The 2017 Nissan Sentra SR Turbo is now headed to dealerships, offering a more powerful version of their already popular SR trim. As I found out in my first brief test drive, it’s likely to be a hit.

The Nissan Sentra SR already commands 20% plus sales mix of all Sentras. Adding a more more powerful variation I am told by Nissan will only grow this percentage higher. And how this model ever came to be in the first place is an interesting story.

Its 1.6 liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine with 188 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque isn’t new at all. It’s the same engine that’s been powering the Nissan Juke for some time. It just took an enterprising engineer at the Nissan proving grounds in Arizona to put a Juke powertrain in a Sentra and get the mukety muks behind the wheel. Now its on the production line.

While the engine itself offers plenty to talk about, and I will, the biggest news is the fact you can have it with not only a performance oriented Xtronic continuously variable transmission, but a nice close ratio six-speed manual. I tested both.

The power band is a lot of welcome push in the back from the 130 horsepower 1.8 liter engine of the basic Sentra and Sentra SR. There is little turbo-lag and it offers a well rounded power curve for most routine and spirited driving.

It sounds somewhat subdued, Nissan didn’t put a raspy exhaust system on it or a throaty intake sound tube. There is a hint of turbo whine that tells you however it has one.

The manual transmission works well but could use a shorter throw for its shifter, it’s clutch action is light and direct. The Xtronic CVT is still an option you should only choose if your left leg has been amputated or you cannot drive a manual.

Like its powertrain, handling is a click or two up but not all the way to Ford Focus ST or Jetta GLI territory. It has 17-inch wheels and tires and a reasonably tight sport suspension that can handle its 188 horsepower speed velocities. Braking also comes in at the upper medium grab levels with 11.7-inch rotors at the front, 11.5-inches at the rear.

Starting at $21,990 for a manual or CVT SR Turbo, I like the fact they offer it with basic cloth seats and trim. They didn’t force a fully loaded leather clad techno haus on you for wanting more horsepower. You can however add a premium package that adds leather seats and all the gizmotry if you want.

This was the case in our tester which had comfortable heated leather chairs, power operated for the driver. The package also adds premium Bose Audio which is plenty good, and all the driver assistance goodies people love.

If you go with the base model, it has some excellently trimmed cloth sport seats with handsome color accents and also heated up front. Nice.

At its pricing and performance levels I think it mates up nicely to the 2017 Hyundai Elantra Sport Turbo which admittedly will tip the 200 horsepower mark, but close indeed. There’s also the Jetta GLI, though its priced and powered up a few notches as well.

In the big picture here, the new 2017 Nissan Sentra SR Turbo was impressive at first blush with a healthy increase in sportiness for not a healthy increase in price. It might just strike a unique balance for the daily driver with some extra punch without all the drama an excess of a full-blown performance sedan.

I plan to bring you a far more detailed review as soon as I get more time with one.