Back in the 1990s heyday of Japanese sport compact cars in North America, the Nissan Sentra SE-R and the Honda Civic Si were two of the most popular models around. Their performance right out of the box and endless tunability made them real winners, and now history may just be about to repeat itself
This week at the LA Auto Show, new versions of both cars were unveiled, each model turbocharged and reimagined for the modern era.
Let’s start with Nissan. The new car is no longer called the SE-R, but the 2017 Sentra Nismo could essentially be seen as a contemporary interpretation of it.
Under the hood sits a turbocharged 1.6-liter four cylinder that makes 188 horsepower and 197lb-ft of torque. This is the same motor that powers the recently introduced Sentra SR Turbo.
But what sets the Nismo model apart from the more pedestrian SR Turbo is a retuned suspension and steering system, wider and stickier tires, and of course more aggressive bodywork.
Along with a pair of well-bolstered bucket seats, there’s an Alcantara/leather wrapped steering wheel complete with a center position marker, and carbon fiber-style trim details. The standard transmission option is a 6-speed manual, but a CVT is also available.
It’s unclear if this car will in fact be the second coming of the original Sentra SE-R – and no, it doesn’t make up for Nissan abandoning the IDx Concept – but it’s definitely a step in the right direction. Here’s hoping there’s more enthusiast-oriented Nissan models in the near future.
Honda meanwhile used the LA show to unveil its new Civic Si Prototype. And just like most of Honda’s prototypes, this one looks production ready.
While some had speculated that the Si would be powered by a detuned version of 2.0-liter turbo from the new Civic Type R, it’s now clear that this model will use a hopped-up variant of the 1.5-liter turbo that debuted in the 10th generation Civic last year.
Because it’s still officially a prototype, Honda hasn’t announced the final power figures for the new car, but it’s been promised that it will be the fastest and most powerful Civic Si yet. I’d guess it’ll end up somewhere around 215 horsepower with a similar amount of torque.
As in the past, the only transmission choice for the Si will be a 6-speed manual, but best of all, a limited slip differential will be standard.
No matter your thoughts on the new Si or the Nismo Sentra , it’s great to see Japanese brands once again focusing on fun cars that don’t break the bank.
I can’t wait to see the inevitable comparison tests between these two.