2013 Nissan Sentra
2013 Nissan Sentra. Click image to enlarge
Quick Spin: 2012 Chevrolet Cruze
First Drive: 2013 Hyundai Elantra GT
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Comparison Test: Compact Cars
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Nissan Canada

Review and photos by Mike Schlee

Photo Gallery:
2013 Nissan Sentra

Calistoga, California – The vineyards of Napa valley might seem like a bizarre place to introduce a new compact car. Filled with lush vegetation, rich landscapes, and even richer residents, compact cars seemed few and far between in this region of California. But since Nissan is positioning the Nissan Sentra as a ‘premium’ compact car, maybe it did make sense after all.

All new for 2013, the Sentra is entering its 30th year of production and 6th generation in the Canadian market. During this time, over 320,000 Sentras have been sold in Canada, so it is a big deal for Nissan, especially when you factor in that compact car sales totaled 330,000 units in Canada last year alone. This isn’t anything new, as the compact car market has always been a big seller in Canada. What has changed is that the segment is no longer dominated by three or four car models only. Just about every manufacturer has a strong contender now, and Nissan desperately needed to update their Sentra to stay competitive and steal some more compact car sales. For reference, Nissan’s bestselling vehicles in 2011 were the Rogue, Versa, Altima, and then Sentra. They have big expectations for this new one to move up the sales charts and Nissan is first to point out that the new Sentra is dramatically different than the one it replaces.

2013 Nissan Sentra
2013 Nissan Sentra. Click image to enlarge

That said, it is not like the old Sentra was woefully out of step with its rivals. In a nine-car comparison test performed in the spring, the Sentra proved to have redeeming qualities like a comfortable ride and efficient operation. We decreed that it out ‘Corolla’d’ the Toyota Corolla, but ultimately, the Sentra wound up far down the rankings in seventh place. So, has Nissan addressed the old Sentra’s shortcomings and improved on the old model? In short: yes, for the most part.

The new 2013 Sentra is longer than the outgoing model but is narrower and less tall. The combination makes the Sentra seem much bigger than the old model, even though it is not. Weight has been reduced by 68 kg so the new Sentra tips the scales at 1,268–1,289 kg depending on model. The engine has been downsized to an all-new 1.8L four-cylinder unit that develops 130 hp and 128 lb-ft of torque. When paired with the ‘next-generation Xtronic’ continuously variable transmission (CVT), the new Sentra delivers impressive fuel economy, nearly 1 L/100 km better than the old model. In fact, officially rated at 5.8 L/100 km by Natural Resources Canada for the combined driving cycle, the Sentra claims the title of most efficient vehicle in its class. Will it actually be better than the likes of the Mazda3 Skyactiv in real life? Only a back to back drive will tell. However, during my time behind the wheel, I was able to achieve a 6.4 L/100 km average with the less efficient six-speed manual Sentra.


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