What a difference one model year makes—especially if you’re considering the Nissan Sentra. While the 2014 model was strictly mid-pack in its occupant-safety ratings, the 2015 Nissan Sentra does significantly better.
Even though the Sentra essentially continues into the 2015 model year without major changes, it's not entirely the same underneath. Through a retest, the model has improved its Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) small overlap frontal rating from the lowest ‘poor’ rating up to the best ‘good’ rating. And that includes top ‘good’ scores in every small-overlap subcategory as well.
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The improvement was achieved through some modifications to the vehicle’s front structure, with the front pillar and doorsill modified for reduced intrusion. Side-curtain airbags were also lengthened for better head coverage.
2015 Nissan Sentra - IIHS testing
2013-14 Nissan Sentra - IIHS testing
2015 Nissan Sentra - IIHS small overlap testing
2013-14 Nissan Sentra - IIHS small overlap testing
Last year, the Sentra earned ‘good’ ratings only in two of the four injury measures, while it scored ‘poor’ in the structure and safety cage subcategory and ‘marginal’ in several other subcategories.
That earns the 2015 Sentra a spot on the 2015 Top Safety Pick list—although it won’t qualify for the best Top Safety Pick+ list as it doesn’t include any of the frontal crash prevention technology now necessary for that accolade.
The federal government, through its New Car Assessment Program (NCAP) testing, hasn’t carried the Sentra’s four-star frontal crash rating forward to 2015, so that might also change in the future if the agency gets around to a retest.
Altogether, this is serious progress for the 2015 Nissan Sentra, which is one of the strongest entries in the compact-sedan class for overall spaciousness and ride comfort. Due to the lack of active-safety features, it’s still not quite in the top tier; but it’s no longer a vehicle that you should omit for its safety scores.