NEW FOR 2015:

– New colour options: Titanium, Red Alert
– Adjustments to equipment levels for S and SV trims
– Premium Package is now standard equipment for SR trim
– Redesigned front sub-structure improves crashworthiness

A lot has changed in the world of compact cars over the past decade – opting for one used to mean giving up space, comfort and equipment for fuel economy and a small price tag. Not so with Nissan’s Sentra. Behind its mini-Altima styling, the Sentra packs a cabin and trunk that matche or best many midsize vehicles for space, and an interior design that’s more premium in appearance than many of its rivals.

Though it may not look different from last year’s model, Nissan made some tweaks to the Sentra beneath the surface. Its engineers redesigned the side-curtain airbags and tinkered with the front-end structure, A-pillar, and door sills to beef up structural integrity. These changes helped the Sentra ace the IIHS’ tough small front-overlap crash test, earning it a Top Safety Pick rating. Speaking of safe picks, the Sentra was also the highest-ranked compact car in J.D. Power’s Initial Quality Survey, tying the Toyota Corolla and Hyundai Elantra.

Where some compact cars aim to please enthusiast drivers, the Sentra’s strengths are in ease of operation and comfort. The straightforward cabin offers drivers good visibility, comfortable seats, and clear controls that fall easily to hand. Tweaks to the electrically assisted power steering have reduced the need for steering correction around the straight-ahead position at highway speeds, while the pillowy-soft ride helps it roll over expansion joints and road imperfections like much larger car. Noise levels are impressively low for a car of this size. All in all, this makes the Sentra a sound choice for buyers looking to downsize from a bigger vehicle, long-distance commuters, or those with small families.

All Sentras come with a 1.8-litre four-cylinder engine that produces 130 hp and 128 lb-ft of torque. It can be mated to either a six-speed manual, or a CVT automatic.

The Sentra is offered in four trim levels: S, SV, SR Premium, and SL.

The base S comes equipped with LED daytime running lights, LED brakelights, heated power mirrors, keyless entry, power door locks, power windows, seatback map pocket, rear-seat centre arm rest, driver-selectable drive modes (Eco, Sport, Normal), tilt and telescoping steering column, 12-volt power outlet, six-way manual driver’s seat, four-way manual passenger’s seat, 60/40 split folding rear seat, four-speaker AM/FM/CD with aux-in and USB audio inputs, speed sensitive volume, security system. New for 2015 are standard Bluetooth handsfree phone, USB audio input, and cruise control with steering wheel-mounted controls. Air conditioning and the CVT are paired together as an options package.

The SV builds on the S with standard air conditioning, and upgraded cloth upholstery, plus a major injection of new standard equipment for 2015. This includes a proximity key with push-button start, heated seats, reverse camera, satellite radio, 5.0-inch infotainment system with integrated apps and Bluetooth streaming audio, hands-free text message assistant, automatic headlamps, and the easy-fill tire alert system from the Altima that honks the horn when the correct tire pressure has been reached. From a visuals perspective, the SV also gets 16-inch alloy wheels, and leather-wrapping for the steering wheel and shift knob. The Luxury Package adds a power sunroof, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, sun visors with illuminated vanity mirrors, eight-speaker Bose stereo system, and navigation with a 5.8-inch touchscreen. It is available exclusively with the CVT.

The SR Premium builds on the SV with standard CVT (oddly), silver sport interior trim, a body kit with sill extensions, chrome exhaust finisher, rear spoiler, fog lights, sport grille, power sunroof, 17-inch wheels, sport cloth upholstery, and dual seatback pockets. New for 2015 are standard heated seats, plus the content that was formerly a part of the Premium Package: rear disc brakes, proximity key with push-button start, eight-speaker Bose stereo system with satellite radio, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, and navigation with 5.8-inch touchscreen.

The SL is the junior Infiniti of the lineup. The addition of wood trim, leather, and dual-zone climate control certainly give the cabin the look and feel of an upscale car. Classy 17-inch wheels, and mirrors with LED indicators work with the chrome window trim, door handles, and trunk garnish to give the SL an upscale appearance.

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