$12,517 - $17,222

2017 Nissan Sentra Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2017 Nissan Sentra was new.


Performance: 6.8

When you get behind the wheel of a 2017 Nissan Sentra, the base engine’s lack of power stands out. However, its fuel economy is incredible in the city. There are no major drawbacks to the Sentra’s ride quality and handling, but there is nothing to write home about either. Although handling is competent, the Sentra favors a smooth ride over the ability to carve corners. While the SR Turbo is more powerful than many of its competitors, it doesn’t handle as sharply as many of them.

  • "Perhaps the best way to look at this sportiest of Sentras is as an alternative to the turbocharged Honda Civic sedans. As such it offers slightly more power (188 horses to 174) and torque (177 lb-ft to 162) and even a slightly better weight-to-power ratio (nominally 16.0 to 16.7 pounds/horsepower). ... All you have to give up in this sweet tradeoff is the vastly superior box the Honda turbo comes in, which was redesigned four years after the Nissan last redid the Sentra." -- Motor Trend
  • "On the road, the Sentra certainly isn't thrilling, but its powertrain is fuel-efficient and generally unobtrusive." -- Edmunds (2016)
  • "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)

Acceleration and Power

The standard setup in the 2017 Sentra is a 124-horsepower 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine paired with a six-speed manual transmission. However, there are upgrades for both available. For more power, opt for the SR Turbo’s turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine, which increases horsepower to 188. If you’d rather not handle shifting, consider equipping your Sentra with a continuously variable transmission (CVT), which operates like an automatic.

With the base engine, there’s very little power to propel the Sentra quickly. The base models of nearly every other compact car accelerate quicker. Passing others on the highway or merging into traffic will require careful planning. The CVT makes the most of the engine’s meager power, and it functions better than many other CVTs on the market.

Although the 1.8-liter engine is on the slow side, its fuel economy is incredible. With the optional CVT, the Sentra earns 29 mpg in the city and 37 mpg on the highway. Although highway mileage is average for a compact car, fuel economy in the city is remarkable.

If you’d rather have some muscle, you might consider the SR Turbo with its more potent turbocharged engine. However, acceleration doesn’t quite match this power. Even when paired with the six-speed manual transmission, it doesn’t feel like a sport sedan. To make matters worse, the engine struggles to provide consistent oomph throughout the latter stages of the power band.

  • "On first blush, the Sentra SR Turbo's acceleration is adequate, but not particularly inspiring. The six-speed's gearing seems to be better-suited to everyday driving than being pushed--not because the gearbox couldn't keep up, mind you, but because the engine seemed to run out of steam well short of its 6,500 RPM red line." -- Left Lane News
  • "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 (2016)
  • "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)

Handling and Braking

The Sentra focuses more on ride comfort than sportiness, though steering feels secure, especially on the highway. The lower trim’s standard drum brakes provide good stopping power without any hiccups. Still, the base Sentra isn’t particularly athletic. Overall, the Sentra’s road manners are unremarkable, according to critics.

New for 2017, the SR Turbo takes the Sentra SR and makes it sportier. It doesn’t just move faster, but it also handles with quicker reflexes. However, even with its upgraded steering and suspension, it doesn’t stack up to the performance trims of others, like the Mazda3, because the SR Turbo feels less refined and nimble overall.

  • "While [the SR Turbo is] far improved over the basic Sentra, it's still not as engaging as some of its competitors (the Mazda3, VW Golf and Ford Focus, especially) and it lacks both the panache and the polish found in true sport compacts." -- Left Lane News
  • "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 (2016)
  • "The suspension was tightened up as well, not enough to make the Sentra sporty, but just enough to nullify our complaint that the previous car was a little floaty over bigger bumps. The result is a pleasant and comfortable, albeit somewhat forgettable, driving experience." -- Kelley Blue Book (2016)

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