Two New Models From Nissan Tested – 2013 Sentra & Pathfinder

102_1552Hello and welcome to 2013. I hope everyone has had a wonderful start to the new year, and I also hope many will be looking to buy a new car.
With that in mind, I thought I should start the year off with a piece on two brand-new vehicles that are on sale right now. One of them is good, the other not so much.
I am talking about the new Nissan Sentra sedan and the new Nissan Pathfinder SUV. Both these models are fresh for 2013, but how are they to drive and what features do they have?
To find out, Nissan Canada invited me to the launch of these two new offering in the beautiful city of Vancouver, B.C.
I’ll start off with the Sentra, a car which has been quite a volume seller for its manufacturer. The Sentra is not the entry level model in Nissan’s line-up, that distinction belongs to the Versa sedan. The Sentra is roughly 7-inches longer than the Versa sedan, yet feels no more spacious. Still, at least from a roominess point of view, the Sentra certainly has more space to offer than its rivals from Kia or Toyota.
102_1565It looks good too. This seventh-generation Sentra is a handsome looking car. Take the badges off and people might think it’s a Lexus (does have more than a passing resemblance to the much unloved and hence discontinued Lexus HS250h).
The design is slippery through the air too, with just a 0.29 co-efficient of drag (that is better than most sports cars).
So it looks good and has lots of room, but what else does it offer?
Well, the new Sentra has clever features like a tire pressure monitoring system that beeps the horn when you have filled the tires with the correct amount of air. This will prevent you from under or over inflating its tires. This is a clever feature and Nissan deserves full kudos for coming up with it.
This compact car has some (optional) luxury features also, like an eight-speaker Bose stereo system, a touch screen navigation/infotainment system and a dual-zone climate control system.
102_1558So far, the Sentra is shaping up to be a pretty good car, but not all is good with this car. My first complaint is with its quality. You’ve all heard of the book ’50 Shades of Grey,’ well the Sentra’s interior has 5 shades of grey. In my SR-spec tester, I was baffled with how many mismatched bits of plastic there were in this interior and wondered why Nissan had done that. Is it because of cost or were the designers this blind? I hope it is not the latter.
102_1562I was also baffled when I opened the trunk. Yes, the trunk is huge, measuring 428-liters, but suffers not only from huge C-hinges to prop the trunk up (which would certainly impede in its capacity when you close the trunk), but also found the most bizarre contraption to aid the trunk lid up. Essentially, it had two pieces of metal running between the C-hinges which will undoubtedly one day will get stuck on some luggage and possibly tear themselves apart. I have no idea why Nissan did this. Nissan, you are the company that has given the world the best active all-wheel drive system in the world (GT-R) and a rev-matching manual gearbox (370Z), so why have you gone ahead and produced a trunk mechanism that is this flawed and cheap? I don’t get it. Your engineers are better than that.
Details like a half-painted trunk hinge and glued on sponge under the front hood (for what reason, I have no clue) just add to my frustration with this new vehicle.
That is before I have even gotten to the powertrain. Under the hood lies a 1.8-liter, four-cylinder engine that produces 130-hp and 128-lb/ft of torque. That is not the strongest engine in its class. Power is fed to the front wheels via either a six-speed manual or a CVT (continuously variable transmission) automatic transmission. My tester sadly had the latter. While Nissan has done a decent job with the CVT gearbox in vehicles such as the Murano, Quest and the new Altima, the one in the Sentra is not their best effort.
102_1561Nissan claims that this is a second-generation version of the CVT transmission found in their compact cars, but it performed no better than the last one. Very disappointing.
This CVT has three-drive modes, Normal, Eco and Sport, but the car didn’t feel much different in either mode. However, if the fuel-economy numbers can be believed, the new Sentra can average 5.8-liters/100km on a combined cycle, which is quite good.
The ride and handling however is not. While the suspension and the chassis soaks up the bumps quite well, the seats are quite uncomfortable. I wasn’t the only one complaining, as my driving partner, a slimmer and taller fella, also had the same complaint about the seats. As for handling, it seems fine for a car like this, but the electronic power steering system offers no feel as to what the front tires are doing.
So to cap it off, the new Sentra is a fine car for those who are not into cars and are just looking for an A to B appliance. If you like cars though, look elsewhere. Pricing for the Mexico-built Sentra start at $14,898.
102_1599Now onto the new Pathfinder. This is the fourth-generation version of this model, and is the second time it has a uni-body construction. That means, it’ll be smooth on the road, but not of much use off-road. Since most SUV buyers never go off-road, this is not a big deal.
What is a big deal, is this is the first Pathfinder to feature a CVT automatic, however Nissan says its FK-K2 unit is the most advanced CVT on the market. I’ll get to how it actually performed a bit later.
Under the hood is a very familiar engine. It is a 3.5-liter, VQ-series, V6 motor that is found in many other Nissan and Infiniti models. In this application, it produces 260-hp and 240-lb/ft of torque. That allows it to tow up to 5,000-lbs, which is quite impressive.
102_1595The new Pathfinder can at the twist of a knob go from front-wheel drive to active all-wheel drive (AWD) or AWD lock, so while it might not be an ideal vehicle for off-roading, it can haul you out of whatever our local weather can throw your way. However, for those on a budget can buy a simple front-wheel drive only model also.
It can haul people too, in fact seven at the same time. Sharing its platform (and many other things) with the Infiniti JX35 (soon to be renamed QX60), it has the same clever seating configuration that allows even adults to sit comfortably in the last row.
While not many people will be impressed with the way the new Pathfinder looks, most will love its interior. Not only is the quality of the fit and finish superb, but the space is plentiful and you can get most of the gadgets you’d find in its Infiniti cousin, including the around-view camera monitoring system for parking. Clever stuff.
102_1576Is it economical? Nissan claims a combined city and highway fuel consumption of 9.5-liters/100km for the AWD model, which is quite decent.
Specs and clever features aside, how does it drive?
Well, it is certainly not an enthusiasts vehicle, but it rides very well, it is extremely quiet, and its CVT transmission works quite well in this application. If you are looking for a large, family vehicle and don’t want a minivan, the Pathfinder will be worth a look. There are four trim-levels on offer (S, SV, SL, Platinum) and prices range from $29,998 to $45,198. So depending on your budget and needs, you’ll find a Pathfinder to suit your needs.

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One Response to Two New Models From Nissan Tested – 2013 Sentra & Pathfinder

  1. Pingback: Nissan’s new advert for the Sentra, I kind of agree with it | Automotive Affairs by Nauman Farooq

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