Nissan Sentra SV

17w ago


It should come as a surprise to nobody that the Sentra is a consistent 5/10, that people only buy because they either don't know better, or because it was the only dealership that didn't have them forcibly escorted from the property once they checked their credit rating. Having ended up with a 2017 SV as a rental, I come prepared with a laundry-list of valid reasons (and some amateur photos) to hate the Nissan Sentra if you're even somewhat of an enthusiast, but on the fence about it. I've never written an article before in my life, but this car is so...special, I feel like it deserves it.

The Steering Wheel

I don't think using Sid the Sloth's face as inspiration to design a wheel was the greatest idea.

Firstly, look at that beast of a wheel. Ugh. Sure, looks are in the eye of the beholder, but if you find that attractive, it's only because you've already mistakenly bought one of these and have grown used to it. Much like a mysterious lump under your skin that hasn't gotten bigger in a while, and you're not getting it checked because you can't afford the visit to the hospital.

Not only is it ugly, but it's button layout is clumsy at best and downright irritating at worst. Volume control is inaccessible with hands at 9-3, as is the Cruise-on-off button, the Phone Call control buttons, and the Economy/Trip/Menu buttons. The only switches that are easy to use are the Playback control and Cruise speed rocker knobs; These knobs have their own faults, however, and stick out past the steering wheel's face, making them much too easy to strike with your thumb or palm during a sharp corner. I have accidentally restarted/skipped songs at least a dozen times in the 4 days I've had this car. It is incredibly annoying.

Finally, the steering is....broken. The wheel lacks any weight or resistance when turned sharply, but it also has a profoundly weird feeling when centered. It's a sensation I've never felt on a vehicle before in my life. It feels like I'm 4 years old again, sitting in my dad's lap and "steering" the car, but his arm is under mine, holding the wheel by the bottom so I can't "over-steer" the vehicle and end up in the ditch. The stiffness when trying to turn the wheel slightly off-center feels almost springloaded: the car seems like it wants very badly to only go straight. This feeling quashes a lot of the potential for the handling to feel light and sporty, like it does in a Fiesta, or Golf, where you can make the car waggle it's body with a spirited shimmy of the wheel. It feels like playing one of those games where there's a "driving" section, but you can tell it was added at the last moment and the vehicle mostly drives itself on rails despite your input. A real car isn't supposed to feel like that.

The Drivetrain

Look at all that delicious black plastic. One Hundred Thirty unenthusiastic horses await.

To call the Sentra's engine decent would be a stretch, perhaps "acceptable" would be less insulting to other decent engines. It is a plain lump of metal with 4 tubes, inside of which 4 pistons reside and operate. It makes something like 130bhp, but sounds and feels like it's making closer to 85 ponies. 85 sick, unhappy, anemic ponies, with asthma.

Worse yet is this meager, unhappy power is being fed through an indecisive snowmobile transmission, and only to the front wheels. Yes, the CVT, the worst transmission currently in existence, rears it's ugly head again and laughs in the face of you trying to enjoy your drive. This car deserves a conventional 6-speed automatic with a locking torque converter to make the most of the underpowered engine and porky body (truly, it would be almost-good with a 6-spd manual box, but I'm not an idiot, I know nobody would buy that). The way the CVT jerks violently from a standstill (after a slight delay) when the throttle is applied is unpleasant. The way the engine wails and grinds away at 5500-6000 RPM while the Sentra desperately heaves it's way to highway speed limits is even worse. The fact that the Eco/Sport modes reset when the car is shut off, and Eco is the only one that seems to make any difference at all is just aggravating.

Eco? Sport? Are you kidding?

Hide the only button worth pushing: Eco, way down under the dash well out of sight...genius.

Why even include Eco/Sport options on a car like this? The engine sounds displeased with it's own existence at low speed, and vibrates and grinds like a rock crusher at full-throttle, the transmission is a rubber strap (maybe its a chain...truly, who cares?) between two pulleys, and the car is overweight, dumpy looking, has terrible suspension setup, and even worse steering.

The Sport button is an insult to the word "Sport", and Nissan should be banned from using the phrase as well as the button that makes promises it cannot keep.

Eco should literally always be on, because anyone who buys one of these did not do it for the sake of pleasure. In fact, considering most people buy these because of their price, wouldn't it make sense that they want to save as much fuel as possible between fillups to not impact their bank account so harshly? Why is it optional? It doesn't affect the driving experience in any way except to lower the cruising RPM, and slightly soften the throttle inputs from the driver. Nothing someone would notice unless they were looking for it.

To put it another way, I am a fairly aggressive driver who loves when a car responds to my inputs directly, and even I make an effort to turn on Eco before my drive to work every morning because it makes no difference to the characteristics of the car, but I do it hoping it's improving the fuel economy slightly.

The Interior

Dumpy smooth black plastic, mismatched silver and gloss-black trim... Nissan has cornered the market on ugly interiors.

The seats, though nicely heated and reasonably nice to look at, are stiff and uncomfortable, and provide almost no lateral support whatsoever. The small amount of body roll the car exhibits is exacerbated by the flat seats that allow you to slide against the door or center console under hard cornering. Body roll isn't so bad when the seats hold you in place, but it is abysmal when they don't.

The mismatched interior trim adds to the overall feel of cheapness. The decorative strips on the doors are black, but where they meet with the dash, the vents are silver? The same issue is present on the center console, where the radio surround is in "fingerprint-magnet" glossy black, but the attached vents are silver. What possessed Nissan to do something like this and make it so weird and discordant is beyond me.

I will give credit in one spot though. The Sentra still has an honest to goodness manual handbrake that actually works the way it's supposed to. Good work Nissan, being cheap paid off.

The Handling

The seats are pretty though...

In typical modern "safe" car fashion, the Sentra attempts to understeer aggressively, because understeer is safe and easy to control, and you can watch yourself lose traction and slam head-on into a tree. It almost feels like only the inside wheel is steering, because despite not being extremely heavy, or very fast, the Sentra feels like it's being pushed from behind and has a shocking lack of front wheel traction.

The body roll, as mentioned earlier, is pretty bad and not at all sporty, and it makes the lack of grip in the front wheels feel even more profound, a car with this little grip shouldn't roll like it does. It just feels like it's on the absolute edge of traction at any speed above 25kph. Normally, that's fun, and what makes the GT86/FR-S so popular, but in the Nissan, it just robs you of confidence, and makes you worry about losing it and smashing the low front bumper off a curb.

The weight bias feels incredibly skewed to the front, and it would take some wizardry in the suspension and steering department to make it feel even remotely acceptable compared to it's significantly better competitors like the Fusion, Mazda 6 and- I'm sorry, I misspoke, the Sentra doesn't compete with any of those vehicles. It doesn't even come close. There are "good sedans", which encompass the similar offerings from other automakers, and then there's the Sentra, in B-company, a class of its own. A New Standard in lowering your standards.

Finally, The Looks (or lack thereof)

I spent about as much effort cleaning the Sentra before the photos, as Nissan did designing it before production.

This morning I showed my car off to my coworker, a hardworking lady in her 50's, telling her it was exactly the type of car I could see her driving, because she's not at all an enthusiast, doesn't care about how a vehicle sounds or handles, as long as it gets her to work. She looked it front to back and commented on how ugly it was, and how she would never own something that looks this dumpy, overweight, and bland, in her own words "until I'm at least 10 years older than I am now".

Let me qualify that statement further by including the fact that this woman drives a Dodge Journey.

Yeah. A gray Dodge Journey.

Good work Nissan, you managed to make a car less desirable than a Dodge Journey.



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