2013-2017 Nissan Sentra: engine, common problems, fuel economy, photos, specs

Overall rating:4 Star Rating
August 21, 2017
2013 Nissan Sentra
2013 Nissan Sentra.
Click for larger photo.

Nissan Sentra competes with the likes of Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, Hyundai Elantra, Ford Focus and Chevrolet Cruze. The city fuel economy is where the Sentra stands out. The EPA rates the 2013 Sentra with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) at 30 mpg city. A very few sedans can match that.

Another plus is the stylish roomy interior. In terms of the size, the Sentra is closer to a mid-size sedan. A used Nissan Sentra is widely available. It's also priced below the class leaders Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla. Is the Nissan Sentra reliable in the long run? What are the common problems? Let's find out.

2013 Nissan Sentra Interior
Nissan Sentra interior. Click for larger photo
Nissan Sentra trunk
Nissan Sentra cargo space
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Engine: The Sentra comes with a 130-hp DOHC 1.8L engine. It's a bit underpowered, but overall, it's a good simple engine. It has a timing chain instead of a timing belt.

Interior: The Sentra interior is nicely styled and finished. All-around visibility is great thanks to upright seating position. Tall drivers will find plenty of headroom and legroom in the front. The rear legroom is the second best in the segment. The trunk is large, with sizeable opening. Rear seats fold down if you need more space. The USB and Bluetooth are standard on all models from 2015.

Fuel Economy: The EPA rates the 2013 Nissan Sentra with a CVT automatic transmission at 30 mpg city, 39 mpg highway and 34 mpg combined. With 55% city, 45% highway, you can drive the Sentra for 404 miles (650 km) on a 13.2-gallon (50L) tank. For comparison, the 2013 Mazda 3 2.0L auto gets 28/40 mpg. The 2013 Honda Civic automatic is rated at 28/39 mpg. The advantage of a CVT transmission is obvious if you look at the manual transmission numbers: The 2013 Sentra manual returns 27 mpg city and 36 mpg highway (8.7/6.5 L/100 km).

Handling and ride: The Sentra handles well, but not sporty. The ride is more on the firm side, but comfortable and well-insulated from road imperfections.

Safety: Rear brakes are drums. Disc rear brakes are available on top trims. Antilock brakes and Stability Control are standard. The Sentra has six standard airbags: front, side and side curtain. In the NHTSA crash tests, the 2013-2017 Sentra scored four stars out of five overall. Frontal crash and rollover are rated with four stars. The side protection received five stars.

Pros: Reasonable price, city fuel economy, extended warranty for the CVT transmission, style, roomy quiet cabin, rear seat space, refined dash, visibility, ride comfort, perks for the money.

Cons: Slow pickup, lack of power when merging, engine noise on acceleration, finicky CVT transmission, small center console storage.

Similar cars:

CVT Transmission: Nissan was one of the first manufacturers to use the CVT in several models throughout the lineup. Over the years, the CVT design has gotten better, but there are still a notable amount of complaints about it. In response, Nissan has extended the warranty for CVT repairs, replacements or related towing to 10 years/120,000 miles, whichever comes first. Read more details at NissanAssist.com

Overall: It's a stylish maneuverable compact with great city fuel economy. The overall reliability is not as good as that of Honda or Toyota, but an extended warranty on a CVT transmission is a big plus. The 2013 model year received most of the complaints. It's a good idea to look for the 2014 and newer Sentra. A used Nissan Sentra is priced on average $1,500 to $3,000 cheaper than the same year Honda Civic or Toyota Corolla. The Sentra is not a sporty or fast car. If you are looking for driving dynamics, check Mazda 3, Subaru Impreza or Mitsubishi Lancer. Other choices in the segment include Hyundai Elantra, Dodge Dart, Kia Forte and Chevrolet Cruze.

Common problems: The two main areas of complaints for the 2013 Nissan Sentra at the NHTSA website are the CVT transmission and brakes. Consumer Reports also mentions transmission issues in the 2013 model. At the time we were working on this review, only the 2015 Sentra was rated "green" or 5 out of 5 at Consumer Reports. The 2013 Sentra was rated 1 out of 5. Check Engine light issues are also mentioned by a number of owners.

What to look for when buying a used Nissan Sentra: During a test drive, pay attention to the way the CVT transmission operates. Jerking, stalling, slipping or vibration while accelerating are the signs that the car should be avoided. If you feel shuddering (judder, as Nissan calls it) when accelerating from a stop or in slow traffic, there might be an issue with the CVT transmission. Check the steering wheel adjustment, as several owners mentioned that it's hard to find the comfortable position.

Maintenance: According to the 2013 Nissan Sentra owner's manual, SAE 0W-20 is the recommended oil type. The 0W-20 is synthetic oil. The cabin filter needs to be replaced every 15,000 miles. The continuously variable transmission requires only Genuine NISSAN CVT Fluid NS-3. You can find the maintenance schedule and download a pdf version of the owners manual at the US Nissan Owners website.
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Resources:
Recalls: Safety Recalls - NHTSA or Transport Canada - Road Safety Recalls.
US Nissan Owners website - Check maintenance schedule, download an electronic owner's manual.
Nissan Assist - read about CVT warranty and other issues.

2013 Nissan Sentra Specifications

Dimensions:
Overall length:
Overall width:
Overall height:
Wheelbase:
182.1 in (4625 mm)
69.3 in (1760 mm)
58.9 in (1495 mm)
106.3 in (2700 mm)
Tires:
S, SV:
SR, SL:
205/55R16
205/50R17
Turning diameter:
34.8 ft
Cargo volume: 15.1 cu. ft
Curb weight: 2,841 lbs /Sentra SV with CVT/
Engine: 1.8L, 4-cylinder, 16-valve DOHC, model MRA8DE
130 hp @ 6000 rpm
128 lb-ft @ 3600 rpm
Recommended Fuel: Regular unleaded
Fuel Tank Capacity:

13-1/4 gal US gallons (50 liters)

Recommended engine oil: SAE 0W-20
Engine oil capacity:
with oil filter change:
4-1/4 qt US qt (4.0 liters)