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2016 Nissan Sentra Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2016 Nissan Sentra was new.


Performance: 5.6

Though the refreshed 2016 Nissan Sentra has a smooth ride and decent handling, reviewers say its underpowered engine makes its performance unimpressive overall. Competitors like the Mazda3 and Ford Focus are more entertaining to drive.

  • "On the road, the Sentra certainly isn't thrilling, but its powertrain is fuel-efficient and generally unobtrusive." -- Edmunds
  • "Competent and predicable on the road, the Sentra is nonetheless not the most engaging compact sedan around; more fun can be had in rivals like the Ford Focus or Mazda Mazda3." -- Left Lane News (2015)
  • "While the Sentra stands up on user friendliness, it falls down on performance." -- Motor Trend (2013)

Acceleration and Power

The 2016 Nissan Sentra is powered by a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 130 horsepower. The base model comes standard with a six-speed manual transmission. A continuously variable transmission (CVT), which functions like an automatic, is optional in the base trim and standard in all other trims.

Fuel economy is an EPA-estimated 27/35 in the base 2016 Sentra with the manual transmission, which is typical for the class. Models with the CVT get 29/38, which is good for the class. The FE+S trim gets an even better 30/40.

The Sentra produces less horsepower than most other compact cars, and it shows when attempting to merge or pass on the highway. On a positive note, the Sentra's CVT shifts more smoothly than the CVTs in most rivals. Sentras with the manual transmission have more passing power than those with the CVT, but their fuel economy suffers.

  • "The CVT is one of the better offerings on the market, as there's little of the stomach-churning 'rubber-band' effect during acceleration that's common to many transmissions of this type. … Just don't be in a hurry, because with so little power under the hood, the Sentra never is." -- Edmunds
  • "The price to pay for the Sentra's fuel-thrifty ways is less power and acceleration than many competitors, with the standard 1.8-liter four-cylinder producing just 130 horsepower and 128 lb-ft of torque. The entry-level six-speed manual helps hasten passing maneuvers but increases consumption to 27/36 mpg." -- Left Lane News (2015)
  • "One potential drawback is that the Sentra's mandatory 1.8-liter engine is less powerful than almost everything else in this class. That might not mean much to those who care more about fuel economy than power until the need to overtake slower-moving traffic or merge onto a busy freeway arises." -- Autotrader (2015)
  • "[I]ts horsepower comes in at a wimpy 130, while torque is only 128 pound-feet. The four-cylinder engine leaves the Sentra feeling underpowered." -- CNET (2013)

Handling and Braking

The 2016 Sentra has a comfortable ride, solid brakes, and decent handling around corners. The Sentra's steering is fairly responsive, though some competitors are sharper.

  • "A recalibrated electric-assist power steering helps reinforce a feeling of unwavering stability on the freeway, while the rear drum brakes that are standard equipment on the lower trim models of the 2016 Sentra perform unobtrusively." -- Automobile Magazine
  • "It finds an agreeable middle ground in the ride quality department. … For the most part, this Nissan's ride is fairly smooth and sophisticated. Handling around turns is respectable, and the Sentra has responsive, reassuring steering. The brakes are also more than adequate and provide plenty of stopping power, along with an intuitive pedal feel." -- Edmunds
  • "Driven sensibly on city roads, the Sentra's steering system performs well, but drivers who prefer quicker steering will be better off with the 2016 Honda Civic." -- Motor Trend

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