After having shifted its emphasis onto crossover vehicles in the last few years, Nissan is returning for a double-stab at the compact sedan market and the final instalment sees the return of the Sentra badge.

SA's last Sentra model was replaced by the Almera in 2001, which in turn made way for the Tiida in 2006.

Strangely, though, the Almera has just returned as a smaller Micra-based saloon to fill the Tiida's shoes while the new Sentra joins the saloon party as a larger C-segment model that's ready to do battle with Corolla, Cruze, Civic and friends.

Yet whereas the last Sentra had a somewhat sporty design language, particularly after the localised facelift, the new one has a conservative style that will blend into the automotive scenery without really being noticed. Great if you're on the Witness Protection Programme.

ACE OF SPACE

The new Sentra is a global C-segment sedan that, according to Nissan, was "designed around key consumer requirements for efficiency, space maximisation, performance and features - along with high build quality and quietness."

A relatively long 2700mm wheelbase ensures a roomy cabin - in fact Nissan claims that it beats some D-segment sedans when it comes to rear legroom. It's a luggage-gobbler too, thanks to the voluminous 510-litre boot.

The Sentra is only available in one trim level (Acenta), which comes with six airbags, a four-speaker CD/MP3/USB/iPod audio system, Bluetooth integration, air conditioning, multi-function tilt and telescopic steering wheel, multi-info trip computer, front and rear arm rests and 16-inch alloy wheels.

JUST ONE ENGINE

The only engine option, for now, is a normally aspirated 1.6-litre petrol mill that pushes 85kW at 5600rpm and 154Nm at 4000rpm. It's mated to either a five-speed manual or CVT continuously variable transmission, for which Nissan claims respective fuel sipping figures of 6.6 and 6.2 l/100km.

Our Star Motoring launch correspondent Denis Droppa took a spin on Thursday and reports that, from behind the wheel, the Sentra has a reasonably premium feel "with a solid build, well-suppressed noise levels and a comfortable ride quality."

"The four-cylinder engine's refined and becomes only slightly vocal when revved hard, although there's a slight notchiness to the five-speed manual model's gearshift."

PRICES

1.6 Acenta - R230 900

1.6 Acenta CVT - R253 600

Prices include a three-year/100 000km warranty and three-year/90 000km service plan. Service intervals are set at 15 000km.