The 2016 Nissan Sentra is here, and it is the next model to get the “new face of Nissan” – V-Motion grille, boomerang headlights other touches here and there – which is good as the last car was getting a little long in the tooth.

And the new styling works well with the Sentra. Especially in SR trim, which adds unique 17-inch two-tone wheels that are just close enough to aftermarket, without looking like they’re sourced from the back pages of the Canadian Tire catalogue.

The styling additions are also good because under the skin, there isn’t a whole lot going on that’s new. The engine has the same power as last year’s car (130 hp, 128 lb-ft of torque), the transmission is still an Xtronic CVT – there is no manual option on the top to trims – although it has been tuned to provide more perceptible shifts.

This hangs me up a little because for a car that’s being championed as kind of a sportier alternative (in SR trim, anyway) to the Hyundai Elantras, Kia Fortes and Toyota Corollas of the world, well, the lack of a manual transmission is a strange omission.

It just makes me wonder exactly where the Sentra’s going to fit on the competitive compact sedan world. Especially when you consider that the Honda Civic is all-new for 2016 (and it’s not like that’s going to be a hot seller, right?), as is the Elantra, so the Sentra has a lot of fresh faces to deal with.

Where it does do well, however, is when it comes to interior accoutrements. There’s no more room than there used to be, but some new materials gracing the door panels, centre stack and armrest are welcome additions.

The bigger news is the infotainment system which gets a new touchscreen matched by a new five-inch display nestled between the gauges. Siri eyes-free capability has also been added, which I think is an important addition. Touchscreens are all the rage these days, but it’s frustrating (and potentially dangerous) to have to spend precious seconds looking for the button you need, or ensuring that you don’t over-boost the fan et cetera. Eyes-free tech is good tech to have on the road.

Also good to have are safety features, and there are a tonne of them. For the first time, the Sentra gets Nissan Safety Shield tech. Essentally an umbrella name for a host of driver aides, Safety Shield adds forward emergency braking, intelligent cruise control, blind spot warning and rear cross traffic alert. Indeed, this is all optional stuff depending on trim, but the fact that it’s been made available is a boon for a car in the compact class. That’s a lot of tech, and if it’s priced tight, it will attract buyers. (Canadian pricing has not been announced, but it starts at US $16,780)

Hands-on with the out-going manual: Test Drive: 2015 Nissan Sentra SV 6-speed manual

The suspension has also reportedly tuned to deliver a more involving ride, and if you select the SR, it goes further still. If the effect is anything like the difference between the two top Maxima trims – SR and Platinum – then the two Sentra trims could very well diverge quite noticeably in the handling department.

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