2020 Nissan Sylphy offers likely glimpse of next US Sentra

Revealed at this week's AutoChina expo in Shanghai, this is almost certainly America's next Sentra.

Kyle Hyatt Former news and features editor
Kyle Hyatt (he/him/his) hails originally from the Pacific Northwest, but has long called Los Angeles home. He's had a lifelong obsession with cars and motorcycles (both old and new).
Chris Paukert Former executive editor / Cars
Following stints in TV news production and as a record company publicist, Chris spent most of his career in automotive publishing. Mentored by Automobile Magazine founder David E. Davis Jr., Paukert succeeded Davis as editor-in-chief of Winding Road, a pioneering e-mag, before serving as Autoblog's executive editor from 2008 to 2015. Chris is a Webby and Telly award-winning video producer and has served on the jury of the North American Car and Truck of the Year awards. He joined the CNET team in 2015, bringing a small cache of odd, underappreciated cars with him.
Kyle Hyatt
Chris Paukert
3 min read

Sylphy line is getting ready to observe its 20th birthday. As a present of sorts, the fine folks in Yokohama are celebrating by rolling out an all-new model at the Shanghai Motor Show, aka AutoChina. Why is this news important to us Americans? Because if history is any guide, we will eventually know this Sylphy by a different name: Sentra.

While Nissan officials are stopping short of confirming it, minus a few market-specific tweaks, we believe the vibrant orange sedan seen here is the 2020 Nissan Sentra. Given that the current B17 generation has been around since 2013 and has never really been considered a top-flight competitor, this new model can't arrive soon enough.

So, what does the 2020 Nissan Sylphy bring to the table? Well, to begin with, it adopts the Japanese automaker's current design language, which, while not going to go down in the annals of history as a great beauty, is a significant improvement over the outgoing model. That means there's a version of Nissan's signature V-motion grille, a pair of narrower headlamps, and a far sleeker overall aesthetic than today's Sylphy and Sentra models. Unsurprisingly, the new design looks a lot like today's 2019 Altima, as well as the new 2020 Nissan Versa sedan that was revealed just this past weekend.

2020 Nissan Sylphy rises in Shanghai, looks like the next Sentra

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Nissan is also updating its long-serving HR16DE four-cylinder engine for the Chinese-market Sylphy. So far, the company is making no mention of power, torque or efficiency figures in its press release for the third-generation engine. However, they do note the presence of an updated Xtronic continuously variable transmission.

Nissan says its engineers have increased the stiffness of the Sylphy's body and improved suspension and steering feel -- all changes that should make this compact sedan more fun to drive.

Perhaps just as importantly, the 2020 Nissan Sylphy is getting some much-needed cabin and safety upgrades. Nissan is quick to call out the Sylphy's new single-switch HVAC control system, as well as a color 7-inch TFT screen in the instrument binnacle and an 8-inch screen in the center stack.

2020 Nissan Sylphy - Sentra
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2020 Nissan Sylphy - Sentra

Quilted camel-colored leather seats in a Sentr... Sylphy? Never thought we'd live to see the day.


Safety comes courtesy of Nissan's Intelligent Mobility program and consists of forward collision warning, blind spot warning, lane departure warning, cross traffic alert and Intelligent Driving Alert, a basic monitor to curb drowsy and distracted driving. Not bad for a car at the Sylphy's end of the luxury/value continuum (especially in China, which has been somewhat slower to adopt advanced driver assist features than other markets).

Nissan also makes a point of calling out that the new 2020 Sylphy has a coefficient of drag that is the same as its aging GT-R sports coupe -- 0.26. (Somehow, we don't see owners casually slipping this tidbit into date-night conversations.)

2020 Nissan Sylphy - Sentra
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2020 Nissan Sylphy - Sentra

The new Sylphy dumps its formerly lumpen looks for something altogether sleeker.


"The all-new Nissan Sylphy represents the full landing of Nissan Intelligent Mobility in China," said Daniele Schillaci, executive vice president of Nissan, in a statement. "With an even more stylish design and advanced connectivity and safety technologies, the all-new Nissan Sylphy gives customers a whole new level of confidence and excitement, befitting of a leading family sedan."

Now, how much of this ends up on the US-market Sentra remains to be seen, but we're willing to bet we'll end up seeing nearly all of it in US showrooms in the not-too-distant future.