Shopping for a new Nissan Sentra?
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Overall, the 2011 Nissan Sentra scores a 6 out of 10 here at FamilyCarGuide. Relative to other inexpensive small sedans, the Sentra has pretty well-designed seating and a backseat that's big enough for adults in a pinch; it's also quite fuel-efficient and has a smooth, quiet ride. But its crash-test ratings are worrisome, and you can't get a Bluetooth hands-free interface at all on some trims.
The Sentra comes in just one body style, and even though it might come across as a bit homely or anonymous from the outside, it's quite well-designed for the interior. Front seats are flat and unsupportive, but the back seat is good enough for adults to travel across town. Materials inside feel about right for the Sentra's price—tasteful but on a budget—and the cabin in general feels tight and quiet.
Most of the Sentra models come with a 140-hp, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that's merely adequate with either the six-speed manual or CVT automatic. With the latter, there's a raucous drone on even moderate acceleration. Suspension tuning is on the soft side, which helps the Sentra's ride, but there's no feeling of sportiness.
For those families who want a little more of a performance feel, the SE-R (CVT only) or SE-R Spec.V (manual only) might satisfy, but they do sacrifice ride quality quite significantly.
The Sentra does make good as a second family car or commuter car with its features list, which includes power accessories, A/C, and a good 160-watt sound system for the base price. On top models you can now get a navigation system, XM satellite radio, and high-end Rockford Fosgate audio, but there are a few holes—like the lack of Bluetooth—that might be hard for some busy parents to overlook. Another issue to keep in mind is safety; in the new federal tests, the Sentra scored just three (out of five) stars, while its IIHS tests were better but also blemished.
For more in-depth assessment, analysis, and highlights of how this little sedan stacks up, see the full review of the 2011 Nissan Sentra at The Car Connection.