The Nissan Sentra is a roomy compact sedan with ordinary styling that gets great fuel mileage, and is noted in some quarters for its sporty attitude, with SR Turbo and racy Nismo models. Heavy-hitting rivals include Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, and Mazda 3.
The Sentra was last redesigned in 2013, and got a facelift in 2016. For 2019 it gets some updates, including a new 7.0-inch touchscreen for infotainment, with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility on all but the base S model, and a new SV Special Edition package that adds convenience and safety features including automatic emergency braking.
The base engine is a 1.8-liter 4-cylinder that gets 32 combined miles per gallon, but it puts out just 124 horsepower with 125 pound-feet of torque, through a continuously variable transmission. There is an available 6-speed manual transmission that gives the engine 5 more horsepower, but it drops the fuel mileage to 30 mpg combined. Another thing: automatic emergency braking, standard with the CVT, is not available with the 6-speed.
The SR Turbo and Nismo models use a 1.6-liter turbo making a much stronger 188 horsepower with 177 pound-feet of torque. The standard CVT has simulated gears with steps that improve the game, but the available 6-speed manual gives the driver more choice. This engine gets 29 mpg combined in the SR Turbo and 27 mpg combined in the Nismo, with either transmission, but it requires premium fuel.
Blind-spot monitors, adaptive cruise control, and active lane control are available on upper trim levels. There are also some clever features such as an easy-fill tire alert that honks the horn when the tires are properly inflated.
Good scores earn the Sentra a Top Safety Pick award from the IIHS, when it’s fitted with automatic emergency braking and LED headlamps. The IIHS rates the standard headlights â€œPoor,” while giving top marks to the Sentra’s child-seat anchors.
The NHTSA, which bases its crash scores only on crash results, gives the Sentra four stars overall, with five stars for side impact and four stars for frontal impact.
The Nissan Sentra comes in six models: S, SV, SR, SL, SR Turbo, and Nismo, ranging in price from about $18,700 to more than $27,000 for a Nismo with the CVT.
The base Sentra S includes a 7.0-inch touchscreen for infotainment with Bluetooth, automatic headlights, four-speaker sound system, and a rearview camera.
The SV trim features better cloth upholstery, keyless ignition, leather-wrapped steering wheel, dual-zone climate control, 16-inch alloys, a six-speaker audio system, and an updated 7.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility.
A Special Edition package upgrades the wheels and adds rear disc brakes, along with blind-spot monitors, rear cross-traffic alerts, and adaptive cruise control.
SR adds leather upholstery, power driver’s seat and adaptive cruise control, while SL adds a moonroof, Bose audio and blind-spot monitors.
A Midnight Edition package is available for S and SR models, featuring blacked-out body accents and 17-inch wheels.
The SR Turbo brings the more powerful turbocharged engine with the CVT, while the Nismo adds 18-inch wheels, sporty details inside and outside, and deeper front bucket seats. It’s available with a 6-speed manual or the CVT.
Compared to some other Nissan models, the compact Sentra looks welcoming, if for no other reason than its lines are in no way polarizing–there’s nothing to not like. With its relatively tall and almost boxy profile, the Sentra is a few years behind sleeker rivals like Honda and Mazda.
The Sentra shows a clear kinship to the bigger Altima, include rather deep creases and a body line that stretches from nose to tail. Turbocharged Sentras feature a number of visual extras, including LED daytime running lights, side sills, and a spoiler. The Nismo with its tweaks looks best of all, in our opinion.
The Sentra’s cabin comes across as upright and utilitarian. We say upright because the seating position in front is relatively high. The cabin feels basic, but not unattractive. The simple dashboard flows in a gentle horizontal curve, in two tiers, tapered at the side. Outward vision is good, with a big windshield thanks to a tall roofline.
Where the Sentra betters its rivals is interior room, especially in the back. That tall roofline provides good headroom in front, even with the higher seating position, as well as a moonroof that doesn’t skim the heads of tall people in the rear. Passengers there get 37.4 inches of legroom and a generous 50.9 inches of hip space. Two full-sized adults, with a smaller person in the middle, can find comfort. The rear doors open wide, making entry and exit easier.
The trunk is also big for a compact, with 15.1 cubic feet of space, and the opening is wide, making loading luggage and things easier.
The cabin is quiet at highway speeds, thanks largely to acoustic glass. However under hard acceleration it does get a bit noisy with the base engine, as it works so hard.
The base 1.8-liter engine making 124 horsepower and 125 pound-feet of torque is competent in a daily short commute, with moderate acceleration and a CVT that keeps the engine busy. Highway passing and steep climbs require planning and patience. There is an optional 6-speed manual transmission for more precise control over the power.
The SR Turbo and Nismo models use a turbocharged 188-horsepower engine that’s more satisfying than the base engine, but the difference is undramatic, considering there is 50 percent more horsepower. The turbo Sentras simply scoot with more authority.
The ride in the non-turbo models is fairly soft, comfortable on either 16-inch or 17-inch wheels. However on twisty roads, the Sentra offers plain and predictable behavior. It doesn’t have much lean in corners, but the steering isn’t as precise as it could be.
The SR Turbo and Nismo models have stiffer springs, sharper steering, and heavier steering, so they handle with more tenacity.
The 2019 Nissan Sentra has its virtues, namely a roomy cabin and excellent fuel mileage. Rivals at Honda and Mazda give more driving thrills, but the Sentra’s long on value and low on price.