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.
@Livelyins53 that sucks your uncle has terrible taste in cars
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.
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
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.
@CyborgGT Nismo trims tend to just handle and look better, look at the 370z and the Juke.
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 True. I however, think the Si looks worlds better than the Type R though.
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?
@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. =)
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
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.
@Jochem thats not an aggressive exhaust. Thats rice.
@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...
@Vittorio Jano Killer rendering :O
@Vittorio Jano Honda, THIS is how it's done^^
@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.
@Vittorio Jano Kind of reminds me of the Mitsubishi FTO
to the commander in chief of nissan and honda design section: For fucks sake what is wrong with you guys?
@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??)
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.....
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.
@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.
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.
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.
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.
@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.
Looks like a lot of people miss the point, that Nissan, Mazda, Misubishi have big influence from Daimler. They are not Japanese only anymore!!
@PhilippZuppiger actually Daimler has a LOT more RWD cars in production than those 3 japanese, so a Daimler iffluence should help with our cause
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.
@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.