While manufacturers like Ford & GM do away with compact cars, Nissan is still betting on their popularity. Last year the Nissan Altima received a makeover and now the 2020 Nissan Sentra is the latest car in their lineup to receive a fresh new look.
Engine – This new generation Nissan Sentra is powered by a bigger and more powerful engine than the last. It is now a 2.0L naturally aspirated 4-cylinder with 149 hp and 145 lb-ft of torque. The new power figures don’t sound like much but it’s actually enough for this Sentra. Yes, the engine will struggle when you want to overtake another vehicle on a highway or when going up a very steep hill. But for the other 90% of daily driving, it’s more than adequate.
The great thing about this engine though is its fuel economy figures. It is rated for 6.2 L/100km (37.9 mpg) on a highway and 8.2 L/100km (28.7 mpg) in a city. During my time with the car, I averaged 7.6 L/100km (30.9 mpg) with the majority of that being city driving. So the rated fuel economy figures are achievable in the real world.
Transmission – Like almost every other Nissan vehicle, the engine in the 2020 Nissan Sentra is mated to a continuously variable transmission (CVT). I personally hate CVTs because they offer absolutely no driving pleasure. But the engineering and programming of this one has vastly improved over earlier variations of this type of transmission. I can honestly say that I don’t mind it in the Sentra. However, if you want to change gears yourself, the Sentra S is available with a 6-speed manual transmission. But it’s for the Canadian market only. Sorry everyone in the States.
Braking – It takes very little effort and movement of the brake pedal to bring the 2020 Sentra to a stop. The brake pedal feels firm under more emergency braking situations but still has enough travel to make stops smooth for the passengers. Automatic emergency braking is standard across all trim levels of the 2020 Nissan Sentra.
Handling – The biggest improvement to the 2020 Sentra are its handling dynamics. It is a bit heavier than the outgoing model at almost 1,400 kg but it doesn’t feel like a “hefty boi” from behind the steering wheel. The wheelbase has grown a bit as has the overall width. Coupled with the slightly firmer suspension and the Sentra feels quite agile around corners. It’s not quite on par with the more sporty Mazda 3 but it drives better than most other compact cars in this class.
Ride Comfort – Although the suspension is a bit firmer than last year’s model, it’s by no means an uncomfortable driving experience. Small and more moderate bumps in the road are, for the most part, well absorbed by the suspension. But it’s the new “Zero Gravity” seats that provide a lot of the comfort and support. These seats were first introduced in the 2015 Nissan Murano and are some of the most comfortable seats in the business.
Interior Space – The 2020 Nissan Sentra is more spacious than the outgoing model however taller adults will still struggle a bit. In the front, headroom is good if you set the seat to its lowest position and leg room is Ok provided you move the seat in its most backwards position. But if you’re of an average height, you will notice the extra space.
The rear seat space though is on the very small size for bigger adults. The new Sentra has a lower roofline which is very evident in those rear seats. Also, if you’re sitting behind a taller person, leg room is almost non-existent as well. But for the average person, the amount of space in the rear seats will be fine for shorter journeys.
Noise, Vibration, & Harshness – So long as you drive the Sentra below 70 km/h on city streets, it’s a fairly quiet car. But take it on the highway and you’ll notice the roar of the tires against the road as well as the engine struggling when you’re overtaking someone. Apart from those noises on a highway, there are no odd squeaks and rattles in the cabin and it feels well put together.
Odds and Ends
Gadgets – If you’re looking for a compact car with all of the advanced safety features as standard, then the 2020 Nissan Sentra should be at the top of your list. Automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, blind spot sensors, and rear cross traffic alert are all standard. However, that’s about all that you get for $18,800 CAD ($19,090 USD). If you want convenience features as well like heated seats, Apple CarPlay & Android Auto connectivity, and remote start, you have to move up to the SV trim which costs $22,000 CAD ($20,270 USD). But with all the bells and whistles fitted as on this SR Premium trim, the 2020 Nissan Sentra comes in at $26,000 CAD ($23,600 USD) which is less than the front-wheel-drive Mazda 3 GT and significantly less than the 2020 Hyundai Elantra.
Interior Design – The flat-bottom steering wheel is becoming a bit of a cliche among Nissan vehicles. Normally you’d find one of these only on sports cars but now nearly all Nissan vehicles have this type of steering wheel. But I’m a bit of a child at heart and I actually don’t mind it. The climate and infotainment controls are well laid out so that anyone can easily figure out how to change the temperature or change the radio station. Further down, the center console has some small item storage just in front of the shifter which doesn’t take up a lot of space compared to other button style gear selectors. I also like the orange contrast stitching along the dashboard, door panels, and seats.
My biggest complaint though are the cupholders. They can accommodate different sized cups without issue; it’s just that there’s nothing to hold the cups in place. So if you take a corner too hard and your drink is a bit top heavy, it could spill.
Exterior Design – The exterior of the 2020 Sentra continues with Nissan’s current design language by incorporating what has to be the most aggressive iteration of the V-Motion grille to date. Paired with the LED daytime running lights and LED headlights on this SR Premium trim and the new Sentra is a head turner. The rear isn’t quite as aggressive looking as the front but it still looks good to my eyes. And that exhaust pipe is real unlike many other fakes that are on the market these days.
Although the 2020 Nissan Sentra has a starting price that is higher than the competitors, it’s probably not going to be the one that most consumers will go for. Most will probably be looking at the mid SV or top SR trims. The SV trim is priced similarly to other compact cars while the SR Premium trim is less than most other top trim compact cars. But whichever one you go for, the 2020 Sentra is now worth your consideration. It’s more spacious than before (for most), it drives better, and it has styling that actually makes it stand out rather than blend in with the crowd.
Thank you to Nissan Canada for providing the vehicle. www.Nissan.ca