First Drive: 2016 Nissan Sentra

2016 Nissan Sentra - angle

The 2016 Nissan Sentra gets a facelift, including a new front grille, as part of a substantial mid-cycle refresh for this compact car. About 20% of the Sentra has been changed, which is about three times the change in a refresh design and makes the Sentra’s look consistent with the changes we’re seeing in Nissan’s sedan lineup. I drove the new Sentra on a gorgeous, sunny day in Orange County with some spectacular coastline views and plenty of city driving settings.


The front of the new Sentra looks completely different with Nissan’s new “V Motion” Grille replacing the more traditional grille of the 2015 model. Nissan is going for a sportier and more aggressive design over the more elegant and refined look from last year. Both fit the vehicle well, but I like the new look with the aggressive boomerang headlights. We saw this first in the Murano, and then the Maxima, and it’s a good look for Nissan. As you can see in the photo below, a Nissan designer used tape to highlight the lines that drove the design for the new front end. It’s fun and aggressive, and should do well in this segment.

2016 Nissan Sentra - lines


There are plenty of changes to the interior as well, with upgrades to the seat fabrics and trim materials along with a 6-way power driver’s seat and 2-way power lumbar support and a Z-inspired steering wheel.

There are notable Advanced Driver Assistance features available on the new Sentra, including Forward Emergency Braking, Intelligent Cruise Control, Blind Spot Warning with Rear Cross-Traffic Alert. With this package, the price for the vehicle remains under $20,000. It’s pretty remarkable how quickly this technology has worked its way down to compact models in this price range.

Quite a bit of attention was paid to reducing noise in the new model, and the interior definitely seemed quieter than the previous model, though you can certainly hear the engine working when you’re accelerating.


The Sentra continues to utilize a fuel-efficient 1.8-liter 4-cylinder engine with a CVT engine that has been engineered to simulate gear shifts drivers expect. The engine is rated at 130 horsepower and 128 lb-ft of torque. It felt pretty natural as I drove the Sentra through all sorts of city-type driving. The Sport and Eco settings also gave the flexibility to alter the driving experience a bit. Nissan highlighted improvements to the steering system and suspension as well which made for a tighter driving experience. Fuel economy is rated at 29 mpg city, 38 mpg highway and 32 mpg combined with the Xtronic (CVT) transmission. Overall, it’s a pleasant vehicle to drive given the segment.


The Nissan team explained this refresh was needed to continue to compete in this segment, and the look of the Sentra has improved with this 2016 model. They also noted the 2015 model was a Top Compact Car in the J.D. Power Initial Quality Study and that 93% of the Sentras sold in the last 10 years are still on the road today. That sign of durability gives this model another selling point worth considering.

2016 Nissan Sentra - Balboa Island