2017 Nissan Sentra NISMO - Driven
The name NISMO conjures up all kinds of fuzzy feelings inside me. These five letters are not just the abbreviation of "Nissan Motorsport International," they signify the racing DNA of Nissan’s factory efforts starting with the Japan Touring Championship of the 80's.
When Nissan sticks this badge on a car, they mean business. For example, the NISMO R34 GT-R NISMO complete car, of which only 20 were made, is Godzilla literally on steroids. The modified RB22DETT Z2 turbo engine boasted 500HP out of the factory when the stock GT-R only made 280HP (but that’s a whole nother story on its own).
Currently Nissan offers the GT-R NISMO, 370Z NISMO, the Juke NISMO and Juke NISMO RS. These cars stand apart from their base models as the top grade performance packages.
Recently we had a chance to test drive the 2017 Nissan Sentra NISMO. It’s the first mainstream US model to offer the NISMO package. The Sentra has a lineage of performance and racing background in the US dating back to the original Sentra SE-R. The 3rd most popular vehicle in Nissan’s lineup was probably the safe bet to give it the magic NISMO touch.
The Sentra NISMO has a 1.6L turbocharged 4-cylinder engine that has 188 horsepower and 177 lb-ft of torque. Ok, so power isn’t everything. The curb weight also measures pretty much the same as the stock Nissan Sentra at around 3000lbs. Although you can feel some zippiness at starts and sufficient torque during acceleration, it’s no race car. If they could've shaved off some weight, the fun factor would definitely go up.
The exterior is completely clad with sleek NISMO armor from the front fascia, mirrors, LED running lights, rear spoiler and side sills. It is substantially sportier and better looking than the stock Sentra. 18-inch NISMO alloy wheels wrap the 215/45R18 Michelin Pilot Sport high performance all season tires. We wish it offered an even more lowered stance, although it does set itself apart from other sedans on the streets with its aggressive look.
How does it drive? The NISMO seats hugs the driver in good shape while taking those turns. The interior is motorsports-inspired and is at the same level of other sports models in this class. My favorite part of the car was the steering wheel wrapped in Alcantara & leather.
Steering and suspension are also tweaked for performance and it is obvious when taking this car for a drive. Turn-in response is good and chassis stiffness can be felt but it's not overly uncomfortable on the terrible streets of Los Angeles. On the other hand, it could use more stiffnes if you are planning to take this car to the tracks.
So the question is whether this car should be called a NISMO. We're not so sure. It’s still a darn good sporty car that starts at $24,999 and gets 27MPG city and 33 on the highway. Actually, if it weren’t called a NISMO, we likely wouldn’t have any complaints. Or perhaps it's just us hanging on to the nostalgia of yesteryear...