- Spacious backseat and trunk for the class
- Priced lower than many rivals
- Easy-to-use tech interface
- Slow acceleration on most models
- Bluetooth streaming audio isn't standard on base models
Got space? If you're buying a 2017 Nissan Sentra, the answer is an emphatic "yes!" This compact sedan stands out in its class by virtue of its uncommonly spacious interior, with a rear seat that rivals those of many midsize models in terms of head- and legroom. The same can be said of the Sentra's trunk, which offers nearly as much cargo capacity as those of some full-size sedans.
Nissan has been hard at work boosting the Senta's overall appeal, too. Last year's Sentra gained a more upscale look and feel to its cabin, along with a number of desirable standard features and options that make this affordable sedan seem less like a car you'd settle for and more like a car you'd actually want to drive. For 2017, the most notable upgrade is the new SR Turbo. Fitted with the 188-horsepower turbocharged 1.6-liter engine from the Nissan Juke crossover, it should liven things up quite a bit, as will its sport-tuned suspension, reworked steering and upgraded front brakes.
In short, there's a lot to like about the Sentra, especially considering its favorable pricing. But it's still a good idea to check out some other small sedans. One of our top choices this year is the Honda Civic, which has comparable turbocharged performance and interior room and is a little more stylish and fuel-efficient than the Sentra. If you want a sedan that's more refined and packed with more of the latest tech, check out the Mazda 3. We also recommend the Kia Forte if you're mostly after a sensible sedan that packs in a lot of features for your money.
WHAT'S NEW FOR 2017
For 2017, the Nissan Sentra gets a new performance-oriented SR Turbo model. Other tweaks include thicker glass for improved sound deadening and a significantly larger center console.
TRIMS & EQUIPMENT
The 2017 Nissan Sentra is a five-passenger compact sedan offered in S, SV, SR, SR Turbo and SL trim levels.
The base Sentra S comes with 16-inch steel wheels, automatic headlights, remote keyless entry, air-conditioning, a height-adjustable driver seat, 60/40-split folding rear seatbacks, a tilt-and-telescoping steering column, cruise control, Bluetooth phone connectivity and a four-speaker sound system with a CD player, a USB port and an auxiliary audio input jack.
Stepping up to the SV gets you keyless entry and ignition, upgraded cloth upholstery, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a 5-inch driver information screen in the instrument cluster, a 5-inch central touchscreen, a rearview camera, NissanConnect, Bluetooth audio connectivity and a six-speaker sound system with satellite radio.
The SR gets 17-inch alloy wheels, rear disc brakes, a sport body kit including a rear spoiler, LED headlights (low beams), foglights, heated mirrors, upgraded cloth upholstery and heated front seats. The SR Turbo adds a more powerful engine, a sport-tuned suspension, recalibrated steering, upgraded front brakes and a sunroof. Both the SR and SR Turbo are available with the Midnight Edition package, which adds black 17-inch wheels, black mirror caps and a black spoiler, as well as special floor mats.
The top-of-the-line SL loses the SR's sport-themed flourishes but adds unique 17-inch alloy wheels plus the rear disc brakes, dual-zone automatic climate control, leather upholstery, a six-way power driver seat (with power lumbar adjustment), an auto-dimming rearview mirror and a larger 5.8-inch touchscreen with navigation and voice controls. A blind-spot monitoring system with rear cross-path alert is also standard.
The All Weather package (SV only) includes heated front seats and heated outside mirrors. The Style package (SV only) adds distinctive 16-inch alloy wheels, a sunroof, illuminated vanity mirrors and LED interior lighting.
The SR Premium Technology package starts with the contents of the Style package then tacks on the leather upholstery, power driver seat, auto-dimming mirror and bigger touchscreen with navigation from the SL. You also get adaptive cruise control with automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert and an eight-speaker Bose audio system. The SR Turbo Premium package includes these same features.
The SL Premium Technology package adds the contents of the Style package (minus the 16-inch wheels) plus adaptive cruise control with autonomous emergency braking and the eight-speaker Bose audio system.
INTERIOR & SAFETY
The 2017 Nissan Sentra offers an interior that's bigger than seems possible when viewed from the outside. Both front and rear seats offer excellent headroom and legroom, even for 6-footers.
The cabin's design is nothing fancy, but the quality of both materials and construction is good. Other noteworthy strengths include NissanConnect, a system that allows the driver to take advantage of smartphone-based apps such as Google search using the available 5.8-inch touchscreen. The touchscreen's simple menus make it easy to use, but there's no denying that it's one of the smallest screens in its class, and the resolution of its graphics is underwhelming.
The Sentra's trunk is spacious, with 15.1 cubic feet of stowage. Folding down one or both sections of the 60/40-split rear seatbacks expands cargo capacity further.
The 2017 Nissan Sentra comes standard with antilock brakes, stability control, front-seat side airbags and side curtain airbags. A rearview camera is standard starting at the SV trim level. The SR and SL trim levels can also be had with blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert (standard on SL) and adaptive cruise control with automatic emergency braking.
More basic Sentra models come with rear drum brakes, but rear disc brakes are standard on the SR and SL. However, in Edmunds brake testing, a Sentra with the less costly rear drum brakes stopped from 60 mph in 118 feet, a slightly better-than-average distance for the segment. A Sentra SL stopped in 113 feet, which is almost unheard of for a compact economy sedan.
In government crash tests, the 2017 Sentra earned an overall rating of four stars (out of a possible five), with four stars for front-impact protection and five stars for side-impact protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded the 2017 Sentra its best rating of Good in its moderate-overlap and small-overlap front-impact tests. The Sentra also earned a Good rating in the side-impact, roof strength and seat/head restraint (whiplash protection) tests as well as a Superior rating for the effectiveness of its optional forward collision mitigation system.
PERFORMANCE & HANDLING
The 2017 Nissan Sentra comes equipped with one of two engines. A 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine rated at 130 horsepower and 128 pound-feet of torque is standard on the S, SV, SR and SL models. A six-speed manual transmission is standard on the S, and a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) is optional on that model and standard on all other Sentras.
In Edmunds testing, a Sentra SL accelerated from zero to 60 mph in 10.1 seconds, which is among the slowest times for this class of car.
The new SR Turbo gets a turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder, which puts out 188 hp and 177 lb-ft, mated to a choice of a six-speed manual or a specially calibrated CVT with manual-shift mode.
The EPA fuel economy estimates with the six-speed manual transmission are 30 mpg combined (27 city/35 highway). Opting for the CVT ups fuel economy to 32 mpg combined (29 city/37 highway). The new SR Turbo is rated at 28 mpg combined (26 city/32 highway) with the six-speed manual gearbox and 29 mpg combined (27 city/33 highway) with the CVT. These numbers are OK, but some rivals squeeze out a few more mpg.
On the road, the 2017 Nissan Sentra suspension delivers a comfortable ride around town and on the highway. It's not a particularly engaging car to drive, though opting for the sportier SR Turbo model this year should push handling, steering feel and brake performance up a couple of notches. It's unknown whether the car's firmer suspension tuning and ride quality will be a turnoff for some buyers; we'll update this review once we've tested the new SR Turbo.
On the performance front, the standard 130-hp four-cylinder is suitable for everyday driving, but nothing more. Trying a highway pass or hitting the gas from a standstill results in lethargic acceleration. The CVT is a good match for this engine, at least, largely because it seems free of the tiresome "rubber band" and droning qualities that so often plague this type of transmission.
There are a lot of excellent compact cars available today, all with their own strengths. What you get with the 2017 Nissan Sentra is practicality. It's roomy, fuel-efficient and a solid value for your money.