Nissan Sylphy / Sentra

Debut: 2012
Maker: Nissan
Predecessor: Bluebird Sylphy / Sentra (2006)

 Published on 27 Oct 2012
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After 2 generations of consolidation, Nissan has finally merged its various C-segment sedans into a common product. In the process it also eliminated many nameplates, leaving only two to survive. Sylphy is primarily for use in China – perhaps also in Japan if Nissan plans to do so. Sentra is the name it traditionally used in the USA and Canada, and the new car will continue to carry this name there.

While American consumers may find the new car a big departure from the old Sentra, Chinese customers are likely to feel otherwise. China has become the biggest market for Nissan's C-segment sedan, therefore the new car is shaped to fit their taste and needs. Many Sylphys will be purchased as company cars, so they have to look graceful, with a proper 3-box shape, lots of chromed trims outside and wood trims in the cabin, just like the last generation Sylphy. It is a sharp contrast to the funky look of the old Sentra. Never mind, the world is moving east, and the American has to adapt to the new order. At least, they can comfort themselves by saying the new Sentra is shaped as if a mini-Altima.

The interior also looks a natural evolution of the old Sylphy. Better made? Sure. More modern? Definitely. Stylish? No, its vertical architecture and curvy injection molding stay in the memory of 1990s. Its smallish infotainment screen and the surrounding faux alloy panel look rather cheap. Although the dash top is made of soft plastic, any expensive feel is ruined by the cheap fake wood trims. Likewise, the basic instrument panel and switch gears fail to deliver an upmarket feel.

The car is clearly not aimed at keen drivers, otherwise its front seats would not have been so soft and so lack of lateral support. Tall drivers may complain the seat cannot be set low enough, so their heads might rub against the sun roof. At the back, the story is completely different. A generous 2700 mm wheelbase – carried over from the old Sylphy and 15 mm longer than the old Sentra – offers one of the roomiest back seats in the class. The 500-liter boot is also capacious.

Although the car is said to be built on a new platform, we found no surprises at all. It suspensions continue to be struts up front and simple torsion-beam at the back. They are tuned to be very soft in China, less soft in the America but still far from Ford-Focus sporty. Push it harder into corners and it rolls and understeers in old fashion. The suspension does absorb rough pavements and big potholes pretty well. Sound insulation and NVH suppression are fair, about class average. The electrical power steering is lifeless, and the car reacts slowly to steering input. This car guarantees one of the dullest drives in the class.

The motorways in China are full of cars, especially badly driven ones. Therefore Chinese motorists do not need a lot of power. Instead, they call for lower fuel consumption as their employers do not pay the fuel bills. To satisfy them, the new Sylphy uses a smaller, 1.8-liter MRA8DE engine paired with Xtronic CVT. Disappointingly, dual-VVT and diamond-like carbon-coating cannot help it to produce more than 130 hp and 128 lbft. Even worse news is the American car has to settle with the same motor. Compare with the 2-liter unit on the old Sentra, it sacrifices 10 ponies and 19 pound-foot, let alone the old SE-R's 200 hp 2.5-liter engine. As a result, 0-60 mph is done leisurely in 9.5 seconds. Hardly exciting.

Worse still, the engine lacks refinement. It sounds coarse beyond 5000 rpm. If you are harsher on throttle, the CVT's rubberband effect amplifies this problem by keeping the engine winding crazily. This ruins the otherwise good noise insulation in the cabin. Fortunately, in motorway cruising the engine settles at the quieter part of the spectrum.

The updated Xtronic CVT brings a planetary gear set to amplify its ratio spread to 7.3:1, helping the car to achieve one of the best fuel consumption figures in the class. That is probably the only good news about its powertrain.

When the market is overcrowded with good compact sedans, I don't see any reasons to choose one that looks outdated inside and feels totally boring to drive, unless your company choose it for you.
 Published on 4 Oct 2016
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Sentra SR Turbo

Nissan Sentra / Sylphy is an old-school econo sedan with little driving fun to speak about. What if it is transplanted with a 190-horsepower 1.6-liter turbo engine accompanied with a 6-speed manual gearbox? Will it become a rocket pocket like the old Sentra SE-R Spec V?

The 1.6T engine comes straight from Nissan Juke and is closely related to the one powering Renault Clio RS. Despite its high rating, it does not feel very powerful on the Sentra SR Turbo. This is partly down to the rather low, 177 lbft of peak torque, partly due to its turbo lag at lower revs and partly blame to the car’s 1365 kg of kerb weight. In fact, it doesn’t feel more energetic than a Honda Civic 1.5T with 174hp. Expect 0-60 mph to take 7.5 seconds. Apart from mediocre performance, the powertrain also lacks a positive attitude. It gives up revving much beyond 6000 rpm. It doesn’t sing through its single exhaust pipe. Moreover, the 6-speed manual is paired with a clutch with mushy feel.

What about the chassis? It gets a set of slightly larger front brakes. It has the front springs stiffened by 10 percent, front and rear dampers stiffened by 23 and 50 percent respectively, but the Sentra is still no model for tight body control or sharp chassis response. It is only a more capable Sentra, not even a “warm” hatch. The steering’s electric motor is replaced with one with less friction, but it remains light, numb and uninspiring. Worse still, the econo tires and wheels are unaltered from the standard Sentra, resulting in low cornering limit and early understeer. What were its creators thinking about?

On yes, there is the new V-motion corporate grille, subtle skirts and a tiny boot spoiler to smart up the appearance a tiny bit. But no one will confuse it with a real pocket rocket. This might be the worst new car we have seen this year.

Length / width / height
Valve gears
Other engine features
Max power
Max torque
Suspension layout

Suspension features
Kerb weight
Top speed
0-60 mph (sec)
0-100 mph (sec)
Front-engined, FWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
4625 / 1760 / 1495 mm
2700 mm
1798 cc
DOHC 16 valves, DVVT
130 hp
128 lbft
F: strut
R: torsion-beam
1293 kg
118 mph (c)
9.2* / 9.6**
Sentra SR Turbo
Front-engined, FWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
4635 / 1760 / 1495 mm
2700 mm
1618 cc
DOHC 16 valves, DVVT
190 hp
177 lbft
6-speed manual
F: strut
R: torsion-beam
1365 kg
135 mph (est)
7.5 (est)

Performance tested by: *C&D, **MT

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SR Turbo

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