The driving experience is where the Sentra’s most significant improvements are seen.
The all-new 2020 Nissan Sentra SR marks a significant milestone for a crucial piece in the brand’s lineup. It has been one of Nissan’s bestselling models over the years, accounting for a significant portion of their Canadian sales. With this all-new eighth-generation Sentra, Nissan is back to form and ready to compete. Historically, Nissan has always struggled to compete with the segment leaders. The Sentra has finally become a significant contender in the compact sedan segment. This is the new Sentra in SR trim which sits in the middle of the trim line.
The all new Sentra looks dynamic; it shares muscular and sporty design elements seen in the Maxima and GT-R (reviewed here). It is designed with current Nissan design language using the V-motion grille, thin LED headlights and floating roof. The body is two inches lower and two inches wider. From the profile, the Sentra looks like it has a forward rake, and wheel fitment is perfect with the wheels sitting flush with the fenders for a strong stance. Our tester’s SR trim has sporty touches including a rear lip spoiler, black side mirrors, lower body sill extension, 18-inch diamond cut alloy wheels, dark chrome grill and exhaust tips.
The interior of the Sentra is very well executed. The designers have given an upscale feel by leather-wrapping the dash and highlighting it with contrast stitching. The triple circular air vents with metallic accents give off a modern vibe. Metallic garnishing is used on the climate controls and around the shifter for a quality look. Generous use of leatherette on the door panel, center console and armrests add to the premium feel. Nissan ensured all touch points are covered in soft touch materials. The interior is finished off with a handsome D-shaped steering wheel. Even though all the materials are not quite top notch, it all comes together to provide quality beyond expectations for the segment.
To keep the driver connected and in tune with the vehicle, the Sentra has a seven-inch digital multi-information display between the analog speedometer and tachometer. In the center of the console is an eight-inch touchscreen display for the infotainment system running Nissan Connect. The system is responsive and intuitive with clear display of key functions listed across the bottom of the screen. With Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, the Sentra is ready to handle of the connectivity needs of the tech savvy generation.
The Sentra is equipped with heated seats and steering wheel to beat Canadian winters. Nissan brings intelligent cruise control from higher end products into the Sentra making long distance cruises less stressful and more relaxing. A 360-degree camera system lets drivers maneuver with confidence in the tightest parking lots. The Sentra’s equipment list ensures you are fully connected to the vehicle and can drive in comfort.
The driving experience is where the most significant improvements are seen. The Sentra is no hot sedan, but the 2.0-litre DOHC four-cylinder engine replaces a 1.8-liter unit, and is strong and peppy. The new engine outputs 149 horsepower and 146 lb-ft. of torque. Paired with the latest generation of Xtronic CVT, the Sentra is always ready to go. The transmission keeps things smooth in low speed driving, and on the highway is surprisingly responsive – this is the best application of Nissan’s CVT yet.
The impressive response unfortunately is not met with the same level of refinement. Significant drivetrain vibration is evident when the Sentra is asked for more power, and the engine note is not very pleasing. While this drivetrain may not be the most refined, you cannot argue with its effectiveness and efficiency. Fuel economy is rated at 8.0L/100km city and 6.0L/100km highway, for a combined rating of 7.1L/100km. During our week of testing, we were able to average 8.0L/100km with mainly city driving. It is very impressive to see real world results match manufacturer ratings with no deviation.
The dynamics are another area where praise is due, thanks to a new independent rear suspension and front MacPherson struts with twin tube shock absorbers. The new chassis allows for improved geometry with 2.2-inch lower height and a two-inch wider track. This significant design change translates to a much more planted and communicative driving experience. Both city and highway driving shows excellent body control, with no signs of significant body roll or floating sensations.
The Sentra’s steering is much improved with a new dual-pinion rack electric power steering. Feel is still lacking but response is excellent. Adding to the confidence, Nissan’s Safety Shield 360 loads the Sentra with advanced safety and driver assistance tech including Intelligent Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection, Blind Spot Warning (BSW), Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA), Lane Departure Warning (LDW), High Beam Assist (HBA) and Rear Intelligent Emergency Braking (RIEB). Also standard are Rear Door Alert (RDA), ten supplemental air bags and Intelligent Driver Alertness (I-DA).
The new Sentra comes in five trims; S, S Plus, SV, SR and SR Premium. The base S trim starts at $18,798. Our SR tester starts at $23,998 with all key features already included. The only option available is a Premium package that adds leatherette seating, around view camera, power front seats, premium Bose audio system and LED headlamps. At this price, the Sentra is very well equipped against its competition.
There are two significant vehicles competing against the Sentra in the segment, the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla (reviewed here), both with starting prices only a few hundred dollars away from the Sentra. Both the Honda and Toyota have a stronger powerplants. The Civic is more dated, but its interior ergonomics and use of space are second to none. The Toyota is built on a new platform which gives it enthusiast approved handling dynamics. The all-new Sentra SR is much improved, but definitely will have a tough time competing against the two staple choices. It’s a lot better equipped to compete now; and choosing between the rivals is purely personal preference.
The 2020 Nissan Sentra SR is a significant improvement from its past, and can now confidently stand against the most dominant players in the fiercely contested compact sedan class. It’s one of the most handsome options out there; with crisp looks and excellent engineering. The Sentra will capture the hearts of many with its good looks, solid performance and sleek interior. This is an excellent car for all your daily needs, and the Sentra has overnight gone from the bottom of its segment to the top.