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QUALITY | 8 out of 10
2013 Nissan Sentra
The new 2013 Sentra sizes up a bit compared to the 2012 model, and is in a range that might have been considered mid-size—or close to it—just a few years ago.
At 182.1 inches long, about two inches longer than the current car, with a wheelbase 0.6 longer, at 106.3 inches, plus an inch of additional width, the new Sentra has a longer, wider cabin than before. Only overall height has been reduced slightly. At the same time, the Sentra isn’t a small car. Compared to the 2013 Versa Sedan, it’s about seven inches longer and four inches wider, with a wheelbase about four inches longer.
Dimensionally, Nissan boasts that the Sentra has the best official front headroom, front legroom, and rear legroom than any of the other models in this class (including Cruze, Focus, Civic, and Corolla). Overall passenger room, by official measurements, is also more than any of these competing models.
In truth, the Sentra feels accommodating, but it doesn’t feel anywhere close to mid-size—and that has a lot to do with seating design and seating comfort. Nissan has not only used relatively short cushions both in front and in back, but it’s limited the rearward front-seat travel so that it barely meets the needs of taller drivers. At 6’-6,” I could get comfortable enough, but with my knees splayed out at varied degrees. Otherwise, front seats have plenty of extra headroom without the sunroof, but models with it can be a little tight. The seats themselves are flat and unsupportive, and while we thought by the look of them we’d get a little lateral support, it’s there in look alone. Multiple drivers mentioned seat comfort as an issue.
Whether or not there’s enough back-seat space also depends on your body type and your needs. This is a back seat that could easily accommodate three pre-teens across, but for adults the position is a little low and the cushions too hard; a little more contouring would have gone a long way. Taller occupants in back will find enough legroom, but headroom will be scarce, and getting in and out requires ducking under the door lip.
Trunk space is better than any other models in this class than the Cruze, and it feels that way. It’s a large, chest-like cargo area that could fit a couple large suitcases or a very large load of groceries. All trims come not only with a folding rear center armrest, but also a split-folding arrangement that lets you flip the seatbacks forward (not flat) to an expanded area.
Cabin materials are merely average. Nissan lined up the armrests of the door with the top of the center console, and the contact points are a soft-touch material. We also like the base cloth seats and would probably be happier with them over the plasticky leather that’s available.
Nissan says that it’s increased attention to noise and vibration in the Sentra and added 50 percent more noise insulation around the firewall. While you still hear the engine’s coarse note plenty when accelerating hard, the interior is rather quiet by budget-priced small-car standards..
Ride quality is on the soft side; it’s very absorbent, and there’s not much road noise, but as with some shorter-wheelbase vehicles, the Sentra can feel somewhat bouncy or pitchy over rougher surfaces—and there’s too much lift (squat) or dive under hard acceleration or braking.
The Sentra is almost as accommodating as mid-size sedans, but not nearly as comfortable or refined as one.