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Nissan’s Sentra all grown up

2013-08-31 09:37


WELL, HELLO STRANGER: Nissan South Africa has relaunched a familiar name - the Sentra, but the old favourite is all grown up. Looking good and a nice price too. Image: Janine-Lee Gordon

Nissan has brought back another oldie and, like a good red wine, it's matured with age… we know you’re dying to know if there’ll be a Sentra STI.

August 2013 and Nissan South Africa is shaking up its passenger market big time. First it brought back the Almera and now the beloved Sentra. This time around, however, they've swopped roles and sizes.

Nissan Sentra image gallery

Some years ago the Almera was the flagship sedan, the Sentra a smaller family run-around. Although the new Almera's cabin is big enough to take an inflated kiddie’s jumping castle it only slots in after the entry-level Micra. The Sentra is even bigger and fits in at the higher end of the automaker’s model line-up, between the Juke and Qashqai.


Nissan’s Thabo Smouse said at a launch presentation in Cape Town that the Sentra is supposed to replace the Tiida and Grand Livina but while the automaker wants to retain those customers with this offering it also wants to expand its target market to a much younger clientele.

Sure it’s not the GA16 model of 1995 – which is still adored and found on today’s roads - just like modern-day Toyota Corollas don’t have anything on the models of yesteryear, but this one is all grown up. It's also a lot more refined, bigger and spacious, even the boot could easily be a comfortable hiding spot for two adults.

Still to come from Nissan, probably after the Johannesburg auto show, is the revival of the Datsun brand, predecessor to Nissan, as a budget entry range.

With its seats in place the Sentra it can take 510 litres of luggage - capacity usually found in D-segment sedans. Since the seats are much lower, there’s 30cm more shoulder room and more knee-room – big enough to allow you to sit cross-legged, comfortably.  This also means it’s a lot easier to get in and out of the car.

Its car's nose might not be amaze-balls but it sure has a sexy rear with neat, sculptured lines. It’s not bad-looking but driving one back to the office after the launch lunch the car didn’t get quite the stares I'd anticipated from lunch-timers; it somehow just faded into the crowd. I kind of like it, though, purely because it’s so simple. And, one can’t help to identify similar design lines from its luxury sister brand, Infiniti.

Nissan has introduced a load of firsts in the Sentra, among them the diode-lit head and tail lights. There are also reading lights in the ceiling and it comes in six body colours.


The cabin has lots of nice things: lockable cubby, cup holders in the rear armrest and a secret hatch giving access to the boot from the rear seats. There’s a sliding arm rest/centre console between the front seats, a soft-pad dashboard, an electric boot-release, tilt/telescope steering column and USB and 12V power ports.

Power comes from a 1.6  petrol engine (manual or auto box, Acenta trim, same as the Almera). The engine makes 85kW at 5600rpm and 154Nm at 4000rpm and draws from a 52-litre fuel tank. Dual front side and curtain airbags are waiting should anti-lock brakes with auto presssure distribution and emergency pressure reserve not prove sufficient.

Nissan said the Sentra is intended for private buyers: the Almera will be its offering for the car-rental market.

Price for the manual is R230 900, the auto R253 600, nice value for money but the engine doesn't feel as strong as the stuff old-school things are made of. Still, pretty good pricing - though nowhere close to the R165 000 of the similarly sized Almera.

Oh yes, the STI... sorry guys, but that car is going to stay in the history books.
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