2017 Nissan Sentra SR Turbo

Nissan relies on the Juke to put the Sentra back in the sport-compact business

By MALCOLM GUNN
www.wheelbasemedia.com

When Nissan introduced the current Sentra for the 2013 model year, the automaker omitted a performance model. Better late than never, the SR Turbo arrives to change the Sentra’s character to sporty from sedate.

The previous sixth-generation Sentra was available in SE-R and Spec-V livery, with engine outputs reaching 177 and 200 horsepower, respectively, compared to the base model’s meager 135 ponies. Those gains were sufficient for a 3,000-pound small sedan, but manual transmissions were mandatory.

Compared with the SE-R and Spec V, the 2017 SR Turbo is an improvement of sorts, mostly because the platform is different. It’s larger (but not heavier) and therefore roomier and more comfortable, with a design that’s arguably better looking than before. The platform is also more rigid, which is a decent starting point for the SR Turbo.

As a sportier model, the springs are 10 percent stiffer and the dampers (shocks) are 23 percent firmer in front and 50 percent at the rear.

Structurally, there’s a thicker and stiffer cowl — the part of the car that supports the dashboard and windshield — along with a revised electric-power-steering system with a different ratio.
The SR Turbo also gets larger front brakes while the cabin receives thicker front and rear glass for a quieter ride. There’s also a new floor console with double the storage capacity of what you’ll find in a regular Sentra.

Spotting an SR Turbo is relatively easy, given its standard rear spoiler, rocker cladding, LED headlights, unique 17-inch wheel designs and requisite badging on the trunk lid.
But what separates the SR Turbo from run-of-the-mill Sentras is a turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that comes from the Nissan Juke. It’s rated at 188 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque, compared to the 130 horses and modest torque rating of 128 pound-feet that the base 1.8-liter four-cylinder puts out.

The punchy 1.6 works wonders between the flanks of the Juke and is a big reason for the little hatchback’s popularity. Based on reputation and performance, the forced induction 1.6 should does wonders for the SR Turbo.

As with the Juke, the powerplant can be hitched to a six-speed manual transmission or available continuously variable unit (CVT). Although enthusiasts will probably select the former, it’s mighty considerate of Nissan to provide the SR Turbo without a clutch pedal for buyers who can’t, or prefer not to, shift for themselves.

Fuel economy is pegged at 27 mpg in the city and 33 on the highway for CVT-equipped versions, and one mpg less in each cycle for manual models.

Stepping into a base SR Turbo takes $22,850, which includes destination charges. That gets you a choice of transmissions (the CVT is standard and the stick can be substituted at no additional discount), most bottom-tier basics plus heated front seats and a power moonroof.

Prepare to pay extra for leather seat coverings, six-way powered driver’s seat, navigation, Bose audio package and an auto-dimming rearview mirror.

Note that the SR Turbo’s range of dynamic safety options is limited to blind-spot warning and backup cross-traffic alert. That’s surprising when more complete groupings are standard or optional for other vehicles in the Sentra’s bracket.

Note also that for an extra $3,000 you can move up to the Sentra NISMO (short for Nissan Motorsports). It comes with its own specially tuned suspension and steering settings, aero body kit, larger 18-inch wheels and fancier faux suede seat trim. The turbo engine remains untouched.

The SR Turbo is nowhere near the street or track hooligan that other compacts can be, such as the Ford Focus RS. It does, however, provide more genteel drivers with a livelier, better-balanced sedan that should have you breaking into smiles without breaking your wallet.

What you should know: 2017 Nissan Sentra SR Turbo

Type: Four-door, front-wheel-drive compact sedan

Engine (h.p.): 1.6-liter DOHC I-4, turbocharged (188)

Transmissions: Six-speed manual; continuously variable (CVT)

Market position: In the compact-car segment, it’s almost imperative these days that automakers aim one or more trim levels at youthful buyers who have a penchant for performance (and don’t mind paying extra for it).

Points:
• Not a top-performing model in its class, but several notches improved over-and-file Sentras.
• A roomy interior goes hand in hand with significantly more power.
• NISMO model with the turbo I-4 would is the most suited for track driving.
• Expect suspension, steering changes to add to driving satisfaction. • Lacking active-safety technology.

Active safety: Blind-spot warning with cross-traffic alert (opt.); active cruise control (n/a); emergency braking (n/a); lane-departure warning (n/a)

MPG (city/hwy): 27/33 (CVT)

Base price (incl. destination): $22,850

By Comparison:

Honda Civic Si
Base price: $24,500 (est.)
All-new 2018 model expected in mid-2017; hotter Civic Type R to follow.

Hyundai Elantra Sport
Base price: $22,500
Stylish sedan with a gutsy 201-h.p. engine is the Sentra SR’s closest rival.

Ford Focus ST
Base price: $25,650
A potent little hatchback, but subordinate to the 350-h.p. AWD Focus RS.