Quick Spin: 2017 Nissan Sentra SR Turbo

Save the manuals, they say! I’d buy it if it was stick, they scream! I would buy the stick model if it came with power blah and leather blah! I would buy it, but it doesn’t have a turbo! I would buy it, but the price is too damn high!
Well, Nissan just took all those excuses away from you. Here is a new Nissan with a manual transmission. It is available with the fancy stuff you want.  There is even hair-dryer under the hood. The icing in the cake is a price of under $23,000.
So is this 2017 Sentra SR Turbo a worthy replacement to the Sentra SE-R from the 1990’s?

All Sentras received a minor facelift for 2016 with styling similar to the Maxima, Murano, and the Altima. The update included fenders, headlights and taillights, and wheels. The interior is spruced up a bit but it does not hide its economy roots. Seats are wrapped in nice fabric but there is not much side support. There were no serious mechanical changes since the vehicle’s introduction in 2013. My review of the 2013 Sentra SV is here.
Nissan changed that mechanical bit for 2017 with the introduction of the Sentra SR Turbo. This model has a direct-injected turbocharged 1.6-liter DOHC 4-cylinder engine rated at 188 horsepower and 177 lb-ft of torque. If that engine sounds familiar, it should. Nissan has used this powertrain in the Juke for several years now.
To keep things real, Nissan also beefed up the brakes and suspension for the SR duty, but only slightly. Front rotors are less than an inch bigger and the springs are only slightly stiffer. Wheels grow to 17-inches and are wrapped in 205/50-17 all-season tires. Most importantly, a 6-speed manual transmission is standard and a Xtronic (their name) CVT is optional and avoidable. Where the SE-R had an honest limited slip differential, the SR Turbo has an open diff with traction control.
Despite the added power and better chassis bits, there are some issues with the SR Turbo. It is not that quick. It does not feel that sporty. It does not have that fun zing that the VW GTI or even the Honda Civic has. It does not engage the driver. It does not want to be pushed. The turbo doesn’t even whistle – if it was not for the badge no one would know that there’s positive pressure under the hood. It simply drives like a Sentra with a manual transmission.
Value is something that the 2017 Sentra SR Turbo retains. It starts at $21,990 whether you choose the manual or automatic transmission. There is only one package available, the Premium Package, which includes leather, Bose audio, nav, and other miscellaneous features for $2590. If you want a sedan with sporty aspirations and a manual transmission, that price is hard to beat. But if you’re looking for a modern Sentra SE-R, this is not it.
Recently Nissan introduced the Sentra NISMO. It builds on the SR Turbo by adding a stiffer, lower suspension, 18-inch wheels, sport tires, and slightly bigger brakes. The interior gets more racy treatment, too. Price is suppose to stay under $25,000. This has me wondering – Why does the NISMO even exist? Did Nissan realize that the SR Turbo just isn’t all that right when they released it? Will the NISMO the real modern SE-R?
Nissan provided the vehicle for the purpose of this review.  All images copyright Kamil Kaluski/Hooniverse 2017.

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16 responses to “Quick Spin: 2017 Nissan Sentra SR Turbo”

  1. Wayne Moyer Avatar
    Wayne Moyer

    Alright Kamil since it has the same powerplant as the Juke and you had a chance to drive it then compare the two. The Juke would have worse aero but should be lighter. Well that and it’s a bunch uglier.This also seems like an odd choice with the death of sedan sales in the US. Wouldn’t a hatch make more sense?

    1. outback_ute Avatar

      They do a hatch with the same engine, called the Pulsar SSS here

      1. Kamil K Avatar

        Somehow that seems so much cooler.

    2. Kamil K Avatar

      Wayne, I never drove a Juke. I never even so much as sat in one.

  2. JayP Avatar

    There are so many enthusiast cars for under $25k, that this just doesn’t show up on the radar.

  3. Peter Tanshanomi Avatar

    This car is the spiritual successor to my 6-speed Kizashi. When mine gets totaled or rusts out, I can totally see replacing it with an SR Turbo.

    1. Jeff Glucker Avatar
      Jeff Glucker

      More horsepower! LIghter!
      …0.2 faster to 60. What the what?

      1. Maymar Avatar

        I wondered if it was just bad gearing in the Nissan, taking third shift to get to 60 or something, but nope, even in the 1/4 mile it’s only like a half second quicker.

        1. Fresh-Outta-Nissans Avatar

          The Sentra has horrific hearing, though. It’s been forever, but I once drove a manual b17 Sentra. It… wasn’t pretty.
          Shame: I actually love the standard CVT model.

  4. Zentropy Avatar

    Checks all the right boxes except for driven wheels and badge. Nissan has made some legendary cars in the past, but now they are way off my radar screen.

  5. Maymar Avatar

    I salute Nissan for doing this, but it doesn’t seem like it’s going to drive any better than a base Golf. I will keep petitioning for a turbo Micra as long as it’s a physical possibility, though.

  6. wunno sev Avatar
    wunno sev

    just hit up cars.com and found many, many Focus STs and GTis for ~23k or less. sure, they’re being sold under sticker, as will be the Sentra, but if you’re spending 22k for a Sentra, you can spend 24k for a good car instead. it’s worth the extra.
    i have no beef with the base Sentra; my mom’s got a 2011 and it’s been good to her. it’s boring to drive, but it doesn’t rattle and it doesn’t break. but this model struggles to justify itself. nobody wanting a sporty car would start with a modern Sentra.

    1. JayP Avatar

      Read my mind. STs are all over the place for less than $20k.

  7. Ross Ballot Avatar
    Ross Ballot

    That’s too bad. Had hoped for it to be better. Especially given how other journalists were gushing over it.

    1. JayP Avatar

      I just don’t get the love they’ve had for this…

      1. Kamil K Avatar

        Neither do I. Perhaps some just aren’t as honest as others…