2016 Nissan Sentra Rating Breakdown
2016 nissan sentra
EPA est City/Hwy
Starting at
1.8L I4
130 hp

Starting at



1.8L I4


130 hp





The Car Connection Expert Review
Christian Gulliksen

Christian Gulliksen


  • Middling front seat comfort
  • Less impressive safety ratings
  • CVT performance
nissan sentra 2016

An economy-car interior lets down the Sentra's stylish body.

The current Nissan Sentra made its debut in 2013, and a heavy mid-cycle refresh for 2016 gives it a stronger family resemblance to the bigger Altima and Maxima.

Up front, the Sentra now sports a deep V-shaped grille and boomerang-shaped headlights. The compact sedan's hood, fenders, and fascia have also been reshaped with more pronounced sculpting. The rear fascia and taillights received a similar makeover.

In profile, just as in the Altima, there's an interesting crease that starts just over the front wheels and flows organically into the rear deck. The Sentra started with a generally handsome look, and the changes give it a slightly more upscale appearance.

Sentra SR models get a suitably sportier look that’s easy to spot from the outside—especially in their exclusive shade of blue. Improvements include new front and rear fascias, lower-body sill extensions, a rear spoiler, chrome exhaust tip, fog lamps, and V-rated tires on 17-inch aluminum-alloy wheels.

The Sentra's cabin is less stylish than its sheet metal, and follows tradition in offering a rather upright layout with straightforward controls. The dash curves gently and flows across in a two-tier arrangement, tapering at the sides in a way that maximizes space. The mix of matte and metallic materials seem like they're trying to look more upscale than they are, a fact that's more acceptable at the lower end of the Sentra's price range.

An economy-car interior lets down the Sentra's stylish body.

Average performance is the best you'll do in any Sentra.

The 2016 Nissan Sentra gets the job done—and with relative ease—but it's simply not much of a joy to drive.

That probably won't be a problem, though, for the Sentra's budget-minded buyers, who may not miss the zippy performance offered by competitors like the Ford Focus or Mazda 3, or the refinement of the Chevy Cruze or VW Jetta.

There's just one engine: a 1.8-liter 4-cylinder that makes 130 horsepower and 128 pound-feet of torque. A 6-speed manual transmission is available, but only at the base S trim level; its action is notchy, loose, and imprecise, though, and we'd be surprised if you could find a Sentra S 6MT on many dealer lots.

The rest of the lineup uses a continuously variable transmission (CVT). It has been revised to make artificial shift points feel crisper, but unlike the Altima's slick unit, no one could possibly mistake the Sentra's CVT for a conventional automatic. "Shifts" are nearly imperceptible, but the Sentra gets quite noisy at high revs under strong acceleration.

Despite the CVT's drawbacks, the Sentra moves at a reasonable pace in most circumstances—though the engine and transmission will show obvious strain when accelerating up a hill.

Regardless of the model or trim level, all Sentra models include Normal, Eco, and Sport modes, though they are selected from small buttons that are located in the lower dash, out of the driver’s line of sight (the assumption is that you’ll pick a mode and stick with it). They affect throttle response and transmission tuning, while Eco mode also reduces air-conditioning draw. On fast-moving back roads we actually preferred Eco mode, as it had the transmission running the engine in a less-raucous rev range, while we were able to move almost as quickly.

Handling has never been a particular Sentra strength, but has improved for 2016. It's competent without encouraging spirited maneuvers. The tuned suspension features a 10-percent increase in spring and damper rates, and a new front tunnel stay enhances body stiffness for improved roll and body control.

Another innovation this year is brake-controlled steering assist, which applies light braking to the inside wheel during cornering. It proved impressive when taking tight curves at imprudent speeds, but it feels more like you're being saved than like driving a sport sedan.

The nicely weighted, confident steering is a bright spot; it's speed sensitive and much like what's used in the Altima.

Rear disc brakes are available only on the SL or the SR, and they may provide stronger braking in higher-demand conditions like on mountain roads, but the rear drum system on the rest of the lineup stops well enough, albeit with lots of nosedive and body motion.

The Sentra's ride quality is pretty good, and isn't significantly different whether you go for the base wheels or the low-profile 17-inch tires that do improve responsiveness somewhat.

Average performance is the best you'll do in any Sentra.

The Sentra has a large cabin, and fit and finish have improved.

The 2016 Nissan Sentra's greatest strength may be a remarkably spacious cabin, even by the standards of today's compact segment. With interior space that approaches mid-size standards of recent years, it offers comfortable levels of room and functionality for most buyers.

The back seat, for instance, has plenty of leg room and will easily accommodate three pre-teens. Taller adults may want more head room and a higher seating position.

Conversely, seating positions for the driver and front passenger are a bit high, though head room is good, even with a sunroof.

Nissan has improved the quality of cabin materials this year. Even so, it may not impress buyers splashing out $25,000 for a top-spec Sentra. It's perfectly acceptable if you're making a deal closer to the $20,000 mark. Be aware, too, that available leather upholstery has a plasticky quality that looks better in photos than it feels in person. We'd be happier with the standard cloth upholstery.

Trunk space is among the best in the class, and feels that way. It has a large, chest-like cargo area that could fit a couple large suitcases or a great quantity of groceries. All trims come not only with a folding rear center armrest, but also a split-folding arrangement that lets you flip the seatbacks forward (not flat) to an expanded area.

The Sentra has a relatively soft, absorbent ride, and there’s not much road noise thanks to added insulation and laminated glass. The cabin is notably serene in highway cruising, though the raucous note of the high-revving engine is quite apparent during hard acceleration.

The Sentra has a large cabin, and fit and finish have improved.

Crash-test performance has improved, and so has the Sentra's safety gear.

The 2016 Nissan Sentra earns a Top Safety Pick+ rating from the IIHS with top "Good" marks across the board.

It doesn't fare as well in crash tests performed by the NHTSA. The agency gives it a four-star overall rating: five stars in side impacts, and four stars in frontal impacts and rollover crashes.

Newly available on the Sentra this year is a suite of so-called "Safety Shield Technologies" that include forward-collision warnings with automatic emergency braking; adaptive cruise control; blind-spot monitors; and rear cross-traffic alerts.

NissanConnect (standard on SL, optional on SV and SR) relies on a satellite radio subscription for a variety of services such as remote access, customizable alerts, and convenience services like calling a live operator for directions that are downloaded to the navigation system.

Standard safety equipment in the Sentra includes front seat-mounted side-impact airbags, as well as roof-mounted side-curtain bags, plus electronic stability control and anti-lock brakes. Parents will appreciate two full LATCH connectors in the back seat, and three child-seat upper tether anchors. An Easy Fill Tire Alert system sounds the horn when you’re inflating the tires to signal the recommended pressure.

A rearview camera is standard in upper trim levels, but you might not need it all that much because the lower beltline and somewhat higher seating position give you a pretty good outward view. Bluetooth phone connectivity is also standard across the line.

Crash-test performance has improved, and so has the Sentra's safety gear.

NHTSA 5-Star Safety Rating

2016 Nissan Sentra Models

Overall Rating


Overall Frontal Barrier Crash Rating: (4/5)
Overall Side Crash Rating: (5/5)
Overall Side Barrier Rating: Not Rated
NHTSA Roll-over Resistance Rating: (4/5)

Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Ratings

2016 Nissan Sentra Models

Side Impact Test Good
Roof Strength Test Good
Rear Crash Protection/Head Restraint Good
IIHS Small Overlap Front Test Results Good
IIHS Moderate Overlap Front Test Results Good

The Sentra's a strong value in more basic trim levels.

Nissan offers six trim levels in the Sentra. The base S 6MT is equipped with a 6-speed manual transmission, and is likely to be a rare sight at Nissan dealerships.

That leaves the S Xtronic as the true entry-level model. It's well-equipped with extras such as automatic headlights, cruise control, and Bluetooth phone connectivity.

The FE+ S adds a few hundred dollars to the price of an S, and boosts fuel economy estimates with low-rolling-resistance tires, a rear spoiler, and deflectors for the rear tires and underbody.

The SV has the most features while still holding the base price under $20,000. It gets equipment such as a rearview camera, NissanConnect, Siri Eyes Free voice recognition, and keyless ignition. Option packages include features like a moonroof, heated mirrors and front seats, navigation, and safety assists.

The sporty SR is distinguishable mostly for appearance add-ons like 17-inch wheels, chrome exhaust tips, and an exclusive body kit.

The range-topping SL, meanwhile, adds luxury-car touches like leather upholstery, dual-zone automatic climate control, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, and a power driver's seat. Options for the SL include an eight-speaker Bose audio system.

The Sentra's a strong value in more basic trim levels.

The Sentra has good, but not class-leading, fuel economy.

The 2016 Nissan Sentra delivers respectable fuel economy numbers, though it's not the class leader.

Most Sentras use a CVT to achieve 29 mpg city, 38 highway, 32 combined. These numbers drop to 27/36/30 mpg with the 6-speed manual, which is sold in very small numbers.

The FE+ S is the Sentra's fuel-economy champ. With low-rolling-resistance tires and added aerodynamics, the package boosts EPA estimates to 30/40/34 mpg.

No matter which model or trim level you get, all Nissan Sentra models include Normal, Eco, and Sport modes that affect throttle response and transmission tuning, while Eco mode also reduces air-conditioning draw. It's a feature that's also offered by Honda vehicles, but not with the equivalent Kias and Hyundais.

The Sentra has good, but not class-leading, fuel economy.

Fuel Economy Information

Ratings Based on 4 cyl, 1.8 L, CVT



2.9 gals/100 miles





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