It may be difficult to believe, but the Nissan Sentra has a proud performance heritage. The current model is a bit dowdy, but the Sentra SE-R from the early 1990s was one of the original sport compacts, punching above its weight and price point.
Nissan has slowly been getting the Sentra back in shape. It unveiled the SR Turbo model earlier this year, and just topped that with the 2017 Sentra NISMO, which was unveiled at the 2016 Los Angeles Auto Show this week. This is the first time Nissan has applied the NISMO name (an abbreviation of “Nissan Motorsport”) to the Sentra, so this little sedan had better be something special.
The Sentra NISMO uses a 1.6-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder engine, wich it shares with the Sentra SR Turbo. Output is unchanged at 188 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque. Power is sent to the front wheels through an automatic continuously variable transmission (CVT) or, in a move that will please enthusiasts, a six-speed manual.
While the powertrain didn’t get any upgrades, Nissan did upgrade the suspension with monotube rear shocks that respond to changes in the road surface more quickly. It also retuned the front suspension and electric power steering to a sportier feel. The NISMO also rides 0.4 of an inch lower than other Sentra models as well.
The NISMO is visually distinguished by a relatively subtle body kit with red accents and a front bumper that borrows some styling cues from the 370Z NISMO and GT-R NISMO models. Nissan claims the modifications preserve the Sentra’s fairly sleek 0.29 coefficient of drag. The interior features special NISMO front seats, a leather- and Alcantara-wrapped steering wheel, and some trim that looks like fake carbon fiber.
The NISMO gets all of the same tech features as other Sentra models, including standard Siri Eyes Free voice control and an optional Bose eight-speaker audio system and NissanConnect infotainment system with app suite. Full pricing information will be available at a later date, but expect the NISMO’s price tag to top that of the Sentra SR Turbo, which starts at $22,855 (including destination).