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The Nissan Sentra leaps forward for 2020

A rental queen no more, this compact sedan has been totally registered -- and significantly improved -- for the latest model year.

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Handsomely aggressive, this new Sentra will fit in perfectly with the rest of Nissan's sedan lineup.  

Craig Cole/Roadshow

The LA Auto Show kicks off Wednesday, but Nissan couldn't wait to tell the world about its all-new 2020 Sentra, so it unveiled this compact sedan on Tuesday, ahead of the big event. Redesigned in all the right ways, the 2020 Sentra should better compete with the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla, which are far more compelling than the sedan you can buy at dealerships right now.

Entering its eighth generation, this four-door Nissan is fresh from the ground up, riding on a new platform. This foundation makes the Sentra about 2 inches wider and it sits roughly 2.2 inches closer to the ground than before, changes that should greatly improve its overall proportions.

MacPherson struts with twin-tube shock absorbers support the car's front end, while a new, dual-pinion, electrically boosted power-steering system should provide enhanced dynamics. At the rear, you'll find a new independent suspension design.

Atop the car's basic structure, designers gave the Sentra some welcome new style. Clearly, it resembles Nissan's other sedans like the handsome Altima and sporty Maxima. Up front is a prominent V-motion grille, and there are more lines and sharper creases. The wheels, which span up to 18 inches in diameter, are now flush with the body for an enhanced look.

A generous palette of eight exterior colors is offered. Additionally, three two-tone options are available, including what's called super black with monarch orange metallic, a combination that's particularly fetching.

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Major improvements were made to the venerable Sentra's interior, too.  

Craig Cole/Roadshow

Keeping things simple, just two trim packages and three models are offered: S, SV and SR. A few of the base version's headline features include 16-inch steel wheels, remote keyless entry and push-button start. It also boasts a 4.2-inch driver-information display and a multimedia system with a 7-inch screen.

Step up to an SV model and you get 16-inch alloy wheels, an upgraded infotainment system with an 8-inch touchscreen, support for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and dual-zone climate control. SV and higher models also come with four-wheel disc brakes, which must mean the base version still has rear drums. Sad trombone…

Finally, SR variants get all that and more, including a range of appearance-improving enhancements like the aforementioned 18-inch rims. Beyond that, they also feature a rear spoiler, black mirror caps with integrated turn-signal repeaters and special sill extensions. Their grilles and exhaust finishers are also treated to a dark-chrome finish.

Nissan Safety Shield 360, the automaker's suite of six advanced driver-assistance technologies, is standard across the range. This includes items like lane-departure warning, blind-spot monitoring and automatic high beams. An Intelligent Around View Monitor is also available.

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Nissan is almost single-handedly bringing back two-tone paint schemes.  

Craig Cole/Roadshow

Nissan worked to make the Sentra far more stylish, and hopefully desirable, than before, but it also focused a lot of time and energy on the car's interior. The company wanted to improve its perceived quality to better compete with segment-leading small cars. To do this, Nissan fitted the Sentra with nicer switches and knobs, a more premium, flat-bottom steering wheel and satin-chrome aluminum accents. Designers also tried to make all the controls more intuitive than before.

Like its larger sedan siblings, the Sentra features Nissan's NASA-inspired Zero Gravity bucket seats. They ought to be roundly superior to what's offered in today's model, which are less comfortable to sit in than a broken bag chair. Improved door and body sealing should noticeably reduce the intrusion of wind and road noise.

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In addition to all this newness, the 2020 Sentra also features a fresh powertrain. It's built around a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine that's rated at 149 horsepower and 145 pound-feet of torque. It's significantly more muscular than the 1.8-liter unit it replaces and should be more efficient to boot, though official fuel economy ratings are not available right now. In typical fashion, a continuously variable automatic transmission is the engine's dance partner.

The Sentra is Nissan's best-selling model in the US. Since the Sentra's introduction in 1982, the Japanese automaker has delivered more than 6 million examples. This all-new 2020 version should be the most likable one ever offered. Look for examples at dealerships starting in January. Pricing will, of course, be announced closer to its on-sale date.