Nissan has fully revamped the Sentra for 2020, turning it into a sporty-looking machine capable of taking on industry stalwarts like the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla.
When I first saw the new Sentra I had to walk around the rear of the car to read the name because I couldn’t be sure if I was looking at the much larger Altima. In fact, I had another person ask me if this was the new Maxima at a gas station. Needless to say, the car looks big which is a plus for a compact sedan.
Nissan has borrowed heavily on the design language from the new Altima and ported it over to the Sentra. Gone are the bland-looking Sentras of yesteryear. The all-new version is built on a new platform that provides greatly improved proportions and stance. The new body is about two inches lower and two inches wider than the previous generation. The presence of the exterior is highlighted by Nissan’s latest features including the signature V-motion grille, thin LED headlamps and floating roof (or two-tone roof if you like).
The interior gets an overhaul as well with attention to detail and craftsmanship not usually found in this segment. Things like satin chrome aluminum accents, intuitive placement of most functions, contrast seat stitching, and a standard D-shaped steering wheel are impressive. The push-button start located next to the gear shift level is a nice touch (rather than tucked away out of sight behind the steering wheel like the last BMW I drove). It’s a bit minimalist but extremely functional thanks to the standard color touchscreen which handles the infotainment and other settings. A 7.0-inch unit is standard while SV and higher trims benefit from a floating 8.0-inch screen. Climate controls have the proper knobs for temperature and buttons for seat heat and steering wheel heat.
I felt right at home sitting inside the new Sentra and it was just easy to operate all around. Everything is right where you’d expect to find it. Seat comfort and visibly are both excellent, as is leg and head room.
Powering the new Sentra is a new 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine rated at 149 horsepower and 146 lb-ft of torque. This represents a whopping 20% boost in power compared to the previous generation. That increased power also comes in combination with an all-new chassis, including multi-link independent rear suspension, dual-pinion rack electric power steering, active ride control, and vehicle dynamics control. The engine is mated to a CVT (continually variable transmission) which isn’t my favorite option in terms of performance but it’s optimized for city driving. The CVT tends to cause the engine to rev on the high side if you push on the gas which can be a bit annoying but other than that it’s fine.
With its newfound power and underpinnings, I felt the Sentra handled the road with ease thanks to a ride height that is 2.2 inches lower than the 2019 version. The lower center of gravity will naturally lead to a tighter feel when cornering with less body roll.
The 2020 Sentra offers five models and no packages – S, S Plus, SV, SR and SR Premium. Sentra S includes 16-inch steel wheels with full covers, Intelligent Trace Control, Intelligent Ride Control, Safety Shield 360, Rear Door Alert, and remote keyless entry with push button start. The S Plus trim adds the Xtronic automatic transmission, heated exterior mirrors and heated front seats. SV adds 16-inch aluminum-alloy wheels, NissanConnect featuring Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, 8-inch color display, remote engine start, dual-zone auto climate control, Intelligent Cruise Control (ICC), upgraded cloth interior. The sporty Sentra SR includes 18-inch aluminum-alloy wheels, power sliding moonroof, dark chrome V-motion grille, LED headlights with LED Daytime Running Lights, LED fog lights, sport cloth interior with orange stitching, rear spoiler and lower body side sill extensions. The Premium SR includes thin lens LED Headlamps with signature design, Intelligent Around View Monitor, leatherette seats, auto-dimming rearview mirror, 6-way power driver’s seat and an 8-Speaker Bose audio system.
My tester was the SR Premium which has a sticker price of $26,333. There is a lot to like in this car for that price. With great looks, power to spare and an interior that is modern and fresh, the Sentra is a must-drive for anyone considering a compact vehicle.