Introducing the first force-fed Sentra
After disappearing from the portfolio for a few years, a performance Sentra finally returns to the fold with the arrival of the 2017 Nissan SR Turbo. Much more than just a few bolt-on upgrades, it goes as fast as it looks and brings back a sense of fun to the badge that has been sorely missed.
It’s been at least three years since I last drove a Sentra and a lot has changed, and in a positive way – I have a theory whereby good looks seem to skip a generation for this particular product. The car is based on the SR undergoing a facelift last year to bring the style closer to the current generation Maxima and Altima, complete with “boomerang” exterior detailing and LED lighting.
A lot of chrome treatment has been added to places like the door handles, grille and window surround, which I personally believe is better off given matte or painted finishes especially on such a model. The Turbo also receives foglights, side skirts, trunk spoiler and unique 17-inch alloy wheels.
Under the bodywork however is where the changes really appear. A 1.6-litre turbocharged engine pushes out 188 horsepower (64 more than the standard SR 1.8-litre) and 177 lb-ft of torque, easily enough to spin the tires off the line. The steering has been retuned to provide a stronger connection to the road, suspension stiffened to keep up with the added output, and the brakes made larger to cool down hot pads quickly and efficiently.
There are two transmission choices: an Xtronic continuously variable transmission featuring step shifting that allows for a more natural acceleration feel rather than the dreaded rubber banding sometimes common to CVTs; and a six-speed manual gearbox present in my test vehicle. The lever travel between gears is remarkably short for an OEM setup and really enforces the sporty nature. Each shift locks into place crisply.
The interior is fairly well equipped and includes electronics such as push button start, backup camera, Bluetooth handsfree integration and a five-inch information display embedded in the instrument cluster. An available $3,400 Premium Package adds leather seating, power moonroof, premium Bose stereo, navigation and a safety tech bundle. The cabin is full of attractive soft touch materials, and I had no complaints save for the kitschy grid-patterned plastic trim on the dash.
Compared to other performance compacts, the Sentra SR Turbo is quite comfortable. The car’s long 2,700-millimetre wheelbase affords nearly 950 millimetres of generous rear legroom meaning adult passengers can actually fit in the back. The rear seat folds 60/40 opening up to the 428 litres of trunk space.
The 2017 Nissan Sentra SR Turbo is offered in a single trim only, the only option being the aforementioned Premium Package. Prices start at $21,598.
Highlights (as tested)
Motor: 1.6-litre turbocharged four cylinder
Horsepower: 188 @ 5,600 rpm
Torque (lb-ft): 177 @ 1,600 rpm
Gearbox: six-speed manual
Layout: front engine, front-wheel drive
Fuel economy: 9.5 L/100 km mixed city/highway (observed)