The compact Nissan Sentra’s value proposition is simplicity itself: it looks and feels more expensive than it is and offers a host of desirable features, all at a low sticker price. Just don’t expect it to be fun to drive. Its price advantage over its compact-class rivals grows significantly in the higher trim levels, but its performance remains sluggish because all Sentras are equipped with a weak 149-hp 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and continuously variable transmission driving their front wheels. Neither a manual transmission nor four-wheel drive is available. Competitors like the Mazda 3 and Honda Civic offer engines with significantly more punch and are more engaging to pilot, but what the Sentra lacks in excitement it makes up for with numerous safety features, a comfortable ride and excellent fuel economy. It’s no doubt attractive enough for many value-seeking small car buyers.
What’s new for 2023?
Nissan hasn’t made any significant changes to the Sentra sedan for the 2023 model year.
Prices and which one to buy
We’ll go with the mid-level SV trim which is only about $1200 more than the base model. It adds a larger 8.0-inch touchscreen, adaptive cruise control and dual-zone automatic climate control. We’ll also upgrade it further with the SV Premium package that adds 17-inch aluminum wheels, heated front seats, quilted leather upholstery, a leather shift knob, a power-adjustable driver’s seat and a sunroof.
Engine, transmission and performance
Each Sentra is powered by a 149 hp 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine mated to a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) and front-wheel drive. While the gearless automatic transmission mimics traditional gear changes, it doesn’t change the fact that the Sentra tested us was noisy and slow, especially when trying to pass at highway speeds. There isn’t much entertainment behind the wheel either. Steering effort is weighty and predictable, but it’s nowhere near as communicative as in rivals like the Honda Civic and Mazda3. The Nissan features an independent rear suspension and wheel sizes ranging from 16 to 18 inches. The version we drove rolled on the largest set, which contributed to a firm ride quality and excessive road noise. Still, the Sentra is comfortable and adaptable for daily commutes and weekend trips. We were particularly impressed with its braking system. It had reassuring pedal feel and solid stopping power from 70 mph, coming to a stop in a class-competitive 170 feet.
Fuel Economy and Real-World MPG
The 2023 Nissan Sentra is estimated to earn up to 29 mpg in the city and 39 mpg on the highway. Those numbers drop to 28 mpg city and 37 highway on the sporty SR trim. Still, the Nissan is as efficient as some rivals that are also powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder and CVT, but the Toyota Corolla tops the list with 31 mpg city and 40 highway. The Sentra SR we ran on our 75-mph highway fuel-economy route—part of our extensive testing regime– matched its state highway rating at 37 mpg. However, the Corolla XSE sedan we tested returned an even more frugal 41 mpg. For more information on the Sentra’s fuel consumption, visit the EPA’s website.
Interior, comfort and cargo
Inside, the Sentra has one of the nicer designs in this segment. The driver faces a set of simple analog gauges that include a 7.0-inch screen on all but the base model. The center of the dashboard houses a trio of circular air vents above sturdy climate controls. The interior material is a mix of soft and hard plastic, but the former covers the surfaces that count and helps mask the rest. Models appointed with the quilted leather upholstery look especially classy, even if they are at odds with the sporty car’s flat-bottomed steering wheel. Nissan also pampers passengers with its extra comfortable Zero Gravity seats, which are spacious, flexible and supportive. Opting for the available sunroof cuts into the cabin’s headroom, but otherwise adults have plenty of room in the front and back. We also managed to fit seven carry-on bags in the Sentra’s 14 cubic foot trunk; that’s one more than the Corolla sedan held.
Infotainment and connectivity
A touchscreen sprouts from the center of every Sentra’s dashboard, and it’s complemented by physical volume and tuning buttons. While the base model has a 7.0-inch screen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, the rest have an 8.0-inch unit as well as USB access in the front and rear seats. The latter system is also compatible with better options such as SiriusXM satellite radio, an eight-speaker Bose stereo and a Wi-Fi hotspot.
Safety and Driver Assistance Features
Nissan packs its compact sedan with a cargo standard driver assistance technology. Buyers can also get adaptive cruise control and a 360-degree camera system on all but the base model. For more information on the Sentra’s crash test results, visit the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) websites. Key safety features include:
- Standard forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking
- Standard blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert
- Standard automated rear emergency brake
Warranty and Maintenance Cover
Nissan offers a competitive, though unremarkable, limited and powertrain warranty. Compact competitors of Come on and Hyundai has much better coverage. Likewise, both Toyota and Volkswagen comes with complimentary maintenance.
- Limited warranty covers three years or 36,000 miles
- Powertrain warranty covers five years or 60,000 miles
- No complimentary scheduled maintenance
2020 Nissan Sentra SR Premium
front engine, front wheel drive, 5-passenger, 4-door sedan
PRICE AS TESTED
$25,325 (base price: $22,355)
DOHC 16-valve 2.0-liter inline-4, aluminum block and head, direct fuel injection
Displacement: 122 cu in, 1997 cc
Force: 149 hp @ 6400 rpm
Torque: 146 lb-ft @ 4400 rpm
continuously variable automatic
Suspension (F/R): struts/multilink
Brakes (F/R): 11.0-inch ventilated disc/10.2-in disc
Tires: Hankook Kinergy GT, 215/45R-18 89V M+S
Wheelbase: 106.8 inches
Length: 182.7 inches
Width: 71.5 inches
Height: 57.0 inches
Passenger volume: 97 cu ft
Hull volume: 14 cu ft
Core weight: 3122 lb
C/D TEST RESULTS
Deployment, 1 foot: 0.3 sec
60 mph: 9.2 sec
100 mph: 26.3 sec
Acceleration, 5–60 mph: 9.4 sec
Top gear, 30–50 mph: 5.1 sec
Top gear, 50–70 mph: 6.1 sec
1/4 mile: 17.0 sec @ 83 mph
Braking, 70–0 mph: 170 ft
Road holding capacity, 300-foot slide slide: 0.88 g
EPA FUEL ECONOMY
Combined/city/highway: 32/28/37 mpg
More features and specifications