The seventh generation of the Nissan Sentra is a fairly large car, rated by the EPA as a midsize, yet still has a compact-class price. Even in this top-trim SL version, the base price is still less than 20 grand.
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Nissan relies on variable valve timing to make this 1.8-liter engine efficient, but only manages to get 130 horsepower out of it. EPA fuel economy estimates sound promising at 30 mpg city and 39 mpg highway.
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At a little over 15 feet long, the Sentra offers a roomy cabin. The roof line echoes the fastback styling that has come into vogue among car designers.
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A badge on the rear of the Sentra reads Pure Drive, mimicking the badges on other cars denoting hybrid systems or other efficiency technology. However, the Sentra's engine is not particularly advanced when compared with others.
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The trunk offers more than 15 cubic feet of space, and seemed huge for an economy car.
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Nissan covers the seats and some door areas with an oddly soft cloth material. The front seats also feel overstuffed, like a comfortable living-room chair.
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The folding rear armrest in the rear seat is a nice touch.
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Nissan employs minimal power boost for the steering, so it requires a little effort to turn the wheel. I would have liked a little more boost, as the Sentra is no sports car.
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Between tachometer and speedometer sits an LCD, showing trip information for the car and a horizontal bar graph of how heavily you are pressing the gas pedal.
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At only $650, the navigation system is a particular bargain in the Sentra. However, its touch screen is rather small.
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Nissan includes some useful data feeds, such as traffic and weather. But the integration of Google search with the navigation system is the most intriguing.
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After you enter a search through the navigation system interface, it uses a paired phone to place a call to a server, then retrieves a list of matching nearby businesses.
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The Bluetooth hands-free phone system comes standard in the Sentra SL, and lets you place calls by speaking a name from your contact list with voice command.
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Audio sources include iOS device integration, USB drives, Bluetooth streaming, and Pandora.
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A backup camera greatly aids parking, as it shows the position of the bumper.
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