What’s the first car that comes to mind when you think 6-speed manual and turbo engine?
It probably isn’t the new Nissan Sentra, but it should be.
This car has the guts and dynamics to bring a smile to our faces, and we mean it, because we’ve driven a lot of tossable “fun” cars as of late.
The backstory behind this turbocharged Sentra is that a Nissan engineer at the Arizona Test Center took a regular Sentra and beefed it up, swapping out the 1.8L naturally aspirated engine for the 1.6L turbo from the Juke. The product planning team took notice and lo and behold, we now have a production Sentra that not only looks fast with SR bodywork, but is revamped in all the key areas to be a much better driver’s car.
Nissan’s 1.6L direct injected engine produces 188 horsepower and 177 lb-ft of torque, a significant bump over the non-turbo engine. Inside the engine, spray-coated and mirror-finish cylinder bores, a variable pressure oil pump and a low-pressure EGR system translate to more power with greater efficiency. Variable timing control for the intake and exhaust sides improves low-end engine response.
On the road, this translates to an engaging and sweet rev-happy drive, with easy rowing thanks to a finely tuned 6-speed manual. The clutch is smooth and engagement is predictable, almost luxury-like.
The Electric Power Steering system boasts a larger steering motor and revised electronic mapping to provide a balanced feel between reduced effort at parking and low speed situations and enhanced feedback on highways and winding roads.
For those who want the turbo fun but without having to row gears, a CVT is still available, a version unique to the SR Turbo to match the new engine’s performance.
Under the Sentra’s skin, Nissan engineers enhanced the body structure. Suspension tuning was modified for spirited driving, with sport-tuned independent struts with 10% stiffer coil springs in the front and a torsion beam setup in the rear with high-frequency shock absorbers.
Unique 17″ wheels help it stand apart, while larger front disc brakes (11.7″ vs 11.0) and unique to Turbo brake pads improve stopping performance and minimize brake fade. We found the braking to be linear, grabbing without much pedal depression and continuing on smoothly through pedal travel. They’re definitely confidence inspiring and feel different from the non-turbo Sentra. Nissan tells us the Active Understeer Control system has also been optimized for the SR Turbo.
When cruising at highway speeds, we noticed a bit less noise in the cabin. We later learned that the front and rear window glass was thickened.
In terms of features, LED low beam projectors with LED accents are standard; the high beams and fog lights are halogen. Heated outside mirrors with LED turn signal indicators are included too. We didn’t have the opportunity to drive the Sentra at night, but have found previous LED projectors to be significantly brighter and reach further than halogens.
An airy sunroof is standard and complements the sporty cloth interior. Heated seats, buttery soft armrests, Nissan’s keyless entry system with push-button ignition and a backup camera are all included. All Sentra’s gain nearly double the storage capacity in the front center console.
Only one package is available on turbo models: SR Turbo Premium. We highly recommend it as it adds useful safety features like blind spot warning with rear cross-traffic alert, and a few amenities like leather seats and Bose audio with eight speakers.
If fun to drive, safe, reliable and a budget in the low 20s is on your radar, then the new Sentra SR Turbo is perfect for you.