Nissan & Honda’s Sport Compact Revival

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.

2017 Nissan Sentra NISMO

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.

Nissan Sentra NISMO 2017 debuta en el Auto Show de Los Ángeles

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.

2017 Nissan Sentra NISMO

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.

Nissan Sentra NISMO 2017 debuta en el Auto Show de Los Ángeles

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.

2017 Nissan Sentra NISMO

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.

Civic Si Prototype

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.

Civic Si Prototype

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.

Civic Si Prototype

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.

Civic Si Prototype

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.

Civic Si Prototype

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.

Mike Garrett
Instagram: japanifornia
mike@speedhunters.com

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Comments

51 comments
John Key NZ
John Key NZ

But they look fat and heavy. They're the size of a mid 90s Camry/Maxima/E Class

Smiggins
Smiggins

Honda has completely lost it. Their styling used to be so good and now its so bad.

Who ever they have handling the styling of their cars needs to be fired, I dont care how many of them have to be fired. They are completely out of touch.



Waltizzle
Waltizzle

Looks like Nissan have gone back to their parts bin for the new Sentra and used some left over 370Z steering wheels lol

Still though I'd drive it must be because I'm Nissan fan and own a Zed :P

day_old_tofu
day_old_tofu

Dang - so much hate on here! As partially completed canvases for further modification (and for their intended price points/markets) I think they should do the job nicely. I really like the Sentra's interior too - simple and business like.

Sure I'd still like a compact RWD coupe from Nissan too but that's not what the Sentra is here for.

Car Amel
Car Amel

Why do they look like Klopse-crap?! (Because car design is mostly dead these days ...)


Zach Kidd
Zach Kidd

It says on the Nissan website that the Nismo will have 240hp

motorness
motorness

Pretty sure the new SI is a kitted up Accord from 10 years ago.

CyborgGT
CyborgGT

Why make a NISMO model and not give it more power than a 'lesser' trim that's already available?

Cascanova
Cascanova

@CyborgGT Nismo trims tend to just handle and look better, look at the 370z and the Juke.

Ferras
Ferras

I still miss my B13 Coupe, :,(

RS5_onthe_Run
RS5_onthe_Run

How does the same company that makes the GTR make such a shit looking "sport" compact? On the other hand Honda has been killing it for years with the Si segment - nothing compares, except maybe VW but even that's a different market. 


abezzegh87
abezzegh87

Both are hideously ugly. Long gone are the days of nice sleek coupes.

370 Hemi
370 Hemi

@abezzegh87 True. I however, think the Si looks worlds better than the Type R though.

Turbology
Turbology

As a diehard turbo guy, I really love seeing all these new factory boosted performance models, especially given the aftermarket tuning potential once they leave the dealership.

I do wish a few more manufacturers would step up with entry-level RWD cars, but I suppose the added cost of manufacturing and relatively poor sales, for the FR-S/BRZ at least, might preclude that.

I guess spiced-up front drivers are a comfortable compromise for the average enthusiast? Maybe RWD is too intimidating for every one except us devoted Speedhunters?

Turbology
Turbology

@189021 no doubt about that, I am thinking more in terms of daily-driven, street cars. I have spoken with a few folks who expressed reservations about RWD in inclement weather, though a good set of snow tires generally mitigates much of that concern. Seems it makes them a bit nervous.

As a matter of fact, when I went to Team O'Neil rally school, they start you off in FWD Fiestas to sort out the basics of car control, and exactly as you said, they were more than competent in the slop. Just a casual observation from some inconsequential conversations. =)

189021
189021

I would disagree on that final sentence, as I think the both FWD and RWD can be massively potent machines.

Skills is certainly needed for both, not just RWD

Jochem
Jochem

People from Nissan, if you're reading this. Please, just pleas make a Pulsar Nismo. It looks so so good. And I've driven a normal Pulsar and it isn't that bad. Use the same upgrades and I think it won't be bad at all.

And the rear of the Honda, that's quite a sight. Aggressive exhaust in the center and a cheeky spoiler added in the mix. Japanese manufacturers understand car people.

Vittorio Jano
Vittorio Jano

My photoshop skills are weak, but I think you can get the idea. Less is more

Brandomos
Brandomos

@Vittorio Jano  Good call.  I hate those giant fake vents.  Not sure what they are thinking with this new design language but less is certainly more...

JakWhite
JakWhite

@Vittorio Jano for me, coupes always look better when the hip line comes from the top of the bonnet not the front arch/mid door. When they're like that they have a crossfire squat dog kind of thing going on. 

Gianluca FairladyZ
Gianluca FairladyZ

to the commander in chief of nissan and honda design section: For fucks sake what is wrong with you guys?

d_rav
d_rav

@Gianluca FairladyZ I prefer the UK Type R and the Pulsar Nismo over the US designs. I still don't understand if they already have great cars that exists in other markets, why can't we have it in the US??? (Btw anybody know if the pulsar nismo is a concept or does it actually exist??)

TarmacTerrorist
TarmacTerrorist

Long story but I suspect the UK arm of Honda is to blame for that. Honda Uk are run seprately from Honda Intl.

They (Honda UK) won't share because they are mostly staffed at the management end of the company by people from a Now defunct British car manufacturer that Honda and BMW had part ownership in. and those board members seem to want to piss Honda UK up the wall like they did Rover.....

JohnKrzeminski
JohnKrzeminski

Too bad they're all ugly, look like they were designed by 12 year olds, and weigh as much as a early 2000's midsize sedan. 

johnbezt
johnbezt

The nissan is so ugly though... lol


It is good to see some some of this coming back to us though. 

Wes_FD3S
Wes_FD3S

i wouldnt call this a revival, but maybe a step in the right direction

DoriDoritos
DoriDoritos

Does the Civic Si have a button handbrake? That's a goddamn shame for a enthusiast oriented car.

awesomefearwave
awesomefearwave

@DoriDoritos yep. it's really a god damn shame. but really, unless you're just doing j turns, really doing any spirited driving with the handbrake on a fwd car is kinda useless.

bakayaru
bakayaru

Even though it's a bit sad, that modern cars aren't as fun as older ones, it's also a good thing. It gives gear heads a good reason to find an older car and fix it up and preserve it.

90nissanS13@my350z
90nissanS13@my350z

Nissan only seems to make a half-assed attempt at the entry level sports car segment in recent times. It's a shame. If you want a new sports car from Nissan, you'll need atleast $32,000.00 where I live.


I wonder why the Honda SI sells so well, hmm...


If Nissan made a new S-chassis car that reflected their past, I would sell my Z and 240sx for a down payment.


awesomefearwave
awesomefearwave

honestly i'm still super duper salty that nissan even killed off the IDx. that was a cool little car with lots of potential, but nissan had the balls to kill it off wtf.

johnbezt
johnbezt

@awesomefearwave they also made that godforsaken convertible SUV.... Idk what is wrong with them at this point. It's like they don't want to make good vehicles. 

awesomefearwave
awesomefearwave

@johnbezt @awesomefearwave i honestly lost all hope for nissan once they killed the IDx off. i still have some hope honda will bring a rwd car to the americas because there isn't a single american honda that is sold in a rwd config.

PhilippZuppiger
PhilippZuppiger

Looks like a lot of people miss the point, that Nissan, Mazda, Misubishi have big influence from Daimler. They are not Japanese only anymore!!

abezzegh87
abezzegh87

@PhilippZuppiger actually Daimler has a LOT more RWD cars in production than those 3 japanese, so a Daimler iffluence should help with our cause

PhilippZuppiger
PhilippZuppiger

I don't mean the RWD-thing. It's more about things like that the evoX received a Hyundai engine or that the evo disappeared at the same time as Mercedes released the 4zylinder 4x4 turbo a-class.

Dubilicious
Dubilicious

The Sentra looks funky with the 4 door

niZmO_Man
niZmO_Man

Doesn't the Sentra Nismo come with LSD?

Cascanova
Cascanova

@niZmO_Man Considering that the Juke Nismo has an LSD I'd assume so. It'd be a waste to make a 'sports' version of a car and leave an open diff, especially if it's FWD.



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