- Sportier styling
- Stronger powertrain
- Standard active safety features
- Base is really basic
- Floating roof
The 2020 Sentra sedan will compete against fierce compact rivals—what few there are left.
The redesigned 2020 Nissan Sentra compact sedan made its debut at the 2019 Los Angeles auto show. The compact sedan is larger, more powerful, more efficient, and comes with more standard safety features than the sedan it replaces. The value proposition is still intact, but now it has a bit more driver feel.
Nearly two inches lower and two inches wider, which makes for a lower center of gravity for improved handling and aerodynamics, the eighth-generation Sentra looks appropriately sharper than the old model. The front dips down lower thanks in part to a deeply set grille stretching down to the lip, while a V shape flows out to narrowed headlights. Narrow lighting continues in the tail, with the taillights tapering as they wrap around the trunk. The added width and lower roofline should benefit larger, but not necessarily taller, people. There are also those twin strips of black plastic extending from the rear windows to the tail, which Nissan calls a floating roof.
The SR gets the sportiest upgrades inside and out, and it will be easier to keep track of this year since trim levels are cut in half to a simplified lineup of S, SV, and SR models. There are no performance pretensions yet, such as last year’s SR Turbo or Nismo trim. Options packages are limited to two as well, to start.
A more potent and efficient 149-horsepower 2.0-liter inline-4 replaces the 124-hp 1.8-liter inline-4, resulting in an increase of 20 percent hp. We were critical of the “tepid acceleration” from the outgoing model, and the CVT was smooth but its high revs made the cabin loud. For 2020, the CVT powering the front wheels is standard across the three models, and the manual transmission has gone the way of the dodo, the rotary phone, and the Murano CrossCabriolet.
Other expected improvements come from the steering and suspension. The 2020 Sentra gets a dual-pinion rack electric power steering for the first time, which not only conserves fuel from a hydraulic setup but it also adds more steering feel—less mush at highway speeds.
The new platform has an independent rear suspension instead of the more rigid and potentially noisier torsion beam on the outgoing model.
Despite the increased driver feel and the power boost, Nissan expects fuel economy to improve over the 32 mpg combined in the outgoing model. We live in good times.
Also good is standard active safety features on the 2020 Sentra. Included in the standard equipment Nissan calls Safety Shield 360 is automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blind-spot monitors, lane-departure warning, rear cross-traffic alert, automatic rear braking, and high-beam assist. Toyota also offers a similar safety suite as standard.
The base S model is...basic, with 16-inch steel wheels and keyless ignition. The Sentra SV likely will be the best value with alloy wheels shod in all-season tires, 8.0-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, dual zone climate control, and adaptive cruise control.
The sporty ST model bumps up to 18-inch alloy wheels with wider, lower profile all-season tires, dark chrome grille, LED front lighting, rear spoiler and other touches.
The compact sedan is Nissan’s all-time best-selling vehicle and one of its longest running.The eighth-generation Sentra might be challenged to compete with more popular crossovers, including the Rogue Sport, but with other automakers (American) dropping out of the compact car race it also has the chance to stand out.
Pricing will be announced closer to the Sentra’s arrival in dealerships in late January, but we expect it to start at less than $20,000, even with the punchier powertrain, standard CVT, and standard safety tech. The current SR trim is about $2,100 more than the S trim.