2020 Nissan Sentra

INDIANAPOLIS — As GM, Ford, and Chrysler flee the compact sedan segment, Nissan has decided to double attack it with vigor.  Tossing aside the previous generation’s tall lozenge styling, the all-new 2020 Sentra is back to flaunt its spicy style.  Looking like it’s been to the gym and a makeover artist, it arrives with a wide stance, chiseled flanks, suave interior, and significantly more invigorating driving experience.

Styling cribs the larger Maxima and Murano with a dark chrome version of Nissan’s V-Motion grille, LED headlights, and LED foglamps.  The floating roof, painted black, hovers above Monarch Orange paint and 18” wheels.  Stylists were cut free to give it accentuated side sills, black mirrors, and a subtle rear spoiler.  It’s a morsel you immediately want to taste.
And you should, because much of the interior looks like something Audi would have conjured.  The center dash is dominated by a thin touchscreen sprouting from orange-stitched coverings above dual zone automatic climate controls.  Heated front seats, heated steering wheel, power moonroof, and 8-speaker Bose audio system amp it up a few turns.  The shift knob and flat-bottom steering wheel are leather, but the seats are easily cleaned leatherette.  Orange keystones stitched into their backsides are thoughtful flourishes.
Safety was paramount, which is why the Sentra SR came with forward collision warning with automatic braking, rear automatic braking, blind spot warning, and rear cross path detection.  Add to that lane departure warning, adaptive cruise, and 360-degrees around-view monitor.  That’s a pretty extensive array of technology for an affordable compact sedan.
Given the Sentra’s exuberant design, you’re probably expecting an exciting turbocharged engine by this point, but alas, you’d be wrong.  Instead, the Sentra SR harbors a simple 2.0-liter four-cylinder between its flowing panels.  It produces 149 horsepower and 146 lb.-ft. of torque — routed to the front wheels through a continuously variable transmission.  None of that sounds especially exciting, but it’s plenty to move this little zipper with vigor.  Adding props, the car enjoys 28/37-MPG city/highway.
It’s clearly no sports car, but this generation of Sentra is considerably more fun to drive than its predecessor.  The independent rear suspension does a good job of absorbing rough pavement and holding the rear in place during cornering.  Steering is firmer and the lower center of gravity helps it grip the road.  It’s not the quietest compact ever created, especially with the CVT at full tilt, but Sentra’s driver enjoyment can finally be mentioned with Civic, Jetta, and Mazda3.

Given how many drivers have abandoned compact sedans for crossovers, automakers must do something special to keep those who are left.  Engaging styling, enriched handling, and miserly fuel economy are cards to play…and Nissan played them all with the Sentra.  It is not a perfect car, but Nissan delivered a Sentra of which they should be very proud.  A very affordable $19,090 rose to just $25,325 with all I mentioned here.  Especially compared to comparably sized crossovers, that’s a lot of bang for the buck!  Besides those above, competitors include the Subaru Impreza, Hyundai Elantra, Toyota Corolla, and Kia Forte.

— Casey Williams (MyCarData)