David Zenlea is right. It's hard to drum up even faint praise for the Sentra (maybe the bargain $990 package with a sunroof, rearview camera, and a small-screen navigation system?). Sure, the Sentra offers all the tenets of a modern automobile, but, golly, there are several cars that will meet those basic requirements with luxuries like style, more comfort, better fuel economy, and improved performance all at a comparable price. Nissan is capable of engineering and designing excellent vehicles -- the Juke with its 1.6-liter turbocharged engine and can't-ignore-it styling comes to mind -- but its older products like the Sentra have aged at an accelerated pace compared to the rest of the industry. Compact car buyers would be wise to check out the newcomers from Ford, Chevrolet, and Hyundai or the old standby Honda Civic.
We're due for a new Sentra within the next two years, just as Honda and Toyota should be launching new compacts. While those two automakers will only need incremental improvements to maintain their position as the segment sales leaders, the Sentra needs a wholesale makeover simply to return to competitiveness. Such an effort should start with an infusion of presence, with a complete redesign both inside and out. Retaining the Saturn Ion-like profile won't cut it and Nissan has the potential to craft a reputation for bold designs much like Infiniti has done with svelte shapes and gracious curves. It's also time that Nissan reevaluates its widespread use of the continuously variable transmission, as other automakers are now delivering better fuel economy with conventional automatics and dual-clutch transmissions, both of which offer more satisfying acceleration characteristics.
- Eric Tingwall, Associate Editor