Nissan ups Sentra's appeal for 2016

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NEWPORT BEACH, CALIF. >> Nissan refreshed their Sentra for 2016, to make it more attractive, quieter and with more technology.

This generation of the vehicle launched in 2013, and so it is getting a mid-cycle refresh. While it was planned for a while, this refresh may have ended up a bit more extensive.

That's because the landscape is changing for cars. People are buying more crossovers than are buying cars. For this reason, Nissan is upping the ante in the Sentra's looks and features.

The theory that most families want a station wagon's capability without appearing to be one remains true. To fight this, Nissan is making the Sentra much more attractive — sporty with a longer-looking feeling.

They have also focused on creating a "face" to the Sentra that brings Nissan's Maxima and Altima to mind. So the Sentra gets a new front end, and that includes both headlights, front fascia, fenders and the grille. The Sentra SR and SL trims get new LED low-beam headlights and LED accents lights.

There are also changes in the rear, with a new fascia sporting boomerang-shaped taillights. There are also two new 17-in. wheel designs for SR and SL grades, as well as a new SV 16-in. aluminum-alloy wheel design. Wheels are tred with a newly developed Continental tire.

It has a more aggressive and sporty look, and that changes the way you perceive the car's proportions. It looks longer and lower, although it really isn't. So I liked how stylish this Sentra looks on the road. It's more balanced aesthetically: no longer looking like a value-oriented car.

Inside things weren't changed as much as made better. It has the same design, but materials are better — for example they now have a new, and more stain-resistant fabric for the seats. Details are upgraded and the fit and finish of the car was excellent. They have redesigned the layout of the center console and you can even get leather on the upper models. Options include dual zone automatic temperature control and a Bose Premium audio system with eight speakers, and even keyless entry.

Everything was taut and seams were tight. Taking a look at the base and sport models, interior features that were across the lineup looked and felt like they belonged on the top-of-the-line trim level. a new center cluster design, a new console and shifter knob, and refined seat fabrics.

The Nissan was very quiet and this is the best thing that's happened to compact cars. Engineers worked very hard at this, and they succeeded. Driving the Sentra in various types of traffic it was as quiet as you could wish. They did this by changing the engine mounts, adding more insulation, and using acoustic glass in the windshield.

The goal of the designers was to create a more exciting, as well as more intelligent, interior. That means there's more technology. Now Nissan Connect telematics provides service through smartphone. There is also Apple Siri Eyes Free, as Nissan says a half of their customers have an iPhone, so it makes sense to offer this.

They've also added a new steering wheel, much like the one in the Maxima. There is also a five-inch display between the instrument-panel gauges to provide additional information without the driver having to lose too much eye contact with the road.

Nissan says there are 550 new parts on the 2016 Sentra, and while many of them have to do with the aesthetics of the car, there are also mechanical capabilities to the car's drivability as well as updated features and capabilities within the cabin.

For instance, the buyer has the option of Safety Shield Technologies, which includes emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot warning, and rear cross-traffic alert. These features are options, but are available on all but the base model.

Although this is a compact car, it comes with safety features, such as active understeer control and the body has been stressed for additional rigidity. There's been some tuning to the suspension and steering to make the car drive more positively.

There is no change to the Sentra's engine, it is All 2016 Sentra models are fitted with the same 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine flowing 130 hp. and 128 lb.-ft. of peak torque to the front wheels through a continuously variable transmission However, there is a six-speed manual transmission on the Sentra S base model.

The Nissan's continuously variable transmission was tweaked for smoother transitions. That means it feels more like a geared car. Fuel economy is rated at 29 mpg city and 38 mpg highway although the eco-special Sentra FE+ S grade gets 30 mpg city and 40 mpg highway.

Prices for the model lineup start with the Nissan S featuring a six-speed speed manual transmission start at $16,780. The S with the CVT has a starting price of $17,630. The eco-model, called the Sentra FE+ S starts at $18,030. The Sentra SV is the most popular package, and it's starting price is $18,550. Then the SR, the sportiest of the Sentras, has an initial price of $20,410.

Nissan's Sentra SV, the volume leader, with the Driver's Assist Package costs $19,570. That package give active safety features that weren't too long ago only found on luxury cars. The Technology Package, which gets you all those safety features, costs $1230. Finally, the top-of-the-line SL begins at $22,170. The car I tested was a Nissan Sentra SL with all the packages: navigation, safety, communications, connectivity and had a list price of $25,400.

The Sentra's performance is comparable to the rest of the class. It isn't particularly powerful, but has what most buyers of these will need in the way of power. And frankly, I would guess most of them would rather have better fuel efficiency rather than more power.

Competition is a great thing. Those people who are seeking a car rather than a crossover, get a very heartfelt smile when they walk into a showroom. If you don't believe me, try it.

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