When I think of the Nissan Sentra, i think of the sporty Nissan Sentra Spec V. Sadly this is a normal 2.0S. The Sentra goes all the way back to 1986. Datsun had just changed its name to Nissan, and Datsun 210 became the Nissan Sentra. However, in the earlier years, some Sentras still had a Datsun badge instead of a Nissan badge. Many years would pass by before the Sentra became a real contender in the compact economy class. It was not until the 2000 redesign that the Sentra became competitive. Boasting contemporary styling and decent road manners, the Sentra boosted its sales. The fact that a sporty Spec V version with upgraded horsepower and mechanicals was available did not hurt either. The Sentra was redesigned in 2006. Placing emphasis on comfort and fuel efficiency, the six generation Sentra was a different vehicle than the Sentra it replaced.
First impressions of the styling indicate the car is frumpy. The front itself may be a little ordinary with just a hint of aggressiveness, but the side profile is where the Sentra is really bland. The awkward headlights slopes over the hood, and the inelegant roofline mars the design. The banal taillights also are to blame. The interior is more functional than attractive. Round shapes dominate the interior as do orange lighting for the controls. Nissan attempted to spice up the interior with chrome trim.
As far as handling goes, it is ordinary. The steering is light and quick to respond, but it is numb, and you cannot tell what the front wheels are doing. Turn into a corner, and there is more body lean than you would expect of a car of this size. It is unforgiving at its limits as it understeers relentlessly. The upside to this is a superb ride quality. Bumps are well suppressed, and the cabin remains very composed over poor surfaces.
Powered by a 2.0 liter four cylinder engine pumping 140 horsepower complemented by a CVT, the Sentra hustles to 0-60 in under 10 seconds. The engine has adequate power. The power tapers off at high revs though. The CVT is a continuously variable transmission, and it does the job. It can be snappy at times. Fuel economy is decent, ranging from 27-30 mpg overall.
Refinement is impressive. I was amazed how eerily quiet this car is during a normal cruise. This may be a bold statement, but its quietness could be comparable to a Lexus. It is unbelievably quiet. The engine remains in the background but when pressed, it hums.
Cabin fit and finish is decent. The surfaces feel hard to the touch and brittle, but they are well put together. The gauges are logically laid out. The orange lighting is a Nissan hallmark and it does help liven up the interior. However, the radio display washes out in direct sunlight. The controls are easy to master. The seats are comfortable but could use more support. It is easy to get a suitable driving position although a telescoping wheel would help. The rear seats are very roomy, and thanks to the tall roof line, there is excellent head room as well as leg room. Access is made easy by the roof line as well. The trunk is spacious for a small car. Visibility is respectable.
The Sentra is a comfortable car, and I can see why it sells in substantial numbers. It is a Nissan version of the Toyota Corolla. It is engineered to be as easy to drive as possible. Not surprising that Sentras and Corollas are common vehicles of driving schools. However, the Sentra may be a good car, but it doesn’t do it for me. When it comes to small cars, I value driving dynamics, because I figure if the car is small, it has to be able to have some sort of agility. This Sentra has none. But rest assured, if you are looking for a comfortable and roomy small sedan, but do not want to get a Corolla, the Sentra is worth looking at. I prefer this Sentra to the new Sentra that debuted last year. It looks too similar to a Altima or a Maxima, and after driving one, I have determined it does not ride well or has the same level of quietness as this Sentra. It was a disappointment. The latest Sentra has attempted to be more glamorous with its styling and technology, and as a result, it lost many of the Sentra’s virtues. What happened to making progress?