Overview

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Overview (Final Score: A)

Nissan's Sentra is the brand's top-selling vehicle of all time. Although it still sells well, the 2019 results were a bit of a disappointment for Nissan as its Sentra finished the last year of the outgoing generation. Fear not. Once word gets out about how great this new Sentra is, dealers will have customers lined up waiting. It's that good.

Nissan's new 2020 Sentra has many significant changes. The one you feel first is the drivetrain. The new engine has about 20 percent more torque and power, and you will love it. The suspension is also new, feels like a solid vehicle over bumps, and rewards the driver when it's tossed into a corner. Inside, the Sentra has a great infotainment setup and feels roomy enough to be a family vehicle.

The 2020 Nissan Sentra comes in three trims. The S base trim starts at $20,015 including destination and the top trim starts at $22,355 including destination. The Sentra we tested was the mid-trim model with zero options. Its base price was just $21,240 including floor mats and destination charges. That is fully $2,000 less than a much smaller, much less satisfying new vehicle we just tested from a direct competitor.

The Sentra drives like a premium vehicle in many ways. Add the great new styling of the Sentra, and Nissan has created a vehicle that will give the Civic from Honda and Elantra from Hyundai a real run for their money.

What We Love About the 2020 Nissan Sentra:


  • Great new engine

  • Roomy interior

  • Quality driving experience for the money



What We Don't Love About the 2020 Nissan Sentra:


  • Rear window view is a bit obscured by the high trunk

  • Short warranty

  • No included maintenance


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Exterior View (9/10)

Past-generation Sentras always looked a bit odd to us in the rear. The trunk was too abrupt and too vertical to please the eye. No more. In profile, the Sentra looks long and sleek. The front grill makes no enemies and reflects the company design theme.

In the back, the Sentra is now more mainstream and less polarizing. The top trim gets a "floating" roof design in black that adds a lot of visual appeal. Stand in front of a new 2020 Sentra and you will not be able to point to anything Nissan did wrong.

2020-nissan-sentra_600-dash

Interior Comfort, Quality, Ergonomics (9/10)

Nissan has become a leader in great ergonomics. Everything inside a Nissan just works. The controls operate the way you expect them to. The infotainment system won't drive you bananas. The phone has a happy place and the power supplies are in locations that don't require you to bend and twist to get at them.

Our Sentra was no exception. It had a large nonslip phone cradle and the USB-C, traditional USB-A, Aux. and DC power ports were lined up in a row facing the driver. Perfect. No more threading a cord into and out of a center storage area.

Our mid-trim SV had comfy manual "Zero-Gravity" cloth seats. At this low price point we feel they are just right. If you are a seat snob like us, move up to the SR trim for 6-way power adjustment and variable lumbar support. We traveled with an 8-year old and she was able to get in back and buckle up without the front passengers needing to move the seats forward. (And I'm 6-feet tall.)

The Sentra has grown up, and it is now large enough for a family. If we could wished for just one thing the SV trim does not have standard, it would be heated seats.

2020-nissan-sentra_600-rear-seats

The cargo area is generous in the new Sentra. It features 14.3 cubic feet of storage space and there is a temporary spare tire underneath the cargo floor. This arrangement is typical for the segment. If you want more cargo capacity, the Rogue and Rogue Sport are both great choices.

nissan-sentra-usbs-and-power-600

Technology (10/10)

For just over $20K we were shocked by the amount of technology Nissan packs into the new Sentra. Let's start with Android Auto and Apple Car Play. Smartphone compatibility is the most important part of any infotainment system today. The S trim does not have it, but our SV did. It worked great.

With this system you won't need built-in Nav. Google Maps or Waze are displayed right on the car's screen. This alone makes the SV worth the extra $1,500 in our book. The SV also adds remote start.

Fuel Economy (10/10)

The Nissan Sentra has an impressive 33 mpg combined EPA rating in the S and SV trims and a 32 mpg combined EPA rating for the SR trim (due to larger wheels we suspect). Of course this rating is with regular fuel.

In our testing during winter when fuel economy is usually at its lowest, we carefully recorded our fuel usage. Over about 140 miles of driving in downtown Boston, surrounding suburbs, and on the highway, we recorded a 34.95 mpg. Better than the EPA estimated combined rating.

Interestingly, the mileage we recorded at the pump matched the display average on the Sentra's info display. That is rare. Most cars we test show you a higher number than you are actually getting.

Predicted Reliability, Initial Quality Ratings (8/10)

In the most recent JD Power initial quality study rankings, Nissan finished above Toyota, Lexus, Cadillac, Honda, Acura, and Mercedes-Benz. Consumer Reports has been showing a 3/5 reliability rating for the Sentra in past years. The Sentra is all-new this year, so we suspect it may be just a bit less reliable than most Nissans overall.

Safety (10/10)

IIHS has not yet tested the new Sentra, but the prior generation earned a Top Safety Pick ranking. Nissan equips all of its Sentra trims with standard advanced safety systems. Nissan's Safety Shield 360 includes automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blind spot warning, rear cross traffic alert, lane departure warning, high beam assist and rear automatic braking.

None of these were intrusive in our driving. In fact, quite the opposite. Our SV trim had lane departure warning that was a vibration in the seat and steering rather than a beep or flashing light. It works so much better. We also found the adaptive cruise control to be very handy.

Performance (10/10)

Our 10/10 performance rating is based on vehicles in this price point. That said, the Sentra was darn close to as enjoyable as a similarly sized German sports sedan we recently tested with a price tag of $50K.

The new engine works perfectly with the CVT transmission and Nissan's modern CVT has no bad habits. It provides a shifting sensation in certain situations where you want it, but is smooth in all other situations. Best of all, the tip-in, as it's called, of the throttle is perfect on the Sentra. When you give it gas, it goes. Right now. No hesitation. Something we could not say of the $50K German sedan.

The Sentra feels very sporty when driven in almost every situation. It's quick off the line. There is also more than enough power for quick bursts of speed up an on-ramp, or when overtaking another car. The engine seems eager to please and it revs quickly to give you added zing. You never catch the Sentra sleeping like you can in many new cars. Best of all, there is no need to engage Sport mode to get this satisfying feeling. The Sentra works this way all the time.

Handling is also great. The Sentra steers with precision and the brake pedal feels firm and predictable under foot. Over broken up roads in our New England late winter, the Sentra was always quiet and smooth. More so than any of the seven sports sedans we tested recently. It is hard to overstate how good the Sentra is at its mission.

2019-nissan-sentra-rear-600

Pricing and Value (10/10)

At just $21,400 it is difficult to imagine a better sedan. This price undercuts so many other competitors we double checked the info to be sure we read it right. At this low price, why opt for a Nissan Versa? Even though the Sentra's S trim is a bit less expensive, we strongly suggest that shoppers consider the SV. The added features are critically important in our opinion.

Nissan offers a conventional warranty and no included maintenance. By comparison to Hyundai and Kia, the brand offers less in this regard. However, the Sentra's low price would seem to balance that out. This sedan is so good it is easy to call a very good value.

Total Score and Competitive Comparison (76/80, 95%)

With top scores in almost every category, it is obvious we love this new Sentra. The car offers a driver the complete package and is enjoyable to drive. However that is also true of many competitors.

If pressed to provide two good alternatives to consider, we would suggest the Honda Civic and Hyundai Elantra. The Civic can be a much sportier car if you want to pay 50 percent more, or can come close to matching the price point of the Sentra SV and SR trims. Those looking for more than the Sentra can offer in terms of amenities and luxury may want to look at the Civic EX and Touring trims. The Elantra is the closer pairing on paper, but we have only tested the higher trims of the Elantra which cost a meaningful amount more than the Sentra. Nissan is carving out a niche for itself at the $21K price point.

One vehicle we would cross-shop is the Nissan Leaf. If you live where the Leaf comes with a state or local rebate, and can use the $7,500 federal tax credit, the Leaf S and SV trims come very close to the price point of the Sentra. And the Leaf is simply a better car. If you can live with a 149-mile range, and are trying hard to live green, give the Leaf a look when you are at the Nissan dealer picking out your Sentra.

Image Notes: Sentra SR trim shown in images.

Trim Style Engine Drive Train MSRP
Sedan - FWD
S S CVT 4 Cylinder FWD 19310
SV SV CVT 4 Cylinder FWD 20370
SR SR CVT 4 Cylinder FWD 21650

Comparison of 2020 Nissan Sentra with Similar Cars

2020 Nissan Sentra MSRP Invoice
2020 Nissan Sentra $19,310 $18,352
Similar Cars to Consider MSRP Invoice Compare
2020 Honda Civic $20,000 $18,591 2020 Nissan Sentra VS 2020 Honda Civic
2020 Toyota Corolla $19,600 $18,522 2020 Nissan Sentra VS 2020 Toyota Corolla
2020 Chevrolet Malibu $22,140 $22,118 2020 Nissan Sentra VS 2020 Chevrolet Malibu
2020 Hyundai Elantra $19,300 $18,656 2020 Nissan Sentra VS 2020 Hyundai Elantra
2020 Volkswagen Jetta $18,895 $18,139 2020 Nissan Sentra VS 2020 Volkswagen Jetta

Car Rankings

Interested to see how the 2020 Nissan Sentra ranks against similar cars in terms of key attributes? Here are the 2020 Nissan Sentra rankings for MPG, horsepower, torque, leg room, head room, shoulder room, hip room and so forth.

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