Nissan’s compact Sentra has been on the market for 35 years. For 2017, Nissan is improving the SR trim which adds a 188 horsepower, turbo-charged direct injection engine. The Sentra’s place in the market is that of a value leader. While it is roughly the size of competitors like the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla, the Sentra is priced against their smaller siblings the Fit and Yaris iA (nee Scion iA). Starting at $21,990, the value equation translates into the SR trim as well.
The primary change for the Sentra SR is under the hood. In place of the standard 1.8 liter naturally aspirated 4-cylinder, Nissan has fitted the 1.6 liter direct injected turbo. This engine, originally installed in the Nissan Juke crossover, produces 188 hp at 5,600 rpm and 177 lb-ft of torque from 1,600 rpm – 5,200 rpm. This translates to an increase of 65 horsepower over the standard Sentra and 52 more lb-ft over a broader RPM range. Customers can select either a 6-speed manual or a retuned version of Nissan’s Continuously Variable Transmission with no change in cost. Further enhancements include a retuned suspension and larger brakes.
Changes inside the Sentra SR are minimal, however a premium package will be offered that adds leather seats, Bose audio system, blind spot warning, cross traffic warning, and auto-dimming rearview mirror.
We recently took the 2017 Nissan Sentra SR Turbo CVT for a spin. Check out page 2 for more.
While the Sentra SR is not a dedicated sport model like a Ford Fiesta ST or Subaru WRX, it does have more energy than others in the sedate small sedan segment. In normal driving, the thick torque band allows the Sentra’s CVT to accelerate smartly without needing to wake the engine up. Acceleration under full throttle is impressive by economy car standards as the car pulls hard throughout the RPM band, but the CVT does the Sentra no favors in terms of engine sound. That said, in all cases, the 1.6T is a much more refined sounding engine than the base 1.8 liter unit in non-SR Sentras.
On the dash, there is a sport mode button that changes where the CVT holds the engine rpm in standard driving. This keeps the engine more "at ready" than normal, roughly the equivalent of downshifting in a manual transmission car. Don’t leave it in sport mode for too long or you will start to feel it at the gas pump. Next to the sport mode button is an Eco mode button. Don’t press this one; it takes all of the energy out of the car. Throttle and transmission response are so lethargic that I found the car to be unacceptably slow to respond to throttle inputs.
Handling is improved over the base Sentra and the SR model can actually be pretty fun to whip around corners. The leather seats up front are easy to get comfortable in, but they lack the side bolstering to really make this a sports sedan.
The 2017 Nissan Sentra SR Turbo fills an interesting niche. It has more power, verve, and premium features than most of the competition’s standard models for not much more cash, yet it isn’t the hardcore sports car like the higher priced Subaru WRX or Ford Focus ST. It’s a niche that has largely been abandoned by the industry, so maybe Nissan can fill it.
Nissan provided the 2017 Nissan Sentra SR Turbo during a meeting of the Mid-West Automotive Media Association that author attended.