Save the manuals, they say! I’d buy it if it was stick, they scream! I would buy the stick model if it came with power blah and leather blah! I would buy it, but it doesn’t have a turbo! I would buy it, but the price is too damn high!
Well, Nissan just took all those excuses away from you. Here is a new Nissan with a manual transmission. It is available with the fancy stuff you want. There is even hair-dryer under the hood. The icing in the cake is a price of under $23,000.
So is this 2017 Sentra SR Turbo a worthy replacement to the Sentra SE-R from the 1990’s?
All Sentras received a minor facelift for 2016 with styling similar to the Maxima, Murano, and the Altima. The update included fenders, headlights and taillights, and wheels. The interior is spruced up a bit but it does not hide its economy roots. Seats are wrapped in nice fabric but there is not much side support. There were no serious mechanical changes since the vehicle’s introduction in 2013. My review of the 2013 Sentra SV is here.
Nissan changed that mechanical bit for 2017 with the introduction of the Sentra SR Turbo. This model has a direct-injected turbocharged 1.6-liter DOHC 4-cylinder engine rated at 188 horsepower and 177 lb-ft of torque. If that engine sounds familiar, it should. Nissan has used this powertrain in the Juke for several years now.
To keep things real, Nissan also beefed up the brakes and suspension for the SR duty, but only slightly. Front rotors are less than an inch bigger and the springs are only slightly stiffer. Wheels grow to 17-inches and are wrapped in 205/50-17 all-season tires. Most importantly, a 6-speed manual transmission is standard and a Xtronic (their name) CVT is optional and avoidable. Where the SE-R had an honest limited slip differential, the SR Turbo has an open diff with traction control.
Despite the added power and better chassis bits, there are some issues with the SR Turbo. It is not that quick. It does not feel that sporty. It does not have that fun zing that the VW GTI or even the Honda Civic has. It does not engage the driver. It does not want to be pushed. The turbo doesn’t even whistle – if it was not for the badge no one would know that there’s positive pressure under the hood. It simply drives like a Sentra with a manual transmission.
Value is something that the 2017 Sentra SR Turbo retains. It starts at $21,990 whether you choose the manual or automatic transmission. There is only one package available, the Premium Package, which includes leather, Bose audio, nav, and other miscellaneous features for $2590. If you want a sedan with sporty aspirations and a manual transmission, that price is hard to beat. But if you’re looking for a modern Sentra SE-R, this is not it.
Recently Nissan introduced the Sentra NISMO. It builds on the SR Turbo by adding a stiffer, lower suspension, 18-inch wheels, sport tires, and slightly bigger brakes. The interior gets more racy treatment, too. Price is suppose to stay under $25,000. This has me wondering – Why does the NISMO even exist? Did Nissan realize that the SR Turbo just isn’t all that right when they released it? Will the NISMO the real modern SE-R?
Nissan provided the vehicle for the purpose of this review. All images copyright Kamil Kaluski/Hooniverse 2017.