2013 Nissan Sentra SL

Patrick M Hoey

The 2013 Sentra's mini-Altima styling, while somewhat awkward, brings dividends inside. The cabin is one of the plushest in its class (at least in this top-level SL), and there are acres of interior space compared with the competition. Thanks to a large greenhouse, the all-black color scheme still comes off as bright and airy. For a compact car, the trunk is huge.

However, that oversize interior feel is due to that somewhat strange exterior styling. That extra-large trunk comes at the cost of a weird rear three-quarter appearance - it looks as though the bumper has been pulled an extra foot past where it was supposed to end. (The Versa sedan suffers the same design flaw.) The tall greenhouse coupled with tall door panels and smallish wheels mean that the Sentra looks a bit tippy, as though it's not quite wide enough.

Donny Nordlicht, Associate Web Editor

The Sentra has come a long way from its dorky, plasticky predecessor. In fact, the mini-Altima exterior design is so convincing that from a distance I actually thought it was an Altima. It's not quite as swoopy and dynamic as the Hyundai Elantra, but its more reserved styling will likely help it appeal to a wider audience. The interior is also a huge step forward in terms of looks and quality. It's not hard to find the cheap stuff, but most materials at least appear more expensive that what you would have found in the last-generation Sentra.

As expected, there's nothing thrilling about driving the Sentra, and it's got nothing on the enthusiasts' choice in this class, the Ford Focus, but the improvements for 2013 -- including a massive jump in fuel efficiency to 34 mpg combined -- should go a long way toward helping the Sentra climb the compact-car sales charts.

Jennifer Misaros, Managing Editor, Digital Platforms

The powertrain really lets down the new Sentra. It drones whenever you accelerate at more than the very lightest of throttle applications. Even my wife thought it was slow, and she's a fairly conservative driver. She also happens to own a 2012 Ford Focus, and the Sentra only reinforced her purchase decision.

This Nissan hangs on reasonably well after the big initial body roll sets in, but I didn't expect the suspension to bottom out like it did in the middle of a 50-mph sweeper taken at a quick but not reckless pace.

I find the Sentra's styling reasonably attractive both inside and out. It's absolutely no coincidence that I also find the styling of the new Nissan Altima to be reasonably attractive both inside and out. The family resemblance is so striking that it's actually kind of unimaginative. Still, I especially like the look of the Sentra's curved dashboard, which helps distract occupants from the cheap-looking interior materials.

Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor

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