This week it’s a cruise in the 2013 Nissan Sentra. Nissan has stepped up the game in the small car market not by giving you more options and seat ventilators but by doing something so rare in this class…giving you space. Space in the trunk, space in the rear seat, space above your head. The 2013 Nissan Sentra feels bigger than it is and I don’t care how good your radio sounds if you back seat passengers are moaning and complaining for you to move the front seat up, you are probably not going to hear the sweet music!

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From the outside the Sentra carries the new face of Nissan which aligns it more closely with the automakers Luxury line Infiniti. In fact more than one person asked me if it was an Infiniti as many of the styling cues are similar to the new Q-50 sedan. The sides of the car are marked by two design lines, one running from headlamp to tail lamp that bring the whole car together. Plenty of glass and a lower belt line give the Sentra excellent cabin visibility.

Inside,  the rear seats shine. Leg room, shoulder room, knee room make the Sentra feel like a bigger car than it is. Open up the trunk and you are even more surprised as the Sentra  gives you cavernous space to load whatever you have to take along. Might be the biggest trunk I have ever seen in a car this size. Now the bad news. The front seats are at best acceptable. They are wide enough but they don’t give you great support. Interior materials are about what one would expect for the class, although the leather package does improve the interior look and feel. Controls both dash mounted and steering wheel mounted are as simple logical and easy to use as you will find in the class. Nissan now has a system called Nissan Connect that integrates your social media and e mail life through your smart phone and the rearview camera is standard.

The Sentra gets a new power plant for 2013, a 1.8 liter 4 cylinder that delivers 138 horsepower and 128 lb ft of torque to the CVT transmission in the car I drove. There is also a 6 speed manual available on certain models. The Sentra is also equipped with 2 driving modes …Eco and sport…that regulate the engine/trans combo for your particular driving conditions. Problem with the combo is if you go to hit the gas like to jump on the freeway from a roll it takes a while to respond even in sports mode which can be frustrating. It could take some getting used to. The Sentra handles well in city driving. On the road it handles curves adequately but don’t expect to find much Z DNA in this car. The model I drove was equipped with rear disc brakes which made stopping the Sentra precise even after a few hours of rigorous driving through a number of southwest Pennsylvania back roads.

Sticker price on the Road Test Sentra, the top of the line SL with Navigation and Leather packages, $22,400. Several models of the Sentra are available starting at $15,990 for an S equipped with 6 speed manual transmission. EPA figures on the Sentra 30mpg city 39 highway with an average of 34 mpg combined.  The Sentra gets a Four Star overall  rating in Government safety tests.

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I’m somewhat  torn on the Nissan Sentra. I like the room inside. I love the looks, I love the backseat and trunk space and I like the solid construction and feel. I am less enthusiastic about the CVT transmission and the acceleration .  I’d love to see a NISMO or sport version with a manual transmission that could make it a lot more fun to drive.

The Sentra is a really good car that has the potential to be a great car. It lives in a class of cars that is constantly raising the bar. The Nissan Sentra needs to be the car that raises the bar instead of trying to catch up.

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Get more reviews, news about cars and the people who drive them, interviews and tips on how to get more out of your driving experience all on Drivetime with Vinnie Richichi and Rob Pratte Saturday mornings 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. on NewsRadio 1020 KDKA. Also listen to Vinnie on The Vinnie and Cook Show Monday-Friday 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sportsradio 93-7 The Fan.