2016 Nissan Sentra

Starting MSRP: $16,780 - $22,170

Estimated MPG: 27 city / 36 hwy

2016 Nissan Sentra Review

The Nissan Sentra is a compact sedan that has been around since Datsun transitioned to Nissan in the 1980s. It’s a competitive model in a cutthroat segment, with an emphasis on value and fuel economy. The 2016 Sentra receives an important refresh, aligning its exterior styling to reflect the brand’s current design language.

By Matt Keegan
Last Updated 05/03/2016

First-time car buyers looking for value should add the Nissan Sentra to their list. With six grades available, this five-passenger, front-wheel drive sedan is attainable for nearly all consumers and offers about as much room as some midsize models.

For 2016, the Sentra gains refreshed exterior styling that draws influence from the current Maxima and Altima. The 2016 model also gets a revised interior and newly available technology features.

Exterior

Exterior
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Introduced in 2013, the current generation Nissan Sentra receives a significant refresh for 2016. The update brings this model closer to recent changes made on larger Nissan sedans and the Murano SUV.

Among the more notable changes include a redesigned front fascia, with the grille, fenders and hood replaced. The sedan’s boomerang-shaped headlights and LED accents (found in the SR and SL grades) give this model a premium look.

Distinct character lines, available rocker panel trim and alloy wheels enhance the Sentra’s presentation. At the rear, the 2016 Sentra features wraparound combination lamps, reflectors, chrome trim and an available trunk lid spoiler.

Interior

Interior
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The current generation Sentra is the largest one yet, with a cabin that rivals the space you’ll find in a circa-2000 Altima sedan.

Manually adjustable front seats are standard, while a power driver’s seat with adjustable lumbar support is available. The rear bench seat is a 60-40 split-folding design, offering access to the sedan’s 15.1 cubic-foot trunk. Interior volume measures 95.9 cubic feet with ample legroom, front and back. Families should find sufficient hip room for their children with space for two car seats. Three adults can fit in a pinch.

For 2016, Nissan used the 370Z’s steering wheel as inspiration for the one in the Sentra. The instrument panel has been modified also, receiving a new LCD display panel with stronger resolution. That display sits between a pair of analog readouts for the tachometer and speedometer.

Top to bottom, the Sentra’s center stack is neatly organized with vents on top, followed by a color display with switches and knobs to control the same. Beneath that is the audio system, which is followed by a 12-volt outlet and a storage compartment large enough to hold a smartphone. The transmission shifter, available seat heater switches, two cup holders and a covered storage area split the front seats. The USB port and auxiliary input jack are tucked away in the storage compartment, which slides into place.

The driver’s seat offers average comfort; it’s nothing spectacular, but certainly not uncomfortable. Nissan offers three types of cloth grades depending on the trim level. Leather seats are also available.

All models come equipped with keyless entry, power windows and door locks, a tilt-and-telescopic steering wheel, cruise control, air conditioning, an audio system, four cup holders, front door pockets, automatic headlights and all-season tires. Upgrades bring in a Bose audio system, a rearview monitor, dual-zone climate control, illuminated sun visors and alloy wheels.

Performance

Performance
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Nissan offers one engine with the 2016 Sentra: a 1.8-liter, four-cylinder making 130 horsepower and 128 pound-feet. of torque. A six-speed manual gearbox is available, but only with the base S edition. All other models come paired with a continuously variable transmission (CVT).

As far as CVTs behave, the Sentra’s gearless box is programmed to perform more like a traditional automatic transmission. Step hard on the gas pedal in most cars equipped with a CVT, and you may think the engine is about to blow up as you approach the redline. It’s a feeling that some find disconcerting, with a disturbing amount of noise. Nissan has managed to mitigate, although not entirely eliminate, the sensation by lowering the engine’s rpm at various points in the power curve.

Steering feel is about average, or what you would expect in this segment, with an electric power steering system working with an updated suspension system and new tires to deliver a more composed drive. Nissan claims it has retuned the suspension design to yield a 10 percent increase in spring and damper rates over the 2015 edition. Understeer is not a problem, owing to the modest amount of energy sent to turn the front wheels. Braking is firm, especially in models equipped with the available four-wheel disc brakes.

For the vast majority of compact sedan shoppers, the Nissan Sentra should satisfy their driving needs. The most efficient Sentra FE version is EPA-rated at 30/40 mpg city/highway, yet another contributor in lowering this vehicle’s cost of ownership.

Technology

Technology
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The available NissanConnect services package is powered by SiriusXM and can be had with navigation and smartphone app integration. The navigation system works as planned, although you may have to enter every number and letter to get the precise address. Where some systems begin to display results as you type, you’re better off putting in the full address or risking choosing the wrong location.

The base Sentra is equipped with a 5-inch color display, while a 5.8-inch screen is available. For 2016, NissanConnect is powered by SiriusXM, an arrangement that requires a separate subscription and is part of a Technology Package offered in the two top grades only. Siri Eyes Free Voice Recognition is also newly available this year.

Safety

Safety
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The 2016 Nissan Sentra garnered a Top Safety Pick award from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). The IIHS took note of this sedan’s crashworthiness success as the Sentra received the institute’s highest scores in all five categories.

Contributing to the Sentra’s high score is its available Driver Assist package with blind spot warning and rear cross traffic alert. Nissan also offers Safety Shield Technologies, which include forward emergency braking and adaptive cruise control on top of the other safety features.

Cost-Effectiveness

Cost-Effectiveness
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The best value Sentra in the Sentra lineup may be the SV edition equipped with the Driver Assist package. It makes for a value proposition where consumers can get the Sentra’s most popular grade as well as a pair of active safety features and navigation for about $20,000.

Fully loaded models with leather interiors and the safety package will come in closer to $25,000. Considering that the Sentra is one of the largest compact sedans on the market, this vehicle makes a clear case for new car ownership.

Overall

Overall
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In the 2016 Sentra, Nissan went beyond the simple mid-product cycle refresh to deliver a sedan that consumers will find stylish and competitive. It’s a smart move where the Sentra comes out on the winning end and is able to keep pace with the segment-leading Toyota Corolla and Honda Civic.

Shoppers have other models to consider too, including the Mazda3, Chevrolet Cruze, Hyundai Elantra, Ford Focus, Kia Forte and Subaru Impreza. A fairly well-equipped Nissan Altima is another option, as its price point rivals what you’d pay for the top-of-the-line Sentra.