appearance – this is no longer a car that fades into the background. Okay, a GT-R and Nismo 370Z remain the Nissans that get our blood racing. But in the compact sedan segment, this new Sentra is a handsome fellow.

A 6-speed manual is available on the base S trim level, though most people will opt for the continuously variable transmission (CVT) found on the rest of the range. Nissan has added ‘steps’ in the behavior of this gearbox, to better mimic the feel of a traditional automatic. That’s a good thing, since the first CVTs were notorious for holding revs way too high and droning like a blender.

No changes were made to the 130-horsepower 1.8-liter 4-cylinder, though Nissan did slightly firm up the car’s suspension. Upgrades to the cabin include a new steering wheel, along with a 5.0-inch “Advanced Driver Assist Display” located directly in front of the driver, snug beneath the speedometer and tach.