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2016 Nissan Sentra: New Car Review

If you’re looking for information on a newer Nissan Sentra, we’ve published an updated review: 2019 Nissan Sentra Review

The 2016 Nissan Sentra grows more sophisticated this year, with bold new styling reminiscent of the legendary Nissan Maxima. New high-tech features make the affordable 2016 Sentra one of the best-equipped small cars you can buy. Knowing such worthy competitors as the Honda Civic, Ford Focus and Toyota Corolla are following in its rearview mirror, the 2016 Sentra charts a decidedly different course. Along with its new high-tech interior, the Sentra emphasizes a quiet and roomy cabin — the Environmental Protection Agency categorizes the Sentra as a midsize sedan — with special attention paid to back-seat headroom and legroom. The Sentra is impressively fuel efficient, yielding an estimated 29 miles per gallon in the city and 38 mpg on the highway (40 mpg hwy with the FE+ package).

One potential drawback is that the Sentra’s mandatory 1.8-liter engine is less powerful than almost everything else in this class. That might not mean much to those who care more about fuel economy than power — until the need to overtake slower-moving traffic or merge onto a busy freeway arises.

Still, in every other category that matters, the 2016 Sentra comes up smelling like roses. We think it’s the company’s most well-rounded small sedan in years.

What’s New for 2016?

Big changes for 2016 start outside, where new styling makes for a more aggressive-looking sedan. SR and SL grades receive two new 17-inch wheel designs. Inside, a new 370Z-inspired steering wheel, and on SV, SL and SR trims, a hi-res driver information screen greets the driver. A 6-way power driver’s seat with power lumbar is standard on the SL and optional on the SR. New available features for 2016 include intelligent cruise control, forward emergency braking, a blind spot monitoring system and rear-cross traffic alert. Infotainment upgrades include NissanConnect services powered by SiriusXM and Siri Eyes Free. See the 2016 Nissan Sentra models for sale near you

What We Like

Spacious interior; strong fuel economy; agreeable ride; attractively priced; user-friendly navigation and instruments; high-tech safety and infotainment features

What We Don’t

Not a speed demon; no 5-door hatchback or performance-oriented model; extra cost for the FE+ package’s 2-mpg gain isn’t worth the extra $400

How Much?


Fuel Economy

Every Sentra is powered by a 1.8-liter inline 4-cylinder engine that produces 130 horsepower and 128 lb-ft of torque. That’s about all the Corolla gets out of its 1.8-liter 4-cylinder, but almost every other engine in this class has more juice. Still, the Sentra barely weighs 2,800 pounds, so it generally keeps up with traffic well enough.

In most Sentra models, the little 1.8 will be overseen by a gearless continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). While the base Sentra S offers a 6-speed manual transmission, the rest of the lineup comes only with the CVT. Nissan has been building CVTs for a while now, and this one is a good match for the humble motor, delivering nearly seamless acceleration.

Fuel economy estimates for mainstream models with the CVT are very good at 29 mpg city/38 mpg hwy. The CVT-only FE+ package creeps up to 30 mpg city/40 mpg hwy, while the 6-speed manual drops to a more pedestrian 27 mpg city/36 mpg hwy.

Standard Features & Options

The 2016 Nissan Sentra is offered in five trims: S, FE+S, SV, SR and SL. Only the base S trim offers a manual transmission; all others employ a CVT.

The Sentra ($17,615) includes a 6-speed manual transmission, 16-in steel wheels with plastic covers, LED headlight and taillight accents, power windows and door locks, air conditioning, a tilt-telescopic steering wheel, Bluetooth, cruise control, a height-adjustable driver’s seat and a 4-speaker audio system with a USB and auxiliary audio jack.

The Sentra FE+S ($18,865) adds the CVT, a rear spoiler and low-rolling resistance tires.

The Sentra SV ($19,385) features a 6-speaker touchscreen audio system, illuminated steering-wheel-mounted audio controls, Intelligent Key with push-button starting, a 5-in driver information screen, a rearview camera, NissanConnect, Siri Eyes Free (requires an Apple smartphone), a security system and upgraded cloth trim.

The Sentra SR ($21,245) includes unique 17-in alloy wheels, more aggressive front and rear fascias, side-sill extensions, a rear spoiler, fog lights, LED low-beam headlights, rear disc brakes, a chrome exhaust tip, and heated front seats and side mirrors, plus unique sport cloth upholstery.

The Sentra SL ($23,005) is stocked with different 17-in alloys, automatic headlights, heated exterior mirrors with integrated LED turn signals, keyless entry with push-button starting, leather steering-wheel and shift-knob trim, a 6-way power driver’s seat with 2-way power lumbar support, heated front seats, leather seating surfaces, Piano Black interior accents, dual-zone automatic climate control, a 5.8-in color touchscreen with SiriusXM radio (subscription sold separately) and USB/Bluetooth connectivity. Also standard is a blind spot monitoring system, rear-cross traffic alert and NissanConnect with navigation and mobile apps.

Seven options packages are offered on various trims. The Technology package adds intelligent cruise control, forward emergency braking and NissanConnect powered by SiriusXM. The Driver Assist package adds NissanConnect with navigation and mobile apps, a 5.8-in color touchscreen, a blind spot monitoring system and rear-cross traffic alert.

The All Weather package adds heated side mirrors and heated front seats. The Style package adds a power glass moonroof, a rear spoiler and 16-in alloy wheels. The SR Premium package adds a power moonroof, an 8-speaker Bose audio system, a 6-way power driver’s seat with 2-way power lumbar support, leather upholstery with heated front seats, NissanConnect with navigation and mobile apps, a 5.8-in color touchscreen, a blind spot monitoring system and rear-cross traffic alert. The SL Premium package adds the same features minus the leather seats — already standard on SL.


The 2016 Nissan Sentra comes with anti-lock brakes that use front discs and rear drums. Rear drum brakes, which are cheaper and simpler than disc brakes, are a common feature on entry-level economy cars, but you’ll want discs if possible. To that end, note that the Sentra S and SV models come only with rear drums, while the SR and SL models feature discs all around.

Every Sentra is outfitted with six airbags — front, front-side and full-length side-curtain.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave the 2016 Nissan Sentra an overall score of four out of five stars, with four stars awarded in the front and rollover tests and five stars in the side-impact test. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the Sentra a Good score in all of its crash tests and lists it as a Top Safety Pick.

Behind the Wheel

Unlike some rivals, the Sentra doesn’t aspire to be sporty or aggressive on the road. Even the smartly dressed SR is really the same agreeable Sentra underneath. This Nissan just provides comfortable basic transportation, highlighted by a relatively quiet, compliant ride. Handling is adequately composed in emergency maneuvers, but the Sentra is all about setting it and forgetting it. If you’re simply looking for an affordable sedan that’ll get you through the daily commute with minimal fuss, the 2016 Sentra hits most of the right notes.

Other Cars to Consider

2016 Chevrolet Cruze — The Cruze is all new for 2016 and features a powerful and efficient turbocharged engine, the option of a turbodiesel engine, and a more refined and spacious interior. Stylistically, the Cruze is much sleeker than the Sentra. It also costs a bit less.

2016 Dodge Dart — With a chassis by Alfa Romeo, an available turbocharged engine borrowed from the FIAT 500 Abarth and an interior by Chrysler, the Dart is an intriguing intercontinental mix. The Dart isn’t as roomy as the Sentra, but it’s more fun to drive.

2017 Hyundai Elantra — The Elantra is also all new this year. A direct rival to the Sentra in terms of both power and fuel economy, the Elantra offers distinctive style and a more generous feature set. Passenger volume is nearly identical between the two, but the Sentra has greater cargo volume.

Used Nissan Altima — A 2013-2015 Nissan Altima offers more power, more room and more features — with the same good looks and Nissan quality.

Autotrader’s Advice

As Nissan rightly points out in its marketing materials, the Sentra is a good deal, with even the SL starting at a hair over $23,000. We’d make ours an SV with the Driver Assist, All Weather and Style packages, and we’d still be out the door with an MSRP of just under $21,500. That’s refreshing. Find a Nissan Sentra for sale


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