Sport Compact Car lovers rejoice! No longer will you have to rely on the Honda Civics of the world to fulfill your utilitarian, economic, and sporting aspirations. The Nissan folks have just injected the NISMO mantra into their latest product line, confirming the one of the worst kept secrets in automotive history, the Sentra NISMO. The flagship Sentra was recently revealed at a private event in the DC Stages of the Arts District, accompanied by other marquee vehicles such as two R32 Skylines, John Morton’s #46 Datsun 510, a 1961 Datsun Fairlady Sport convertible, a 2000GT Skyline, drifter Chris Forsberg’s 280Z drift car, and the all new 2017 R35 Nissan GTR NISMO.
After the reveal I got to briefly drive the Sentra NISMO for several Los Angeles miles. While the 188 horsepower 1.6 liter turbocharged engine is a bit of a downer when compared to the upcoming Honda Civic Si, the nimble and tossable nature of the Sentra NISMO quickly made me forget about the basic specs. The alcantara lined steering wheel is soft and grippy to the touch and encourages spirited driving. This is clearly one of those slow cars that are fun to drive fast.
The clutch was featherlight and shifting was a breeze despite the rubbery nature of the gear lever. Changing the Sentra NISMO’s gears brought me back to when I was 11 years old and pretend-driving with a toilet’s plunger. Regardless, I appreciate very much that Nissan has included a manual option for its top of the line Sentra, which starts at just under $25,000.
For a car that seems to have been destined for an everlasting curse of Los Angeles commutes and the occasional auto-cross duties and hot laps, the new NISMO looks to be a very capable contender to the current crop of sport compact filled riddled with Civics, Corrolas and Mazda3s.