SENTRA 3497 2Picture this: you live in Southern California, with all its glorious sunsets and groovy surfer culture, and you get the bug: You learn to surf. Your hair gets those incredible golden highlights, your skin glows with a warm tan, and you look great in Ugg boots and a miniskirt. It’s settled: you’re getting a surfboard. 

Which leads to your first problem: how do you get the darn thing home? Then, how do you get it to the beach next time the ocean produces irresistible swells? And how do you transport it so you can stop on your way home to browse through those incredible little shops on Montana Avenue in Santa Monica?  

Well, you could go all retro and buy a ’68 Volkswagen Bus, or be your surf crew’s designated driver in a Suburban or an Armada. But if neither of those are practical for the other 90 percent of time you spend on the road, it would be cool to have a car that can accommodate your board when you need it and then just be its cute little self when you don’t. 

Apparently, Nissan’s designers have been obsessing about this very subject, and their solution is an integral part of the Sentra’s interior. 

Yes, Sentra: the little sedan that gets great gas mileage and is easy to park anywhere. It can also fit a surfboard inside. 

Trunk with surfboardView from the rear: With the back and passenger seats folded down, here is how the surf board fits, and how much room is still left in the trunk.To do this, the rear seats fold down to create a contiguous trunk/cargo space, and the front passenger seat folds down, creating enough linear room to tuck a surfboard inside the car (eight feet in all) and still leave room for three passengers. Clever!

OK, now I float back to reality: I don’t surf and I probably won’t learn to (unless somehow the Surf Butler at the St. Regis Monarch Beach magically takes charge of my next vacation), so I won’t need a board. But it’s a stunning visual demonstration of just how flexible the Sentra’s interior is. For me, the the space would more likely accommodate a coffee table or crown moulding for my newly refurbished dining room. But point taken: the Sentra, a compact, economical car for tooling around the city, has tons of flexible space on the inside.
We took the 2013 Sentra for a test drive recently, zooming up the Pacific coast from San Francisco to Napa Valley. And ‘zoom’ is no exaggeration: the Sentra is a zippy little car in a very sophisticated package. Its exterior has an elegant ‘euro’ feel to it, and sublime details like the pinpoint LED lights that outline the headlights; this screams “expensive!” while it’s really not–the base model starts at $16,000 and nicely loaded it comes in about $23,000. Wow.

And it drove great. Nissan outfitted it with a new-generation CVT 7.3:1 gear ratio, sub-planetary gear, smaller pulleys, and flexible lock-up damper, or as I hear it, blahblahblahblahblahblah. What that means is that its transmission constantly adjusts to the amount of gas you give it and it keeps you zipping along; however, like many CVTs, the engine sounds as if it’s racing while it’s just adjusting gears; this may take some getting use to, but it pays off in better gas mileage. The Sentra accelerated well into traffic and drove responsively and comfortably even at top highway speeds.

Sentra front headlightElegant details are standard: LED lights frame the headlights.  With the redesigned and retooled 2013 Sentra, Nissan came to the game to win: The car, even at the base price, features luxuries usually reserved for pricier cars, and at the top end, has tons of luxuries (see more in our What We Loved list). Then, there’s the technology, and any car with this much technology a good investment (imagine your smartphone is the brains of your car). 

What We Loved: 
-First rate media console: it’s like having an iPad as your navigation screen
-Hands free text messaging
-The price
-Comfy, roomy interior with leather as an option
-Beautiful paint palette, including Graphite Blue and Amethyst Gray (mmmm….)
-Dual zone climate control
-Electric heated seats
-USB port 
-Keyless remote and push button start
-Handsfree Bluetooth
-Backup camera
-NissanConnect with navigation, real time traffic and weather, voice recognition, Pandora
-Google’s Point of Interest and Send To Car system lets you search for something (restaurant, gas station) and send turn by turn directions to your car
-Navigation screens show you the speed limit of the road you’re on
-Easy fill tire system that tells you when the tires are at ideal pressure (the horn beeps!)
-Huge trunk (15 cubic feet)
-Fold down rear seats
-Retractable moon roof
-The Sentra’s website (is this is a first?!?): videos launch as you scroll through the site, giving you the feel of being in and driving the car; see it here
Sentra TechThis is how your electronics interface with Sentra’s.
What You Need to Know:
-130 Horsepower
-30 MPG city, 39 highway; 34 combined
-Back shelf does not fold away with the rear seats
-Comes with 16 inch wheels, but 17 inch wheels are an option 
-Three driving modes–Sport, economy and normal– let you optimize your fuel usage
-Navigation, rearview camera, hands free Bluetooth, hands free texting, USB connectivity, etc. comes only with Nissan Connect ($650)

Disclosure: Nissan provided travel and accommodations for SheBuysCars to review the 2013 Sentra; opinions expressed here are all our own.