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  • William Maley
    William Maley

    Review: 2016 Nissan Sentra SR

      Does Nissan's compact sedan have something special?

    While this year at Nissan is all about the pickup truck, last year it was the ‘Year of the Sedan’. We saw the introduction of the redesigned Maxima, along with refreshes of the Altima and Sentra. There was one slight problem. Compared to the Maxima which stood out with a sharp design, the Altima and Sentra just existed with no real item of note. But maybe there is something to either model that is hidden away. I decided to find out as a 2016 Nissan Sentra SR came in for a week-long evaluation.

     

    Nissan isn’t going to take home any awards for the design of the 2016 Sentra. Designers took the 2013 model and made some small changes such as adding a new front clip to help bring the Sentra in line with the current design language, and a more distinctive character line. One change that is worth mentioning about the Sentra’s design is the new SR trim. This trim adds some sporty touches such as a mesh grille insert, sill extensions for the lower body, seventeen-inch aluminum-alloy wheels with a dark finish, rear spoiler, and a chrome exhaust tip. These touches help the Sentra stand out in a crowded field.

     

    Like the Sentra’s exterior, the interior hasn’t seen any major changes. The design is very conservative with some flowing lines and contrasting trim pieces (silver and piano black). There is a mix of hard and soft touch materials used throughout the interior. Our Sentra tester featured a set optional leather seats that we found to provide decent support for short trips. We did wish the front seats did offer more thigh support on longer trips. The Sentra does have an ace up its sleeve when it comes to the back seat. In most compact cars, the back seat is something you would use sparingly due to the small amount of head and legroom. In the Sentra, the amount of head and legroom can give some midsize sedans a run for their money. I happen to be 5’8” and I had more than enough space to feel very comfortable. The trunk is also large for the class with 15.1 cubic feet of space.

     

    Most Sentra models will come equipped a five-inch touchscreen with NissanConnect. This system isn’t one of our favorites for a number of reasons. The interface looks dated when compared to other systems. Not helping matters are some odd omissions from it. For example, if you want to pause an iPod or whatever you have plugged into the USB input, you’ll need to turn down the volume all the way to zero. Why not a pause button?! We also had issues with the system crashing our iPod. The only upsides are the interface being easy to use and providing snappy performance.

     

    Power comes from a 1.8L four-cylinder with 130 horsepower and 128 pound-feet of torque. This is paired with either a six-speed manual (only available on the S and FE+ S) or Nissan’s Xtronic CVT (standard on SV and above, optional on S and FE+ S). Performance is lethargic as the Sentra’s engine takes its sweet time to get up to speed. You can put your foot to the floor and there isn’t any difference in how fast the vehicle climbs up in speed. On the positive side, the engine is fairly muted when accelerating around town. Nissan’s Xtronic CVT is one of the better offerings on sale as it doesn’t have the ‘rubber-band’ effect (engine rpm climbs up before dropping back down).

     

    The upside to the low power numbers is fuel economy. The Sentra SR is rated by the EPA at 29 City/38 Highway/32 Combined. Our average for the week was 32.4 mpg.

     

    If you’re looking for a compact that feels like a bigger vehicle in terms of ride, the Sentra is the ticket. No matter the type of road you find yourself driving on, the Sentra’s suspension provides a smooth and relaxed ride. We do wish Nissan had added some more sound deadening around the vehicle as you can hear road and tire noise on the highway. Around corners, the Sentra shows little roll and seems to change direction quickly. The steering feels very light which is ok around town, not so much when driving on a curvy road.

     

    The 2016 Nissan Sentra doesn’t really stand out in a highly competitive compact car marketplace. Compared with competitors in a number of key areas, the Sentra either finishes in the middle or bottom. The only real plus points are a large back seat and trunk, along with a price tag that won’t break the bank. The Sentra begins at $16,780 for the base S and climbs to $22,170 for the SL. Our SR came equipped with a couple of option packages that added adaptive cruise control, a forward collision mitigation system, leather seats, Bose sound system, and a few other features brings the as-tested price to $25,245. Considering a number of these features are only available on higher trim models of competitors, the Sentra becomes quite the value.

     

    Is there anything special to the 2016 Nissan Sentra SR? After spending a week in it, I have to say no. This is a model that is aimed at those who just need a vehicle that can get them from point a to b without any fuss. If you’re looking for something more, there are a lot of options in the compact segment that are worthy of a closer look.

     

     

    Disclaimer: Nissan Provided the Sentra, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas

     

    Year: 2016
    Make: Nissan
    Model: Sentra
    Trim: SR
    Engine: 1.8L DOHC Four-Cylinder
    Driveline: CVT, Front-Wheel Drive
    Horsepower @ RPM: 130 @ 6,000
    Torque @ RPM: 128 @ 3,600
    Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 29/38/32
    Curb Weight: 2,920 lbs
    Location of Manufacture: Aguascalientes, Mexico
    Base Price: $20,410
    As Tested Price: $25,245 (Includes $835.00 Destination Charge)

     

    Options:
    Premium Package - $2,590
    Technology Package - $1,230
    Carpeted Floor Mats and Trunk Mat - $180.00

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      Make: Hyundai
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      Engine: 2.0L GDI DOHC 16-Valve Inline-Four, Permanent Magnet Synchronous Motor
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    • By William Maley
      I rarely get the opportunity to drive two different flavors of the same vehicle within a short timeframe. But that's what happened in the fall when I had the chance to drive the new Hyundai Sonata in its standard and hybrid forms. The Sonata has always been a favorite of mine as it offered a lot for a midsize sedan, with a surprising price tag. It has also come very close to being at the top of the class, but falling somewhat short due to one thing or another. This new version has the chance of changing that.
      Very Polarizing Design

      The consensus from several readers on Cheers & Gears and various social media sites on the Sonata's design was of dislike. Many found the design to be a bit much and overdone. I found myself in the minority as I was impressed by the lengths Hyundai went. The flowing lines and raked roofline reminded me of the 2012 Sonata which gave notice to other automakers to step up their game. Little details such as the bars the run along the outer edge of the hood to the headlights to a distinct rear-end treatment make the Sonata stand out.
      If there is an issue I have with the Sonata's design, it is the grille. I find it to be slightly cartoonish due to the large size and shape.
      Simple, Yet Elegant Interior
      If you're worried that the polarizing ideas from the exterior make their way inside, don't. The interior is surprisingly sedate with clean lines and a simple design. Hyundai should be commended for using a lot of soft-touch plastics and leather on various surfaces. It makes the Sonata look and feel more premium than its price tag may suggest.

      Despite the coupe-inspired roofline, the Sonata's interior space is quite spacious. Most no one will have any complaints sitting in the back as there is ample head and legroom. Taller passengers should be aware that the optional panoramic sunroof for the Sonata will take away some headroom. The Sonata Hybrid doesn't worry about that as it doesn't offer the sunroof.
      Tech Galore!
      Both of the Sonatas on test came in the Limited trim which means a bountiful selection of technology. It begins with a 10.2-inch TFT display for the instrument cluster which provides all of the key information needed at a glance. A clever trick is when you engage the turn signal, the respective 'dial' brings up a camera mounted underneath the side view mirrors to provide a blind-spot view. I found this system to be helpful as it gave me an extra set of eyes whenever I needed to change lanes.

      Next up is another 10.25-inch screen housing Hyundai's latest infotainment system. I like the three-window layout on the home screen that you can customize to your needs. Navigating around the system is a breeze with a response touchscreen and capacitive touch buttons sitting on either side. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard.
      The next two tech features are exclusive to the standard Sonata. First is what Hyundai calls a digital key. Using the BlueLink application on a compatible smartphone, you can use this instead of the key to start the car and drive away. At the time of this writing, this is only available on Android phones. Hyundai did provide a loner Samsung Note smartphone for the week to try this out. I did not have the best experience with this feature at first because I found you need to be pretty close to the vehicle to make a connection. Trying to connect from my room upstairs, just above where the vehicle was parked, the application would throw up a connection error. I found that if I moved to the living room or just outside the front door, the phone was able to make the connection. This sours some of the appeal of this feature. 
      At least using the phone as the vehicle's key does work a bit better. It only takes a few seconds for the phone to make the connection to the vehicle and you can start it up. Although, I found myself wondering wouldn't it be easier and faster to have the key. The only feature that makes any sense to me is the ability to share the key with other people, but lock down certain aspects.
      Second is Smart Park (or smart parkh as made famous by the Super Bowl commercial from last year). Using the key, you can have the Sonata move forward or back out of the parking spot to allow for easier access to get into the vehicle. It's simple to operate, just hold down one of two buttons for a few seconds; the Sonata starts up and goes into the correct gear to move in the desired direction. I can see the appeal in urban areas where space is limited. But in the current pandemic times all of us find ourselves in, this seems to be more of a gimmick.
      Power Selection
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      Under the Sonata Hybrid's hood is a system comprised of a 2.0L four-cylinder and electric motor to provide a total output of 192 horsepower and 151 pound-feet of torque. The Sonata Hybrid feels just as fast as the standard Sonata around town and on country roads. It does struggle slightly on the highway due to the smaller torque figure. The six-speed automatic doesn't stumble when the change over from electric-only to hybrid mode like I have experienced on other Hyundai/Kia hybrid models.

      Opting for Limited on the Sonata Hybrid brings a solar panel for the roof which acts as a trickle charger for both the 12-volt car battery and 1.6-kWh lithium-ion pack for the hybrid system. Hyundai says that the panel can add an extra two miles of range with adequate sunlight. I can't attest to this claim, but will say the solar panel did add an extra bit of charge to the battery, even on an overcast day.
      Fuel economy for both models are as followed,
      Sonata 1.6T: 27 City/36 Highway/31 Combined Sonata Hybrid: 45 City/51 Highway/47 Combined My week saw an average of 29 mpg in the Sonata and 39 mpg for the Sonata Hybrid.
      Calm and Collected
      Hyundai has done some work on the Sonata's chassis and suspension to make it more rewarding to drive. It shows on a winding road as both versions show little body roll and feel more agile than the outgoing model. Steering feels direct and has a decent amount of weight. I will say the Mazda6 is still the one to beat if driving pleasure is your key goal.
      But the Sonata has an ace up its sleeve. It is also one of the most comfortable cars in the class. Driving over some of the roughest roads in Metro Detroit, the Sonata's suspension soaks up most bumps and imperfections to provide a serene ride. The minimal amount of road and wind noise that comes inside also helps.
      Rising To The Top

      The previous generations of the Sonata were always so close to being at the top of the class. But there always something that held it back whether it was the design, handling, or powertrains. But this new model shows how much Hyundai has put in. There is a nice balance between ride and handling; powertrains are very competent, and the interior is best in the class. Plus, the Sonata still retains Hyundai's trademark of offering a lot for not much money.
      Where most people will stumble on the Sonata is the exterior. It is very much a love or hate it affair. Plus, some of the tech features feel more like a party trick to show to friends than something you'll use. 
      Nevertheless, I think Sonata moves up to the top of the midsize sedan pecking order. 
      But there is one more question to answer. Between the regular and hybrid versions, which one I would drive away with. The answer which surprised me is the hybrid. I found it to be a little bit more well-rounded and deliver some excellent fuel economy figures during my time.
      Alternative:
      Kia K5: Like the idea of the Hyundai Sonata, but not to sure on the design? Then the Kia K5 may be the answer. Based on the same bones as the Sonata, the K5 takes a more evolutionary approach to the design. The basic shape may remind you of the previous-generation Optima, but its the little details such as a new grille and revised rear deck lid that help it stand out. From reviews, the K5 proves to be a bit sportier. We hope to get our hands on this challenger in the near future. Disclaimer: Hyundai Provided the Sonatas, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
      Year: 2020
      Make: Hyundai
      Model: Sonata
      Trim: Limited 1.6T
      Engine: Turbocharged 1.6L GDI DOHC 16-Valve Inline-Four
      Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic, Front-Wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 180 @ 5,500
      Torque @ RPM: 195 @ 1,500-4,500
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 27/36/31
      Curb Weight: 3,336 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Montgomery, AL
      Base Price: $33,300
      As Tested Price: $34,365 (Includes $930.00 Destination Charge)
      Options:
      Carpeted Floor Mats - $135.00
      Year: 2020
      Make: Hyundai
      Model: Sonata Hybrid
      Trim: Limited
      Engine: 2.0L GDI DOHC 16-Valve Inline-Four, Permanent Magnet Synchronous Motor
      Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic, Front-Wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 150 @ 6,000 (gas); 51 @ 1,800 - 2,300 (electric motor); 192 (total output)
      Torque @ RPM: 139 @ 5,000 (gas); 151 @ 0 - 1,800 (electric motor)
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 45/51/47
      Curb Weight: 3,530 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Asan, South Korea
      Base Price: $35,300
      As Tested Price: $36,430 (Includes $975.00 Destination Charge)
      Options: 
      Carpeted Floor Mats - $135.00
    • By William Maley
      Despite being one of the best sellers in the luxury crossover class, the Lexus RX lacked something many competitors offered; a third-row option. Lexus rectified this a couple of years ago by stretching the RX's body and adding a third-row to create the RX L. I spent some time in the RX 350L Luxury back in the fall to find out if Lexus has another winner or if this a half-baked attempt.
      You can tell the difference between the standard RX to the longer L by looking for a floating roofline treatment. This is due to Lexus blacking part of the c-pillar to help disguise the added bulk. It doesn't fully work as looks somewhat half-baked. At least Lexus was more successful upfront where non F-Sport models get a new mesh insert to replace the horizontal slats, along with a revised bumper. When equipped with the Luxury Package, the RX is a plush and pleasant place to spend time. The leather upholstery feels nice to the touch and the use of contrasting colors (cream and brown in my tester) help make it feel special. Lexus has finally added a touchscreen for the RX's infotainment and it makes a huge difference. Gone are the litany of issues I have noted in previous models such as, Being precise with your finger movements when selecting an item Becoming very distracting to use when on the move Not the most intuitive controller Now using Lexus Enform or Apple CarPlay/Android Auto is not an exercise in frustration, but one of ease. My only complaint is that I wished Lexus moved the screen slightly more forwards. It is quite a reach to use the touchscreen. Those sitting in the second row will not have much to complain about as head and legroom are plentiful for most passengers. The same cannot be said for the third-row. Getting back here is difficult as there is not enough a gap when the second-row seat is moved forward. Once back here, space is non-existent with your head touching the headliner and legroom from nothing to something bearable depending on where the second-row is set. The one upside to the longer RX is cargo space. With the third-row seat folded, you get about seven extra cubic feet of space compared to standard RX. Power comes from a 3.5L V6 used in several Lexus and Toyota vehicles.  For the RX 350L, it produces 290 horsepower and 267 pound-feet of torque. My tester came with all-wheel drive, but front-wheel drive is standard. Performance is adequate as you'll be able to keep up with traffic or make a pass with no issue. Those wanting a bit more performance should look at something like the upcoming Acura MDX or Volvo XC90. Comfort is still a key hallmark to the RX. Bumps and potholes become mere ripples when driven over. There is also a noticeable lack of road and wind coming inside. The RX 350L feels like a stop-gap solution until Lexus finishes up their upcoming three-row crossover due out within the next couple of years. The third-row isn't all useful for carrying passengers and is best to fold down to expand cargo space. If you need a third-row, there are much better options such as the Volvo XC90. But if you really want an RX, stick with the standard two-row version and pocket the cash you saved for something nice. Disclaimer: Lexus Provided the RX 350L, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
      Year: 2020
      Make: Lexus
      Model: RX
      Trim: 350L Luxury
      Engine: 3.5L DOHC 24-valve with VVT-iW V6
      Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic, All-Wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 290 @ 6,300
      Torque @ RPM: 263 @ 4,700
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 18/25/21
      Curb Weight: 4,597 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Miyawaka, Fukuoka, Japan
      Base Price: $54,700
      As Tested Price: $63,540 (Includes $1,025.00 Destination Charge)
      Options:
      12.3" Navigation System/Mark Levinson 15-Speaker Premium Audio System - $3,365.00
      Blind Spot Monitor with Intuitive Parking Assist, Panoramic View Monitor, and Rear Cross Traffic Alert Braking - $1,865.00
      Running Boards - $640.00
      Color Head-Up Display - $600.00
      Second-Row Captain's Chairs - $405.00
      All-Weather Floor Liners with Cargo Mat - $330.00
      Cold Weather Package - $315.00
      Mudguards - $155.00
      Door Edge Guards - $140.00

      View full article
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