2013 Nissan Sentra Review and Prices

Last Updated: Jul 23, 2011

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2013 Nissan Sentra Buying Advice

The 2013 Nissan Sentra is the best car for you if you’re willing to take the chance that this fully redesigned compact car will be attractive, affordable, and fuel-efficient.

The 2013 Nissan Sentra will be the first all-new Sentra since model-year 2007. The 2013 Sentra will return as a four-door compact sedan and could add a four-door-hatchback body style. It’ll have new styling, additional features, and more efficient engines. The redesigned 2013 model marks the seventh design generation of the Sentra, a car that to Nissan’s discredit has grown dowdy and become an also-ran in a vehicle class that’s full of choices that offer hip styling, the latest high-tech gear, and 40-mpg highway fuel economy.

Should you wait for the 2013 Nissan Sentra or buy a 2012 Nissan Sentra? Wait for the 2013 Sentra if you want a roomier interior, added features, and advances in fuel economy that accompany an all-new design. Waiting for the 2013 Sentra offers the advantage of styling that will look current well into the future and it will be worth more at resale than the outgoing 2012 Sentra. Buy a 2012 Sentra if you need dependable transportation in the near-term and the latest styling trends aren’t important. You’ll also likely benefit from factory and dealer price incentives that might not be so generous by the time the 2013 Sentra rolls out.

2013 Nissan Sentra Changes back to top

Styling: Nissan is tight-lipped about details, but the redesigned 2013 Sentra could follow in the tire tracks of the newly introduced 2012 Versa subcompact and end up with drowsy rounded forms with little emotional appeal. A more likely possibility is that the look of the 2013 Sentra will mimic the styling of the forthcoming 2013 Altima. While details about the all-new 2013 Altima are also scant, a look at the Ellure Concept, a recent Nissan show car, hints at a design direction these cars might take.

For the smaller 2013 Sentra, that would likely mean a modern profile with a steeply raked windshield that speaks to improved aerodynamics and emphasizes a flowing shape. The Ellure’s blunted hood and a tabletop trunk lid with integrated spoiler could show up on the redesigned 2013 Sentra, as well. This design blueprint also opens the door for Nissan to push the 2013 Sentra slightly upscale into so-called premium compact  territory, with top-quality interior materials and other upscale features.

A remote possibility is that Nissan could let its stylists loose to create a shape the polar opposite of the 2007-2012 Sentra’s stodgy design. A quick look at the automaker’s eccentric Cube wagon, funky Juke mini crossover and the bizarre Murano CrossCabriolet SUV convertible is evidence that Nissan is willing to take design chances.

For its past three design generations (1995-present), Sentra has been offered only as a four-door sedan. After surveying the automotive landscape, Nissan could conclude there’s a place for a hatchback version, a body style American car buyers are beginning to embrace, especially in the compact and subcompact classes. A 2013 Sentra hatchback would compete against four-door hatchback versions of such rivals as the 2013 Ford Focus, 2013 Mazda 3, 2013 Volkswagen Golf, and 2013 Kia Forte.

In any event, expect the 2013 Sentra to remain about the same overall size as the 2012 model. Interior space for the 2007-2012 generation was among the biggest in the compact segment, but given the opportunity to redesign the Sentra, Nissan is apt to lengthen the wheelbase slightly, and that should result in more passenger room. Wheelbase is the distance between the front and rear axles and a critical determinate in how much space – especially legroom -- a vehicle can allot passengers.

Mechanical: Like the overwhelming majority of compact cars, the 2013 Sentra will remain front-wheel drive. Front-drive places the weight of the engine on the tires that propel the car. That translates to good wet-surface traction and, by grouping powertrain components in the nose, results in efficient packaging.

Look for the 2013 Sentra to follow the 2012 Versa and adopt an all-new structure Nissan earmarks as its global “V” platform, for “Versatile.” The company says this architecture has fewer parts and weighs less than current platforms; for the Sentra, that would be Nissan’s “C” platform. To match impressive levels of ride and handling available in a growing number of competitors, the 2013 Sentra could adopt a more sophisticated all-independent suspension instead of carrying over a torsion-beam rear suspension. An independent rear suspension allows each rear wheel to react separately to bumps for the best possible comfort and control.

While most 2012 Sentra models rate 30 mpg or more on the highway, the new compact-car benchmark for highway fuel economy is 40 mpg. To join the other members of the 40-mpg club — the Chevrolet Cruze Eco, Ford Focus SFE, Honda Civic HF, the Mazda 3, and all versions of the Hyundai Elantra — Nissan will need to replace the outgoing Sentra’s 140-horsepower 2.0-liter four cylinder engine. A possible choice is a revamped 2.0-liter four-cylinder with technology Nissan calls Puredrive. This advanced setup includes two fuel injectors per cylinder instead of the customary one, as well as continuously variable timing for both intake and exhaust ports. The automaker says Puredrive’s benefits are improved fuel efficiency, lower emissions, and engine smoothness. For additional fuel economy gains, Nissan’s new idling-stop system could be adapted to this engine. Idle-stop automatically shuts down the engine when the car stops and restarts when the driver releases the brake pedal.

Many Sentra rivals also featurer performance-oriented models and Nissan could again offer the 2013 Sentra in sporty SE-R form. SE-Rs have been a part of the Sentra lineup since 1991 and the 2012 versions made up to 200 horsepower from their naturally aspirated 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine. It’s possible a 2013 Sentra SE-R could get a shot of adrenaline provided by Nissan’s newly developed 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder. This new engine has direct fuel injection, a precision technology that introduces fuel directly into the cylinders to minimize fuel consumption and exhaust emissions and maximize power. Paired with the turbocharger, the engine achieves power equivalent to that of a 2.5-liter four cylinder but with fuel efficiency equivalent to a 1.8-liter four.

It is likely the 2013 Sentra base model will return with a six-speed manual transmission for price positioning, and if the SE-R Spec V returns it will be equipped with a close-ratio six-speed manual. All other 2013 Sentars are likely to continue with Nissan’s continuously variable transmission (CVT). While some competitors are adopting clutchless manual transmissions to essentially replace conventional automatics, but Nissan relies extensive on CVTs, both in its cars and crossover SUVs. A CVT eschews conventional gears for a belt and pulleys and delivers a continuous band of thrust without pausing to shift. The intent is continuously changing gear ratios and a more precise match between engine output, acceleration, and fuel economy.

Features: Absent the addition of a hatchback body style, expect the 2013 Nissan Sentra to return with a considerable range of sedan trim levels. The 2013 Sentra lineup could again begin with an entry-level base model, ascend through mainstream S and SR models, and climb to a well-equipped SL edition. If the 2013 Sentra continues with its legitimate sporty-performing models expect them to be badged SE-R and SE-R Spec V.

No matter the model designation, standard features on every 2013 Sentra will include air conditioning, power windows and door locks, and either a tilt steering column or tilt/telescoping steering column. Split-folding rear seatbacks also should return to increase cargo versatility.

Faced with renewed competition, Nissan may decide to give every 2013 Altima an audio system that includes USB linking for iPods and other MP3 devices, as well as Bluetooth hands-free cell-phone and music-streaming interface. That type of connectivity is increasingly standard in compact cars and has been available but not standard on all Sentra models. Also, a manual driver’s seat height adjuster has become the price of entry in the compact class.

Keyless entry with pushbutton ignition, leather upholstery, heated front seats, outside-temperature indicator, navigation system, and power moonroof will remain available as standard or optional on the 2013 Sentra, depending on trim level. Should Nissan decide to elevate Sentra to the level of some rivals, it could add such features as outside mirrors with turn-signal repeaters and lane-departure warning. Also, a backup camera that displays on a portion of the rearview mirror would deliver an additional safety feature even if the car weren’t equipped with the navigation screen.

All 2013 Sentras will come with a full complement of active safety tech including: four-wheel antilock brakes for more controlled emergency stops; traction control for added grip in take-offs; and antiskid stability control to minimize chances of sideways slides. Additionally, dual stage front air bags, front seat-mounted side impact air bags, and roof-mounted curtain side bags for front and rear-seat outboard occupant head protection will be standard.

2013 Nissan Sentra Prices back to top

Prices for the 2013 Nissan Sentra were not released in time for this review. However, Nissan will be pressured to keep any 2013 Sentra price increases to a minimum or to even hold the line. This suggests a base-price range for the 2013 Sentra sedan of roughly $16,850-$21,400. (Estimated base prices in this review include the manufacturer’s mandatory destination fee; Nissan’s fee for the 2012 Sentra was $760.)

Estimating the base price of the 2013 Nissan Sentra base model at around $16,850, expect the mainstream S and SR models to start around $18,770. Estimated base price of the top-of-the-line 2013 Sentra sedan is around $20,200.

If the Sentra performance models continue in the 2013 lineup expect the SE-R model to start around $20,900 and the step-up SE-R Spec V around $21,400.

2013 Nissan Sentra Fuel Economy back to top

Sentra’s gas-mileage numbers once were in the top tier of the compact class aided by the efficiencies of the CVT, which is among the “automatic” transmissions that deliver better fuel economy than their manual-transmission counterparts. However, Sentra has fallen off pace with its rivals, and the 30-plus mpg highway ratings of the 2012 models will have to come apace with the new compact car benchmark of 40 mpg on the highway.

For the 2013 model, Nissan would likely aim for Sentra’s fuel mileage to return to the upper echelon of the compact segment. New engine technology, an improved CVT, less vehicle weight and improved body aerodynamics can achieve this.

This suggests EPA estimated ratings for the 2013 Sentra of around 28/39 mpg city/highway and a combined city/highway rating of 32 mpg. It’s also possible Sentra will keep pace with other automakers and offer a special, high fuel-efficient model that would achieve a highway rating in the 40-41-mpg range with a combined rating of around 33 mpg.

2013 Nissan Sentra Release Date back to top

The 2013 Nissan Sentra should be in showrooms in early 2012.

What's next for the 2013 Nissan Sentra back to top

Sentra design generations traditionally have a life cycle of four or five years, so expect the seventh-generation to carry from model-year 2013 through model-year 2017 or 2018. A midcycle freshening is likely for model year 2015 or 2016, and that would mean minor exterior and interior styling changes and possibly mechanical updates.

Nissan considered producing a Sentra gasoline-electric hybrid in 2007 and 2008, and then backed off when the price of oil dropped from more than a $100 per barrel to $40 per barrel. A Sentra hybrid could be back on the drawing board, with a possible introduction as early as model-year 2014. Nissan has developed its own hybrid systems, one of which will be featured in the 2013 Altima midsize sedan and can be adapted for the Sentra. (The discontinued 2011 Altima Hybrid borrowed its technology from Toyota engineering.)

2013 Nissan Sentra Competition back to top

Honda Civic: Honda may have opened the door for competitors to start taking a bite out of the Civic’s compact-category sales leadership with the car’s lukewarm model-year 2012 remake. Styling was evolutionary, powertrains were little changed, and the quality of cabin materials takes a back seat to several rivals. Still, Civic’s reputation for reliability has not lost its luster, and it has a foundation of millions of faithful owners. No changes are expected for the 2013 Civic and the lineup will reprise a four-door sedan and two-door coupe. Interior room and comfort should continue best in class, and commendable fuel economy numbers are expected to repeat at around 28/39 mpg city/highway and 32 mpg combined for mainstream models, 28/41/33 for the HF gas-mileage special, and 44/44/44 for the gas-electric Civic Hybrid sedan. Expect the sporty, 200-plus horsepower Si sedan and coupe to again be Civic’s enthusiast-oriented entry.

Ford Focus: All new for 2012, and built on a global Ford platform that shares DNA with the Mazda 3, the Focus convinced American buyers raised on import-brand compacts that a domestic brand can deliver a world-class small car. Available in sedan and four-door hatchback models, the 2013 Focus will continue to attract buyers with its European road manners and high-tech infotainment features. Rear seating is a bit cozy compared to most rivals, while daring styling may be too edgy for some. Expect mainstream 2013 Focus models to continue with a 160-horsepower four-cylinder that should rate around 28/38/31 mpg; expect the SFE (Super Fuel-economy) special to rate at least 28/40/33. Two significant new Focus models are due in late calendar 2011 or early 2012 as 2012 or 2013 models. The first, the Focus ST, will appeal to driving enthusiasts with an EcoBoost turbo four-cylinder of around 240 horsepower. And green-minded buyers can anticipate the pure-electric Focus Electric, which Ford says will go100 miles on a single plug-in charge.

Chevrolet Cruze: The Cruze has emerged as a popular choice for compact-car buyers who prefer the sedan’s combination of conservative styling, abundant standard safety features, and no-surprises road manners. Absent the addition of a hatchback body style, expect the 2013 Chevrolet Cruise to return in five trim levels ranging from the base model, to a top-end edition with leather upholstery, to a maximum-fuel-economy offering. Also expect the 2013 Cruze to continue its conservative approach to performance as well. It should repeat a choice of naturally aspirated and turbo engines both rated around 138 horsepower and with fairly similar acceleration. Expect overall ratings of 22/35/27 mpg, with turbos in the 24/36/28-mpg range and the Cruze Eco gas-mileage special at around 28/42/33 with manual transmission and 26/39/31 with automatic. There are unconfirmed reports that the U.S. could have a diesel-powered Cruze for model-year 2013. An oil burner Cruze certainly promises high mileage, but those reports are still unconfirmed.