The SR absorbs road imperfections and bumps quite well, and maintains a civilized ride that won’t frighten your passengers.

Greensboro, GA – It’s an idea whose time has come, and a great way to keep Nissan’s compact sedan fresh in the public eye after last year’s facelift; the 2017 Sentra lineup gains a turbo model.

The trim level is ‘SR’, the engine a boosted 1.6 litre powerhouse, and the overall look and underpinnings are slightly modified to make the likable little vehicle stand out among its siblings on the road.

The engine is the first turbo to be made available for Sentra, with Nissan stating robust horse-and-torque numbers from the direct-injection, gasoline-powered four-cylinder mill (188 hp and 177 lb.-ft., respectively, which puts it ahead of major competitors like Honda’s latest Civic, with its 1.5L turbo powerplant, and the other major segment players: Mazda3 and Corolla.

For perspective, that is 64 more ponies than the regular Sentra’s standard-issue 1.8 litre engine puts out, and 52 extra lb.-ft. of torque channeled to the (front wheel) drivetrain.

Buyers are offered a choice of transmissions – a six-speed manual or Nissan’s well regarded CVT (continuously-variable transmission) automatic. Both feature a sport mode, activated via a dash button to the left of the steering wheel, which peps up the accelerator response when the situation calls for more performance-oriented driving; but doesn’t affect the steering or suspension.

Speaking of which, the suspension is tightened up for the Sentra Turbo, with stiffer springs (and a reinforced body and thickened cowl up front), but having driven the vehicle I can tell you that it hasn’t crossed the line into an overly-harsh experience, like you might find in cars that are going for a more sport-oriented niche. Indeed, the SR absorbs road imperfections and bumps quite well, and maintains a civilized ride that won’t frighten your passengers.

Likewise, the steering feel and response is still much more akin to everyday family car equipment (think Altima sedan), with no overly sensitive or jerky feedback. It is a pretty controlled and smooth affair that is unlikely to offend the majority of drivers; but it may feel a little on the mellow side for anyone seeking an experience similar to, say, the MINI Cooper.

On the outside, the SR sets itself apart with a rear spoiler on the trunk lid, extended side sills and chromed exhaust tips; and of course SR Turbo badging all over it, inside and out.

A power moonroof is standard on the vehicle, and I like that it doesn’t intrude on the interior headroom too much – there is still ample space overhead inside for taller people (like me) – and in fact the front seat space is decent for a compact car.

Nissan has fleshed out the cabin with sport bucket, cloth-upholstered (heated) seats and soft-touch materials for the dash and a five-inch information display on the center stack. And of course more SR Turbo badges everywhere, including inside the trunk.

If you want a more upscale environment, the turbo Sentra will offer a ‘Premium package’ option for the SR, which adds leather seating surfaces, blind-spot warning and cross-traffic alert system, and a Bose stereo rig with eight speakers (satellite radio is available as well, as you might expect).

So in summary: the soaring highs of the new member of the Sentra family are its low-end torque, extra power and enhanced braking – the SR has larger front discs than the rest of the lineup, and model-specific pads to help bring things to a controlled halt – and a spiffy interior treatment; particularly when optioned up to Premium level, with its leather seats and extra tech (and available nav system).

The crushing lows: the steering is less tight ‘n’ sporty than I normally like in a car that is positioning itself as a recreational fun machine; and I also found the manual six-speed a bit imprecise, by which I mean I found it easy to miss a gate when upshifting from fourth to fifth. I recommend taking one with the Xtronic CVT out for a test drive if you are considering the car when it becomes available.

The wild card factor will be the pricing. We don’t yet know what the sticker price will be when the 2017 Sentra SR Turbo hits the lots this fall here in Canada, but doing the exchange-rate math on the US number (south of the border it starts at almost $22K), I don’t think you’d be wrong to expect it to fall into the mid-to-upper twenties.

wade [dot] ozeroff [at] drivewaybc [dot] ca

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