The Nissan Sentra is powered by one of two advanced 4-cylinder engines. Most trims use a 1.8L 4-cylinder engine making 130 horsepower, while a 1.6L turbocharged four powers the SR Turbo and SR NISMO (Nissan Motorsport) models. Standard on the Sentra S is a 6-speed manual transmission, while all other trims feature a standard continuously variable transmission (CVT). The manual is optional on turbocharged trims. Overall, the Sentra is extremely good on fuel, with ratings of at least 30 mpg in combined city and highway driving even on manual transmission-equipped cars.
The 2017 Sentra is divided into eight different trim levels, starting with the base S model. Though obviously fairly basic, the S does include several nice features and amenities. Standard items include Bluetooth connectivity, remote entry and trunk release, power door locks, mirrors and windows, cruise control, automatic headlights, speed sensitive volume control for the stereo and an auxiliary input jack.
The next step up in the Sentra range is the SV, which includes more upscale features. The SV comes with NissanConnect with Mobile Apps, a 5-inch color display, audio streaming via Bluetooth, premium cloth seats and door trim and a smart key with push-button start.
The Sentra SR looks significantly sharper than lesser Sentra models, thanks primarily to the 17-inch alloy wheels and LED headlights. It also gets a rear spoiler and heated front seats. A new SR Midnight Edition is one of six models throughout the Nissan lineup that have been given a similar treatment. This includes unique paint, special black 17-inch alloy wheels with low-profile tires, black mirror caps and a black spoiler, and more. The SR Turbo is equipped like the 1.8L SR, but its 1.6L turbocharged engine scoots it along at a faster clip. Big vented front disc brakes provide stopping power, and a power moonroof lets in the light. A Midnight Edition is available on the SR Turbo as well.
The Sentra SL includes everything that comes on the SV, plus leather seating, dual-zone climate control, and fog lights. Starting at $21,500, the Sentra SL makes for a compelling alternative to smaller, premium cars such as base model MINI Coopers. Even at its highest price point, the Sentra still offers a decent value.
Finally, the top-of-the-line Sentra NISMO features tuned suspension and steering systems, 18-inch alloy wheels, an aerodynamics kit, and a special NISMO interior with red trim.
Several safety features are available on the Sentra. A blind spot warning system helps when changing lanes, while a rear cross traffic alert system makes backing out of parking spots less of a shot in the dark. Other technology driven safety features available on the Sentra include a forward emergency braking system and intelligent cruise control. Both systems use radar mounted at the front of the car to help avoid accidents.
Nissan's been on a bit of a small-car tear lately, having impressed me with the Kicks crossover and Versa sedan. The next commuter-mobile to get a glow-up is the Sentra. Once destined for rental car stardom, with improvements in the looks, powertrain and technology departments, the Sentra is now a truly solid contender.
The 2020 model year marks the beginning of the Sentra's eighth generation, and it brings with it a simplified model lineup. With the new car, only S, SV and SR trims are offered -- no Turbo, no Nismo.
The Sentra gets a whole new design, as well. It's about two inches lower and wider than its predecessor, and gets a skosh longer, as well. The grille, surrounded by available LED headlamps, gets bigger, echoing the "v-motion" design of its larger siblings, the Maxima and Altima. Like the subcompact Kicks crossover, the Sentra has the option of a "floating" black roof over orange, gray or white paint, in addition to some full-body color schemes.
The Good ~ Much more attractive than before ~ Fully loaded for $25,000 ~ Suspension improvements mean better ride quality ~ Tons of standard safety equipment
The Bad ~ Infotainment tech is sluggish ~ No embedded navigation option
The Bottom Line No longer a penalty box, the 2020 Nissan Sentra offers a lot of standard features for a compelling price.
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