Driving Impressions : 2020 Nissan Sentra SV FWDBy: Mark Moskowitz MD
The new Sentra joins the other members of the Nissan family line with the now familiar contradiction of more curvaceous and more angular body lines. Like them or not the Nissan sedans stand out from the rest of the pack. I personally think the styling is a bold step forward but do acknowledge that when the sun hit a dark car like my Rosewood Metallic test model, I initially thought I was seeing a dented not sculptured rear quarter. The Sentra's rear is rather simple and the front is dominated by faux blackened vents and the classic and unmistakable V-motion grille. It's spiced up a bit with optional linear LED accents.
For an economy car I found some surprising luxuries and conveniences in the interior of the test model, an SV with the Premier upgrade. The quilted leather covered seats suggest a much more expensive automobile. Similarly do the clad padded surfaces on inner doors, console box and knee and arm rests. Two cupholders, a key fob holder and forward open space which will easily house a large cell phone rest between the seats.
Seats forward and rear are comfortable and supportive. There's easy entry into the back with reasonable leg and head room for adults. Rear vents would be a welcome addition as would a replacement for the plastic faux carbon fiber surrounding the window controls.
There was a surprising amount of safety tech, most of it controllable from the left side of the steering wheel. Nissan's Safety Shield 360 suite is standard on all Sentras. It includes lane departure warning, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and front and rear automatic emergency braking. I did like the old school touch of a button for the trip odometer reset.
Don't expect sport mode, don't expect to manually shift the continuously variable transmission, and don't expect a lightning quick getaway. The Ipad stopwatch measured a sluggish 0-60 time at 9.2 seconds. Despite that intro, the new Sentra can claim great advances in drivability. A wider track, a lesser height and an altered driver position contribute to a lower center of gravity. Simulated shifts under power mimic the gear changes of a high-performance automatic transmission. The electric dual-pinion (one on the steering axis and one on the separately placed power assist) steering system is precise yet only requires a light touch. Thanks to front and rear sway bars and a new for 2020 independent rear suspension, body lean was far less than expected. And Nissan uses an electronic assist to 'tap' the inside front wheel brake when appropriate. Curved freeway ramps were fun. Power to merge or pass was better than the standing start times would suggest.
Models and packages are few. The base 'S' lists for $19,090. Driving Impressions favors the $20,270 SV and $21,430 SR. Both receive rear disc brakes, an eight rather than seven-inch touch screen, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, adaptive cruise control, remote start capability, front dual-zone climate control and upgraded audio, interior and wheels. Delivery adds $925 to the list price of all three.
The SR is more sporty in appearance with bigger wheels, contrasting interior stitching, body sill extensions and a rear spoiler. Premium packages cost $2460 for the SV and $2170 for the SR. Both add a moonroof, heat to the front seats, and six-way power and power lumbar to the driver's seat. Fully outfitted the SR costs less than $900 more than the SV. Only the SR has an eight speaker Bose system and a surround-view camera and seems the wiser choice, though it seems a shame to have traded leatherette for SV's sumptuous leather seats.
Sentras exist in a crowded field of compact economy sedans, one that includes Corolla, Elantra and Civic. The Nissan is competitive in pricing and fuel economy. Its standard safety aids are outstanding. 2020's handling and appearance upgrades elevate it over last year's model. It's worthy of consideration.