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QUALITY | 8 out of 10
Taller drivers will welcome the new Sentra's standard tilt-and-telescoping steering column, while all adults should be pleased by the unexpectedly spacious front seats.
front seats that have lumbar bulges tailored by a sadist, with no adjustment knob or lever to moderate the pain
Drivers more than six-feet tall are going to wish that Nissan had made the front-seat rails go back another inch.
They also should have done some extra work on the driving position -- at a proper upright seating position I found my elbow resting barely on the center console and mostly in the cupholder.
The seats are comfortable, but lack even the slightest hint of lateral support.
Car and Driver
Look at the exterior size of the 2014 Nissan Sentra, and it's right in a range that would have been considered mid-size not too long ago. You'll find a roomy interior, and a comfortable ride in the Sentra, although cabin materials and trims—as well as actual seating comfort—are nothing to impress.
At 182.1 inches long, about two inches longer than the current car, with a wheelbase 0.6 longer, at 106.3 inches, plus an inch of additional width, the Sentra has a longer, wider cabin than before. Dimensionally, the Sentra has its rivals beat in the numbers; it has the best official front headroom, front legroom, and rear legroom than other models in this class (including Chevrolet Cruze, Ford Focus, Honda Civic, and Toyota Corolla).
Overall passenger room, by official measurements, is also more than any of these competing models, too. In all, the Sentra feels accommodating, but its seating design and seating comfort feel subpar. Flat and unsupportive seats are the biggest letdown; and while we thought by the look of them we’d get a little lateral support, it’s there in appearance alone.
Front seats have plenty of extra headroom without the sunroof, but models with it can be a little tight. The seats themselves are flat and unsupportive (more so for the long-legged, but multiple drivers voiced unhappiness with seating comfort after a few hours of drive time); and while we thought by the look of them we’d get a little lateral support, it’s there in look alone.
Whether or not there’s enough back-seat space also depends on your body type and your needs. This is a back seat that could easily accommodate three pre-teens across, but for adults the position is a little low and the cushions too hard; a little more contouring would have gone a long way. Taller occupants in back will find enough legroom, but headroom will be scarce, and getting in and out requires ducking under the door lip.
Cabin materials are merely average. Nissan lined up the armrests of the door with the top of the center console, and the contact points are a soft-touch material. We also like the base cloth seats and would probably be happier with them over the plasticky leather (it looks much better in pictures) that’s available. It's a relatively quiet cabin at high speeds, too—by budget small-car standards.
Trunk space is better than any other models in this class than the Cruze, and it feels that way. It’s a large, chest-like cargo area that could fit a couple large suitcases or a very large load of groceries. All trims come not only with a folding rear center armrest, but also a split-folding arrangement that lets you flip the seatbacks forward (not flat) to an expanded area.
The Sentra has a relatively soft, absorbent ride, and there’s not much road noise; but as with some shorter-wheelbase vehicles, the Sentra can feel somewhat bouncy or pitchy over rougher surfaces—and there’s a little too much lift (squat) or dive under hard acceleration or braking.
While you still hear the engine’s coarse note plenty when accelerating hard, the interior is rather quiet by budget-priced small-car standards. Nissan says that it’s increased attention to noise and vibration in the Sentra and added 50 percent more noise insulation around the firewall; it's a difference you can feel (and hear) versus the former version of the Sentra.
You'll find nearly as much space as mid-size sedans in the 2014 Nissan Sentra, although comfort and refinement are lacking.