By Auto Trends Weekly’s Auto Editor
Much missed, the sporty Nissan Sentra SE-R and SE-R Spec V models were quite a bargain a few years ago with a combination of performance and sharp looks. Worry no more. The sporty Sentra is back with a new variant —the Sentra Nismo. With a flamboyant look, complete with red stripe details, wider lower air intakes, rear diffuser, side sills, a lower stance, and a rear lip spoiler it certainly looks the part. From the outside, larger 18-inch alloy wheels shod in 215/45ZR18 Michelin Pilot Sport all-season performance tires distinguish the Sentra Nismo from its more staid siblings. Suspension tweaks means a half an inch lower ride than other Sentra’s, while the body kit helps to visually lower the car. Other Nismo-exclusive styling cues include: Black outside mirrors with turn signal indicators, Unique front LED daytime running lights, Chrome exhaust finisher, Chrome door handles and trunk finisher, and numerous Nismo badges and branding inside and outside the Sentra.
It looks the part, but the engine is not a super high-performance variant. Powering the 2017 Nissan Sentra Nismo is a 1.6-liter turbo-four cylinder mated to a six-speed manual (a CVT is optional), the four-cylinder mill is rated at 188 hp and 177 lb-ft of torque. The Sentra Nismo does not have the power of some fire-breathing performance hot compacts from the likes of VW, Subaru and Ford. Nissan say’s cost and affordability for buyers was a factor in not offering a more powerful (and expensive) engine this time around. But then again, those cars are many thousands of dollars more in cost.
The Nismo Sentra features an upgraded suspension with MacPherson struts up front with special tuning for the front springs, and a torsion beam in the back with monotube rear dampers, we tested a white 2017 model with the six-speed manual transmission and a tasteful black cloth interior.
Interior wise, the Nismo features soft-touch materials and hard, but durable plastics throughout the cabin. A nice touch is an Alcantara steering wheel with a red centering stripe, and performance bucket seats with extra firm side bolsters. Nismo badges abound on the floor mats, seats, and in front of the gearshift. Faux carbon fibre look detail, red trim accents and red stitching add a racy, tuneresque ambience to the cabin. It is a spacious interior for five passengers, a 15.1-cubic-foot trunk, and standard 60/40 split-folding rear seats.
On the road, the Sentra Nismo offers a sporty ride. Handling-wise, the Sentra’s Nismo’s monotube rear dampers help tighten the suspension to help control body movements. In addition, up front, special spring rates and a specifically Nismo tuned electric power steering aid in more planted cornering. The ride itself is firm, yet not uncomfortable with no real issues to speak of. With a more conservative power output, the Nismo Sentra is not going to be the fastest or most rev happy performance compact sedan, however the Nismo does offer an entertaining and satisfying driving experience for the money. For the price and what you get in terms of styling, looks and family versatility, the Nismo is very tempting if you want a not-boring family compact sedan with flair. The competition does cost a heck of a lot more edging into the $35,000 and $40 plus range, while the Sentra Nismo comes with a delicious base price of only $25,698. All-round it’s a nice package. Nissan may add a more powerful engine combo in the next redesign of the Sentra in the future, but for now this Nismo Sentra offers adequate performance, a decent level of equipment, and well- designed tuner style looks for a great price. Highly recommended.
2017 Nissan Sentra Nismo MT base priced from $25,698. Price as tested with options and PDE $27,598.