The Nissan Sentra saw a complete overhaul last year with a new body design, new chassis, and more powerful engine. For the 2021 model year, it receives a few updates, chief among which is a 6-speed manual transmission; a Canadian exclusive. #SavetheManuals
Engine – The bigger 2.0L engine is more powerful than the last with 149 hp and 145 lb-ft of torque (111 kW & 197 Nm). 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.
With the 6-speed manual transmission, the fuel economy figures are a bit worse than with the CVT automatic but still not too bad. It is rated for 9.4 L/100km (25 MPG) in a city and 6.5 L/100km (36.2 MPG) on a highway.
Transmission – The 6-speed manual makes the 2021 Sentra a bit more enjoyable to drive than the CVT automatic that most Sentras get. The clutch pedal is light enough to not tire your foot in gridlock traffic but you can still feel where the clutch actually grabs the flywheel. But it’s not without faults.
The most annoying thing about this manual transmission is the programming of the throttle response. There is a lot of “rev hang” where the engine rpms continue to be at around 1,500 for a couple of seconds when the clutch pedal is fully depressed. It does make it easier to get the car going for those that are not smooth with a clutch or just learning to drive a manual. But for those like myself who have been driving manual cars on daily commutes, it feels like it takes away some of the control from the driver.
Braking – It takes very little effort and movement of the brake pedal to bring the 2021 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 2021 Nissan Sentra including those equipped with the manual transmission.
Handling – The biggest improvement to the 2021 Nissan Sentra are its handling dynamics. It is a bit heavier than the outgoing model at almost 1,374 kg (3,030 lbs) 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 the previous generation, 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 2021 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 2021 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 $19,198 CAD ($19,460 USD). If you want convenience features such as heated seats, automatic climate control, and remote start, you have to move up to the SV trim which costs $22,298 CAD ($20,520 USD). But with all the bells and whistles the 2021 Nissan Sentra SR Premium comes in at $26,598 CAD ($24,070 USD).
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. Overall a functional and simple to use interior design.
Exterior Design – The exterior of the 2021 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 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.
Warranty – The 2021 Nissan Sentra SR comes with a basic 3 year / 60,000 km warranty and a 5 year / 100,000 km powertrain warranty. For more Canadian warranty information, click here. For USA warranty information, click here.
Although the 2021 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 trim is less than most other top trim compact cars. But whichever one you go for, the 2021 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