//Richard Case 00966583

2018 Nissan Sentra Nismo Road Test Review

 Copyright: Canadian Auto Press Inc.


Refining the sport compact experience 

Nissan thoroughly surprised me with the thoroughly enjoyable Sentra SR Turbo last year, and then they went a step further by bringing the Sentra Nismo to market. Both are back again for 2018, and both are worthy sport sedans that deserve your time and attention. 

Compared to the stealth SR Turbo, this Nismo certainly pulls more eyeballs and elicits its fair share of smiles. Don't get me wrong as I appreciated the subtleness of the metallic grey-painted SR I tested and reviewed earlier, but the Aspen White pearl and wine-red colour scheme of this Nismo, plus all of its aero body cladding, made for a much more interesting design. 

Some finer details worth noting are the nice complex partial LED headlamps and sharp looking horizontal LED fog lights below, while the machine-finished multi-spoke 18-inch alloys on Michelin Pilot Sport A/S 3+ 215/45ZR18 tires make for a sweet looking, sticky combination. 


 

Sentra Nismo is a serious performer 

On that note, Nissan upgrades the Nismo with a more aggressively tuned sport suspension featuring increased spring and damper rates that I really felt through the corners. I already loved the SR Turbo, so as you can imagine the Nismo was that much more engaging. Like that SR Turbo, Nissan's press relations department left the standard six-speed manual in place so as to provide ultimate control through those corners and off the line (a CVT with manual-mode is optional), which certainly made the most of the 188 horsepower and 177 lb-ft of torque on tap. Yes, that's identical output from the same engine as the SR Turbo, a 1.6-litre turbo-four that loves to rev all day long. 


 

It feels strong off the line and sounds fabulous as it winds up to and slightly beyond its 6,400 rpm redline, while grip through the corners was plentiful for lots of fast-paced fun. It understeers slightly, as can be expected from a front-drive car, but it was never unwieldy even when pushed hard, while the suspension responded well to dips and bumps that regularly unsettle lesser compacts. The Nismo isn't remotely harsh either, but rather Nissan has found a nice balance between performance and comfort, which is actually true for its approach to the entire car. 


 

Refined cabin covered in plush materials 

The Sentra Nismo's cabin is very appealing, because the red and black colour combination and some of the detailing is particularly well done. Most noticeable are the microsuede Nismo seats with superb side bolstering and extreme comfort. They're finished with solid microsuede centres and perforated bolsters, the latter and headrests featuring red backing showing through the perforations as well as red stitching. There's more red stitching on the microsuede and leather-wrapped steering wheel to match that on the leather-wrapped shifter knob and boot, while the steering wheel also gets a unique red leather stripe at its top-centre position, matching the red ring around the special Nismo tachometer, the bright red ignition button, and red metallic trim on the otherwise carbon-style centre stack and lower console surface treatment. There's more carbon-like surfacing on the doors, as well as red stitching on the door armrests. Are you following the theme here? 


 

The interior is finished well, with a soft touch dash top that wraps right down to the halfway point of the instrument panel ahead of the front passenger. It doesn't do the same around the primary instruments in front of the driver, but that's not the norm in the class anyway. The door inserts and armrests are wonderfully plush thanks to using the same microsuede as the seats, excepting the centre armrest that's done out in padded leatherette. It's a bit of a mishmash of textures and materials, but it all works well. 


 

Plenty of digital interfaces and smartphone connectivity 

Nissan did a good job of upgrading the primary instruments that feature a large multi-information display at centre, with mostly blue and silver-grey colouring. Even more detailed info can be found within the infotainment touchscreen, which features handy analogue switchgear down each side as well as a CD player and SD card reader up top. That's a lot of kit, yet it includes a backup camera and navigation with detailed mapping and accurate routing too. What's more, the Bose audio system is excellent. 


 

Another surprise was that Nissan swapped out last year's rudimentary manual HVAC interface for an attractive, easy to use dual-zone automatic climate control system. There's a bin just below for a smartphone, plus a 12-volt socket right beside that if you want to charge up the old fashioned way, while powered USB ports are also available. 

I should mention that two-way heatable seat controls are on the lower console as well, while an overhead console includes a much-appreciated felt-lined sunglasses holder. I really like the LED reading lights, which are certainly a step up over this segment's usual incandescent lamps. 


 

One of the most accommodating interiors in its class 

The Sentra's forte is interior spaciousness, especially in back where there was almost a clear foot of knee room behind the driver's seat after setting it up for my five-foot-eight frame. Headroom was also generous for the class, with about three inches above my crown, while I had about four inches beside my left shoulder and a couple of inches next to my outer hip. The back seats are comfortable too, with excellent lower back support, and the rear door panels featured the same soft suede-like material on their padded inserts and armrests. Likewise, the backsides of the front seats were finished in that same rich microsuede, while red stitching was used for the door armrests and seats, although they didn't get the same perforated inserts with red backing as those up front. 


 

Like the rear seating area, the Sentra's trunk is extremely large at 428 litres with an especially low floor that allows tall cargo to be housed within. The rear seatbacks fold 60/40 from pull-tabs on the tops of each seatback, although when folded don't offer a completely flat load floor due to the low cargo floor. It's a good trade-off because there's so much more room than average in there. 


 

Standard and optional features galore 

As for features, Nissan makes sure every 2018 Sentra trim line is well equipped with standard keyless entry, heated power-adjustable side mirrors, variable intermittent wipers, cruise control, a tilt and telescopic steering wheel with illuminated controls, Fine Vision electroluminescent gauges, Bluetooth with hands-free text messaging and audio streaming, Siri Eyes Free, a USB input, a backup camera, tire pressure monitoring, and automatic emergency braking, while mid-range SV trim adds proximity-sensing keyless access, pushbutton ignition, auto on/off headlamps, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a large colour cluster display, micro-filtered air conditioning, new dual-zone automatic climate control, satellite radio, heatable front seats, an Easy-Fill alert system for the tire pressure monitoring, and more. 


 

Along with the upgraded drivetrain, the SR Turbo adds LED low-beam projector headlights with LED accents, LED fog lights, LED turn signals in the mirror housings, larger 11.7-inch front rotors and rear disc brakes, lower side sill extensions, a rear spoiler, a diffuser style sport rear bumper cap, a chromed exhaust finisher, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, illuminated vanity mirrors, a powered moonroof and more, while the Nismo includes all items already mentioned as well as a 0.8-inch larger 5.8-inch infotainment touchscreen, NissanConnect with voice recognition, navigation and mobile apps, SiriusXM Traffic and Travel Link, and eight-speaker Bose premium audio including two subs. 

Unlike the SV there are no options, other than the $1,300 CVT and my tester's Aspen White pearl paint that adds $395-base colours include Super Black and Gun Metallic. 


 

Great value from a well-equipped compact sport sedan 

The Sentra Nismo starts at just $26,198 plus freight and fees, which makes it only $3,900 pricier than the SR Turbo. This said the SR Turbo is already a great performing compact sedan that should also be considered by those looking for a little more zest in their daily drive, which like the Nismo won't eat a hole in their fuel budget thanks to a 9.5 L/100km city, 7.6 highway and 8.7 combined rating with the manual, or 9.4, 7.8 and 8.7 respectively with the CVT. 


 

Either way, sport compact fans have two value-packed options to keep them up at night. 


Story credits: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press 

Photo credits: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press 

Copyright: Canadian Auto Press Inc.