LOS ANGELES – The refreshed ’16 Sentra easily can take on the all-new Honda Civic sedan launching right now and fully redesigned versions of the Hyundai Elantra, Chevy Cruze and Subaru Impreza soon to debut, a top Nissan official says.

“This isn’t just a light refresh, this is a major refresh of the Sentra,” Fred Diaz, senior vice president-sales and marketing and operations U.S. for Nissan North America, says following the ’16 Sentra’s unveiling here. “We think we have the competitive advantage over what some of our competition, if not all of our competition, has in the marketplace.”

The revised Nissan C-car that debuted here yesterday adds the brand’s new sedan family styling, seen on the all-new Maxima and refreshed ’16 Altima, with safety and convenience technology updates.

One thing that isn’t new is the car’s 1.8L powertrain, although it has been tweaked and Diaz says Nissan soon will announce new fuel-economy numbers for the car.

Automotive Lease Guide analyst Patrick Min says the Sentra may be vulnerable on fuel economy, as most competitors now are exceeding 40-mpg (5.9-L/100 km) on the highway.

All-new models in the segment also are lighter than their predecessors, thanks to more high-strength steel content in their bodies, which also improves fuel efficiency.

“I don’t know if this redesign is going to have enough…(to) keep pace with everyone else that is coming out all-new,” Min says.

The current Sentra FE efficiency-focused grade hits 40 mpg highway, but the new ’16 Civic, for instance, is rated at 42 mpg (5.6 L/100 km) with its new 1.5L turbo 4-cyl. paired to a CVT.

Meanwhile, Diaz sees Nissan finishing the year strong, with November U.S. sales “on a good pace” as the economy still is doing well.

Nissan-brand sales were up 5.5% to 1.13 million units through October, WardsAuto data shows.

Despite prognostications the current feverish pace of U.S. auto sales can’t continue much longer, Diaz doesn’t see anything looming on the horizon that would stop them from climbing.

“Well when you look back in history it’s a 5-year (upward) cycle,” he says. “We’re way past that 5-year cycle where it’s time for a downturn, but conversely when you look at all the economic indicators, who’s to say it won’t last for another three, four, five years before we see another dip in the automotive industry?

“I for one don’t see anything that gives me reason to pause or think the un-sustainability aspect of it is going to go away in the next year,” he says.

October U.S. light-vehicle sales hit an 18.1 million seasonally adjusted annual rate, marking the fourth-straight month-to-month increase in the SAAR.

cschweinsberg@wardsauto.com