2013 Nissan Sentra Road Test and Review: Driving Impressions
The great thing about a CVT is that it makes best use of available power regardless of engine rpm or terrain. I live in a mountainous region of the Los Angeles area, and my test loop varies 1,200 feet in elevation. The route includes the Conejo Grade, a 7% freeway grade that climbs 1,000 feet in three miles.
Thanks to the CVT, the Sentra whipped up that hillside doing 80 mph, no problem. I mean, it was loud inside the car, and it sounded like the powertrain was strained, but given the meager horsepower and torque ratings, the Sentra displayed impressive spunk and maintained velocity.
Later, lost in thought and closing in on home, I came upon a speed trap. It is commonplace for the California Highway Patrol to set up shop in this location, two cars parked on an exit apron, with one officer aiming a radar gun at traffic approaching from around a bend in the freeway.
Instinctively, I lifted off the Sentra’s accelerator pedal, and glanced down at the speedometer. I had been going 85 mph, and I was alone between patches of clumped traffic. Ruh-roh, Shaggy. Miraculously, the cops didn’t so much as glance at my Graphite Blue Sentra SV, with its skinny little 16-inch wheels and plastic wheel covers. So the car has that going for it.
This episode provided the most excitement during a very dull drive in a very dull car. The Sentra’s vehicle speed sensitive electric steering feels heavy and wooden on the highway, the P205/55R16 all-season tires offer modest levels of grip, the body rolls when the car is pitched into a corner, and the CVT’s Sport mode simply serves to make the Sentra less predictable to drive.
There’s clearly nothing of interest here for an enthusiast driver, but neither does the Sentra’s driving character delight in unexpected ways. This is a transportation appliance, a Point A to Point B device engineered to satisfy lowest common denominator metrics. The Sentra supplies just enough acceleration to get out of its own way, a decent ride quality, effective brakes, and easy maneuverability in traffic and parking lots.
If you want something more than that, move along. There’s nothing to see here.