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Aaron Gold

Test drive: 2013 Nissan Sentra

By December 26, 2012

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2013 Nissan Sentra

One of the (legitimate) criticisms of car critics like me is that our preferences aren't necessarily in line with the rest of the motoring public -- something I happen to agree with. I'm knee-deep in this right now; I criticized the all-new Honda Accord for having what I thought was a lousy ride, although the bulk of my colleagues are praising it to high heaven because it handles better than any other mid-sizer out there. (To be fair to Honda, I'm going to spend a week with an Accord to see if more seat time changes my opinion.)

With the all-new Nissan Sentra, my own biases are being put to the test. Here's a car that covers all the basics -- and yet five days of familiarity bred nothing but contempt. I've tried to be as fair as possible in my review, citing the things it does well and the aspects that turned me off. Am I being unfair to the Sentra? Or is it reallya sub-par car? Check out my review, then post a comment and tell me what you think. -- Aaron Gold

Photo Aaron Gold

December 26, 2012 at 3:34 pm
(1) George in Ohio says:

There was a time when I was very seriously considering a 2007/8 Sentra. I remember that you, Aaron, gave the 2007 a glowing review, and I was thinking about getting a compact with a larger interior as an alternative to a midsize. Ultimately, I passed on the Sentra in favor of a larger 2009 Sonata, which has been an excellent car for our purposes, if somewhat uninvolving to drive. A great road car with nice creature comforts.

But I agree completely with your review of the new Sentra, Aaron. Actually drove one recently and, other than the space inside, the car has absolutely no redeeming factors, or anything else that makes it desirable, much less lovable. Makes me wonder what is up with the Japanese manufacturers., Nissan, Toyota and Honda all seem to be preoccupied with putting out “safe” vehicles that don’t even try to push the envelope. I agree – give me the Impreza every time (or the Mazda 3, as soon as they get rid of that ugly “fat lip” grille).

December 26, 2012 at 3:55 pm
(2) George in Ohio says:

I once seriously considered buying a 2007/8 Sentra. Aaron. I remember you gave it a very good review, and I was considering at the time a compact car with a larger interior. Ultimately, I bought a 2009 Sonata, which has been a great road car with good creature comforts, albeit a bit uninvolving to drive.

But I recently drove a new Sentra, and I think you have nailed the review, Aaron. There simply isn’t any “there” there with the Sentra. Other than the good sized interior, there aren’t any redeeming factors that would make me buy one. Yes, it is uninvolving to drive like my Sonata, but it is also devoid of any other positive attributes that I could see that would make it even “like able,” much less lovable.

Makes me wonder what is up withe the Japanese manufacturers – Nissan, Toyota and Honda seem preoccupied with bringing “safe” cars to the market, rather than pushing the envelope (haven’t driven the new Accord, which I understand might be an exception). I agree – give me an Impreza every time (or a Mazda3, as soon as they get rid of that ugly “fat lip” grille).

December 26, 2012 at 6:15 pm
(3) George in Ohio says:

Sorry for the double pst. I thought the first one was lost and not posted, so I paraphrased the second one. Oops!

December 26, 2012 at 9:06 pm
(4) George from Brooklyn says:

I remembered reading your review of the previous generation of Sentra as being very positive about the car. What changed you opinion?

December 26, 2012 at 9:59 pm
(5) Aaron Gold - Cars Guide says:

George (from Brooklyn): The competition got better, and the Sentra didn’t. I still like the old version of the car better. — Aaron

December 27, 2012 at 1:38 am
(6) Hawaiian Don says:

George in Ohio,
You posed the $1,000,000 question: What is with the big Japanese manufacturers putting out these “safe” cars. The Honda Accord/Toyota Camry/Corolla/Civic are clear cut examples of Corporate Comfort Think…a disorder that felled the Big Three in the early ’70′s.

December 27, 2012 at 8:11 am
(7) Eric says:

Glad to read the review. It basically served to reinforce my opinion of the Sentra, and Nissan in general. I’ve never been a big fan of Nissan’s to begin with. I don’t care for their styling, and really don’t care for the Altima. The fact that Nissan went with the “baby Altima” look really turns me off. I’m also one of those who despise CVTs. Seems that’s all that Nissan offers for automatics these days. I’m one of those Luddites who actually LIKES to feel the transmissions shift,. It just feels weird when I don’t feel the shift points. Although this car does offer a manual, which is the way I’d go personally, it’s only available on the entry level model. Why I can’t have a manual on a well optioned car is frustrating beyond description.

I wouldn’t even think of looking at this car if I were in the market for a new vehicle, neither would I consider any Nissan.

December 27, 2012 at 10:27 am
(8) HarryB says:

Aaron you may not get invited to do the next Nissan review after the PR folks read this one on the Sentra.

That said I always discount subjective thoughts on appearance, there are probably folks that said the first XKE was an ugly car. On the other hand I pay attention to observations on seat comfort but not as much on handling, I live in Florida, there are no top secret curvy roads other than on and off ramps associated with the interstates. I do appreciate thoughts on CVTs’, good and bad, true MPG achieved (taken in context), NVH and driver enjoyment. One thing always missing in short term tests though is reliability of the vehicle, if I buy it will I hate it a year or two from now when I learn how costly it will be to keep it running, maintenance and repairs.

December 28, 2012 at 12:27 pm
(9) Aaron Gold - Cars Guide says:

HarryB — The automakers are pretty good about negative reviews so long as they are fair. And I think I was fair to the Sentra. At least, I tried to be!

Your point about handling is an excellent one — something I’m going to address in my next blog entry.

– Aaron

December 28, 2012 at 3:29 pm
(10) lwatcdr says:

HarryB I also live in Florida and I know of 4 curvy roads. Not tail of the dragon or California canyon curvy but pretty curvy and empty. And no I am not telling and yes they are in south an south central Florida :)

December 29, 2012 at 1:27 pm
(11) Chris says:

When I saw Nissan’s own interior beauty shots, all dressed up in leather and wood and what I think is a really nice IP, I thought it would be a baby Maxima or perhaps even have some G35 genes in there somewhere. Some previous generations of the Sentra were really nice for the price, like the SE-Rs of the early 90s. I’m sad to hear that it doesn’t live up to my hopes, but I am certainly glad for the frankness of the review. It remains a tough class to compete in.

January 18, 2013 at 6:21 pm
(12) Jeff R. says:

Sounds fair to me. I am among the Mazda3 owners, purchased in part because of the handling and part due to the lack of being able to find a Chevy Cobalt sedan with a manual and more than one or two options. The last Nissan CVT I drove was annoying at best, in my opinion. Granted, it was a rental, an 11 or 12 Altima, but it was constantly adjusting revs. For me, small car without a clutch pedal = no sale, and I don’t want a stripped down base model.

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