Entry price: $19,090
Price as tested: $25,825
This week, we’re driving the all-new 2020 Nissan Sentra, a five-passenger midsize sedan that still offers a low entry price and exciting new generation styling.
Now in its eighth generation after an initial debut in 1982 as a subcompact, the popular Sentra grew over the years in both popularity and sales numbers and today is classified as a midsize by the EPA. Three trims are available, including entry S at 19,090, midline SV at $20,270 and our top line SR at $21,430.
A major upgrade for the new generation 2020 Sentra is a larger 2.0-liter four cylinder that replaces last year’s 1.8-liter design. This upgrade results in better acceleration, more torque and a feeling of power throughout the RPM range. The 2.0 still delivers the fuel mileage a Sentra consumer expects delivering 28 city and a solid 37 highway, the latter just two less than last year’s 1.8 engine. I’m pleased Nissan put this larger, 149-horsepower engine under the hood as the 1.8-liter engine produced just 130 horses.
Another notable change is the new, fresh styling. Our initial first look found Sentra in a sportier motif thanks to new front and rear designs and some two-tone paint offerings that make the layout even snazzier.
Sentra’s new exterior features a new grill layout and standard LED headlamps that replace the former dated pattern. This new Sentra also sits lower for ease of entry and gives it a sportier look, overall. It’s also wider than the last generation making for more room inside for passengers.
Built in Aguascalientes, Mexico, Sentra relies on a continuously variable transmission (CVT), which is nothing new for this car manufacturer. However, as it has done with its Versa, Altima and Maxima sedan models, its current CVTs have been enhanced to deliver a sublimated “gear change” feeling and some internal upgrading. Early in the last decade, it was the only real Achilles Heel that plagued the noted manufacturer as once they hit 85,000 miles or more, too many of them failed. Thankfully, Nissan has addressed the problem with an overall much stronger unit.
The CVT is standard across the three trim lines as a manual six-speed is no longer available. The CVT features three drive modes to suit your driving mood be it Eco, Sport or Normal. You decide which is best for your driving personality although Nissan recommends “normal” for an efficient blend of economy and performance.
On the safety side, Nissan’s Safety Shield 360 is standard across the line and features forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking and blind sport warning although the entry S stops there and does not offer the higher tech safety items or enhanced infotainment additions. All Sentras also receive door guard beams, dual stage airbags with roof mounted curtains, ABS anti-lock brakes, electronic brakeforce, traction control, vehicle dynamics and a vehicle security system.
As for the interior, it’s very roomy with lots of new additions. Standard fare includes Nissan voice recognition, climate control, backup safety camera, all the powers, cloth seats, Siri hands free, a six-speaker AM/FM, cruise, steering wheel controls, streaming audio Bluetooth, one USB port, 60/40 split rear seat, seven-inch color display, rear seat armrest with cup holders, remote fuel door and trunk release and more. The gauges and all necessary buttons and switches are in easy access and seating is comfortable.
When you move up to SV or SR, things improve on the infotainment, safety and style side. You’ll receive upgrades to include Apple and Android compatibility, two USB ports and a third additional USB-charge only port, SiriusXM Satellite with advanced features, (three months free), sporty rear design, Intelligent Key with two FOBs, remote engine start, push button start, tilt and telescopic steering, and much more. Additions to safety include rear automatic braking, rear cross traffic alert, driver alertness, high beam assist, rear automatic braking, lane departure warning and more. Your dealer will explain everything when you visit.
In addition to wide 18-inch tires that are standard on the SR, owners will also receive LED fog lamps, black painted mirrors with turn signal indicators, dark chrome V-motion grille, rear spoiler, lower body sill extensions, chrome exhaust tip and SR grade emblem. Overall, we like the 2020 Sentra very much as it really is a big improvement from last year. It handles great thanks to an improved independent suspension and the SRs standard 18-inch special spoke alloy wheels finish off the exterior presentation. Acceleration is improved as zero to 60 arrives in about 8.5 seconds.
Our Sentra featured a recommended Premium Package for $2,170 that adds leather style stitched seating, power sliding tilt moonroof, thin style LED headlights, heated front seats and steering wheel, Homelink, power rearview mirror, Bose Premium eight-speaker stereo, sunshade illuminated vanity mirrors, intelligent around view monitor, auto dim rear view mirror and a six-way power driver seat with lumbar.
A lighting package for $500 (not necessary), $595 for special two-tone premium paint (yes) and $205 for carpeted floor and trunk mats (your choice) round out the options. With $925 destination, the final retail comes in at $25,825.
Important numbers include a wheelbase of 106.8 inches, 3,084 pound curb weight, 12.4 gallon fuel tank, 28 city/37 highway EPA, and 14.3 cu. ft. cargo space.
We’ve always liked Sentra in both the compact and now midsize class. This new generation is its best ever, very affordable and lots of fun to drive.
Likes: Low price, really new inside and out, great fuel mileage.
Dislikes: Still not a fan of CVTs, loud under full throttle, not much else.
Greg Zyla writes weekly for More Content Now and Gannett Co. Inc. Contact him at email@example.com or at 303 Roosevelt St., Sayre, PA 18840.
Test Drive column: All-new 2020 Nissan Sentra SR CVT
Entry price: $19,090