Small hatchbacks and sedans are typically bought by people who use them just as means of transport. They do everything a car has to do, but they’re not particularly exciting to drive and they’re nowhere close to being a performance car. At the other end of the spectrum you have the performance sedans and hot hatchbacks. Although they’re immensely fun, they’re also usually quite expensive. As good as a 300 horsepower sedan might sound of paper, the reality is that you’ll hardly get to exploit its true potential. In most situations it will be driven just like your average economy car.
Over the years we’ve seen cars attempt to fill in the gap between these two extremes, but in most cases the end result was disappointment. Cars with silly names, unnecessary spoilers, ridiculous body kits – you get the idea! You basically got a ‘spiced-up’ economy car that was no better than the standard version. While the current Nissan Sentra is a great little car, many might consider it dull or boring. While it’s a great car to get you to and from work economically, it leaves something to be desired on the performance side.
New for this year, Nissan introduces a performance version called the 2017 Nissan Sentra NISMO. Don’t worry though it’s not a marketing trick! The Sentra NISMO really has been optimized by the team over at the Nissan Motorsports division. Nissan hopes to broaden their NISMO range with an affordable midsize sedan, and possibly even pay tribute to the late and great Sentra SE-R. The question is – can the 2017 Sentra NISMO actually deliver?
SPORTY EXTERIOR DESIGN
The 2017 Nissan Sentra received the revised corporate fascia back in 2016, to bring it in line with the Altima, Maxima and Murano. The 2017 Nissan Sentra NISMO is, as you’d expect, a lot sportier than the standard Sentra, but it still manages to remain understated and tasteful. The front fascia gets the same V-Motion grille as before, but the entire front bumper has been tweaked. The air opening in the middle is a lot bigger, and it gives the car a more aggressive appearance. The LED foglights have been integrated into the air vents on each side, and there’s even a really sporty-looking red diffuser at the bottom.
The side profile further differentiates the NISMO version with the help of a red-accented side skirt running along the bottom. The NISMO -specific 17-inch wheels look great as well. The rear showcases a tasteful and minimalist spoiler, a single chrome exhaust outlet, and a diffuser-like section at the bottom of the bumper with red accents. On the whole, the 2017 Sentra NISMO successfully delivers an elegant exterior. While the exterior is unique to the NISMO version, Nissan thankfully didn’t commit to making it look overly sporty and aggressive.
The cabin of the 2017 Sentra NISMO has been updated as well, but nothing too major or overdone. While the standard version Sentra may feel a bit cold to some, the NISMO has added motorsport cues make it stand out and add a bit of warmth without interfering with the car’s practicality or usability. For a car which is still going to be used on a day to day basis, that matters more than anything.
If you thought this is just a regular Sentra with red accents sprinkled here and there, think again. The special bucket seats in the front row offer ample amount of side bolstering, but they’re still comfortable for everyday use. They’re covered in black Alcantara and are lined with offset red stitching. Nissan has included soft-touch materials to the door panels and the neat instrument cluster up front to give it a special feeling.
Out of everything in the cabin, the NISMO-specific speedometer and tach are by far the most interesting details with a black background and white font allowing for quick and easy glances. You also get the Bose premium audio and a plethora of NISMO-branded items in the cabin, including carpeting, headliner, and more.
ENGINE AND PERFORMANCE
Under the hood you’ll be surprised to find a smaller 1.6L four cylinder engine as opposed to the standard 1.8L in the normal Sentra. The 2017 Sentra NISMO engine however, is equipped with a turbocharger creating 188hp and 177 lb-ft of torque. It’s actually the same unit as the one in the Juke and the Sentra SR Turbo. It doesn’t sound like a lot of power on paper, but it’s more than enough for such a small and light chassis. It’s actually 58 horsepower and 49 lb-ft of torque more than the standard version Sentra, which is almost a 50 percent increase!
Power is sent to the front wheels via a six-speed manual or an Xtronic CVT. If you’re in any way interested in driving, you’ll go for the manual and avoid the CVT like the plague. As far as CVTs go, this one is up there, but it’s just not involving or exciting enough to offer the same kind of driving experience as a manual transmission. The engine is willing to rev and has a lot of juice when in the right gear, so shifting gears yourself is a joy rather than a task.
The chassis is light and solid and allows for zipping around with a fast response and power accelerations at lower speeds, while still having great stability at higher speeds.
While the 2017 Nissan Sentra NISMO may not be one of the most extreme NISMO offerings, it still offers a genuine sporty NISMO feel and touch of performance at a much more affordable price. The 2017 Sentra NISMO is to Nissan what the M235i is to BMW. Not a full NISMO product, but also not just a regular Sentra with added accessories. The 2017 Sentra NISMO will set you back an additional $5,100 over the 2017 Sentra SR Turbo but also adds the premium stereo, revised chassis and a performance inspired interior. Take both versions of the 2017 Sentra for a test drive to see for yourself!