Nissan nailed it!
When I first saw the all-new Nissan Sentra at the showroom, I didn’t recognize it. The appearance completely changed compared to the previous generations and now is a sleek looking sedan. It carries the new Nissan family grille and floating roof but in my opinion it looks better than the new Altima; the proportions seem to work better on the Sentra.
The 2020 Sentra has 5 trim levels but all of them share the same engine, drivetrain and suspension. The engine is a 2.0L DOHC 16-valve 4-cylinder engine, producing 149hp and 145lb-ft of torque. The base trim comes with manual transmission and all trims above are equipped with CVT transmission. The Sentra’s suspension is an independent strut front and multi-link rear setup. It is worth mentioning that Mazda has decided to put in torsion beam in the rear suspension of their new Mazda3’s.
My tester is top of the line SR Premium with LED headlights, leather wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, leatherette seats with orange stitching, 8-speaker Bose premium audio system, 6-way power drivers seats as well as 18” alloy wheels and rear spoiler. It also has premium features such as heated steering wheel and heated front seats. It is very nicely equipped for a compact sedan at the 25,000 price point but if you’re looking for the ultimate luxury in this category, the Mazda 3 and CX 30 do come with more at the top trim level, which include leather seats with 2 memory settings as well as onboard navigation which is something not offered by the Sentra.
What makes the Sentra stand out is the balance between practicality and driving-engagement. I haven’t been a big fan of CVT but I have to tell you, Nissan really nailed it this time. The transmission of the Sentra is responsive and honestly quite lively for this category. It still can’t beat the new Mazda 3 for performance and handling but when I compared the space and legroom between these two cars, Sentra wins hands down. The amount of legroom and trunk space makes this car very practical and family-friendly. Rear legroom can compete with mid-sized sedans and I’m glad to report that installing a car seat is pretty easy, and the center armrest can fold down even with the car seat installed. I also have to praise Nissan for always providing very comfortable seats; they’re soft, supportive and contour to my back.
While the Sentra SR has the looks of a sporty sedan, the lack of easy-to-find sport mode and manual-mode with paddle shifters give it away that it’s not a sporty car. There is a tiny button that is not clearly labelled on the shifter that sort of acts like a sport mode; it seems to maintain the rev above 2000rpm. Overall driving performance is more than adequate for this category and like I said earlier, I’m surprised by how well the CVT responds. There is still that droning sound of CVT but it’s not intrusive once I get the Bose sound system going. The ride feels mostly composed and the OEM tires provide enough grip. The rear suspension seems to outperform the torsion beam of the Mazda CX 30 which I reviewed prior to the Sentra. The fuel economy is decent at 9.8L/100km with mostly city driving.
What’s not to like?
The lack of onboard navigation seems like an inconvenience at times. While it’s true that most people have smartphones with data plans, I personally still use onboard navigation to preserve data as well as for occasions where I didn’t know I need navigation ahead of time. In BC, drivers are not allowed to touch the phone while driving so it means I would have to pull over, shut down the engine, then search for my phone and mount it securely before I can get the directions. Another minor complaint is the slightly low resolution of the backup camera.
Nissan has safety covered. Standard safety features even at base level is very generous which includes blind spot warning, lane departure warning, rear view monitor with rear cross traffic alert and intelligent emergency braking for front and rear.
My tester is priced at $27,803 with freight and delivery. I feel like it is a very competitive price for what it offers. A similarly equipped Civic Sport sells for about $28k after freight and delivery. A higher spec Civic Touring with leather seats and onboard navigation would be over $30k, the same price point of a Mazda 3 GT. It’s worth noting though, one can opt for AWD for the Mazda 3 whereas AWD is not offered by Sentra or Civic.
All in all, I think Nissan really nailed it with the Sentra. It offers good looks, generous space, and good performance, all at a competitive price.