2021 Nissan Sentra

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2020
The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Martin Padgett Martin Padgett Editorial Director
December 1, 2020

Buying tip

We’d choose the Sentra SV, but if you want heated seats they’re available only in the Premium package.

features & specs

S CVT
SR CVT
SV CVT
MPG
29 city / 39 hwy
MPG
28 city / 37 hwy
MPG
29 city / 39 hwy
MSRP
$19,410
MSRP
$21,750
MSRP
$20,470

The 2021 Nissan Sentra has a sleek shape and a more refined ride, which makes it a better value than in the past.

What kind of car is the 2021 Nissan Sentra? What does it compare to?

The 2021 Nissan Sentra returns mostly unchanged since a redesign for the 2020 model year. It’s a four-door compact sedan with an upscale look and new layers of refinement. We compare it to the Honda Civic, Mazda 3, and Toyota Corolla.

Is the 2021 Nissan Sentra a good car?

Review continues below

The latest Sentra has matured from its budget-car roots into a balanced compact car that’s long on value and loaded with standard features. It earns a 6.0 overall TCC Rating with extra points in value, features, and styling. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

What’s new for the 2021 Nissan Sentra?

All models now come with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility.

The eighth-generation Nissan Sentra emerged from a redesign last year with a handsome new shape inspired by the bigger Altima and Maxima sedans. Lookalike four-doors might be the bane of existence at some brands, but here it’s a virtue. The floating-roof look and sleek new proportions lift the Sentra from the economy-car blahs and give it an attractive new reason for being. The interior’s handsome and efficient—and with the available quilted leather trim, it’s a black-and-tan knockout.

The latest Sentra has a 149-horsepower inline-4 for power, and a continuously variable transmission (CVT) to hand that power to the front wheels. Not quick, not fast, but also not sluggish, it occupies a middle space where low-end and low-speed power lags, but highway passing is a snap. What works better is the Sentra’s independent suspension and electric power steering, both tuned for better responsiveness and a soft ride that still handles corners with aplomb. 

The Sentra’s front seats suit most of us well, and tall people can sit in back comfortably, though three across won’t make it a happy space. Trunk space nears some mid-size rivals, too—but the Sentra’s crash-test scores lag its competition. The IIHS says it needs better headlights while the NHTSA says it needs to protect front passengers better.

How much does the 2021 Nissan Sentra cost?

The $20,335 2021 Sentra S has power windows and locks, cruise control, automatic emergency braking, and a 7.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. We’d pick the Sentra SV, which for $21,395 gains adaptive cruise control, a larger touchscreen, and nicer seats. 

Where is the 2021 Nissan Sentra made?

In Mexico.

6

2021 Nissan Sentra

Styling

The Sentra’s me-too style lands in the plus column.

Is the Nissan Sentra a good-looking car?

Yes, we think so. With a blacked-out roofline like that on the Altima and Maxima, you might rightly accuse the Nissan Sentra of gimmicky mimicry. In this case it gets a total pass: It’s a good-looking car that doesn’t overwhelm itself with silly flourishes. 

The Sentra’s graced with a flowing style, with a low hood and slim LED headlights that point toward the rear, where the car gets more interesting. With a black roof, the Sentra looks sleek and contemporary, with the downward tilt of its “floating-canopy” effect. We give it a 6, with an extra point for the exterior shape. 

The interior’s better than the budget-car norm, with available quilted leather and an optional tan-and-black interior trimmed with soft surfaces. Even in black interiors the Sentra looks more awake than somber, thanks to the low horizontal groups of vents and controls that draw the dash down and lay out an expansive view of the road ahead.

Review continues below
5

2021 Nissan Sentra

Performance

The latest Sentra has a stronger engine and a well-tuned independent suspension.

Nissan has imbued the latest Sentra with better performance in this latest version, but it’s weighted toward the ride and handling side of the slide rule. Acceleration’s average—and so is its score of 5 here.

How fast is the Nissan Sentra?

There’s more punch under foot, but the Sentra’s 149-horsepower 2.0-liter inline-4 engine and its continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) aren’t the stuff of legend. Even with 146 pound-feet of torque and a relatively lightweight body, the Sentra’s not fast and it’s not quick, and the CVT lags as it gathers up its pulleys and belts to provide the right transmission ratio for launch. The good news: Power’s better at highway speeds, so passing no longer feels uncertain.

Is the Nissan Sentra 4WD?

No, all versions are front-wheel drive.

With its lower center of gravity, responsive electric power steering, and independent rear suspension, the Sentra offsets its lack of urgency with fluid responses. Sure, it’s tuned for comfort and not cornering, but the electric power steering has good heft. At cruising speeds it’s soft and easy, and it builds effort in sporty runs. The ride’s settled and sure, with the usual front-drive snubbing of speed when it overruns its grip. In all, it’s no longer a car that feels like mere transportation.

Review continues below
6

2021 Nissan Sentra

Comfort & Quality

The Sentra has swell front buckets, and feels a cut above average.

We give the Sentra a 6 out of 10 for comfort and quality, with an extra point for its front seats.

In base versions, those seats come covered in cloth, and have six-way manual adjustment. Power and lumbar adjustment come with the Premium package, and quilted leather or synthetic hides and heating are available. In any case, the Sentra’s seats have proven a good fit for a wide range of staffers, with good side and leg support.

The rear seats aren’t wide enough for three adults, but they have enough leg room for tall passengers. Nissan’s carved out space below the front seats for big feet, and makes a USB port available for back-seat charging. 

The Sentra’s trunk is deep and wide, with 14.3 cubic feet of space, which is less than in the Honda Civic, but more than in the VW Jetta and Mazda 3. 

Interior fit and finish are good, and with the available quilted leather, the Sentra makes a distinct leap forward in perceptions of quality. The cabin is relatively quiet, with engine noise only present when pushed.

Review continues below
6

2021 Nissan Sentra

Safety

The Sentra has received mixed crash-test scores.

We give the Sentra a 6 for safety. It’s stocked with standard automatic emergency braking, but its crash-test scores have been mixed.

How safe is the Nissan Sentra?

The IIHS says it’s “Good” in all tested categories, but rates its headlights “Poor”—and that makes it ineligible for a Top Safety Pick award. The NHTSA gives it five stars overall, but scored it at three stars for front-passenger protection.

Along with emergency braking, the Sentra also gets standard automatic high beams and blind-spot monitors. Adaptive cruise control and a surround-view camera system are available on some models.

Outward vision is great due to the high windshield, though the lowered roofline pinches rear and side visibility.

Review continues below
7

2021 Nissan Sentra

Features

Pick the Sentra SV for the best combination of value and features.

Every Nissan Sentra comes with power windows and locks, a 7.0-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, automatic emergency braking, and keyless start. On our scale, that’s a 7, with a point extra for the infotainment system and a point for value in our recommended pick.

Which Nissan Sentra should I buy? 

That would be the $21,395 Sentra SV, which gets a larger 8.0-inch touchscreen, adaptive cruise control, and a 7.0-inch digital vehicle info display. It also sports steering-wheel controls that help drivers keep their hands on the wheel, even when flicking to the next station.

How much is a fully loaded Nissan Sentra?

The Sentra SR caps the range at $22,675, and gets 18-inch wheels, a rear spoiler, LED headlights, and a black interior with orange stitching. 

Beyond that, Nissan offers a Premium package in the Sentra SV and SR. It offers quilted leather seats in the SV (synthetic leather in the SR), a power sunroof, a power driver seat, and heated front seats. The SR Premium also gets eight-speaker Bose audio and a surround-view camera system. 

Nissan’s warranty coverage checks in at an average 3 years/36,000 miles.

Review continues below
6

2021 Nissan Sentra

Fuel Economy

The Sentra’s gas mileage is good, but falls shy of rivals.

Is the Nissan Sentra good on gas?

Nissan fitted a larger engine in its latest Sentra, and it improved fuel economy over the prior version. The EPA now rates it at 29 mpg city, 39 highway, 33 combined when configured as a Sentra S or SV trims. As a Sentra SR, it’s 28/37/32 mpg, due to additional weight. We give it a 6 here, but point out the Corolla, Elantra, and Civic all average 35 mpg combined.

Review continues below
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The Car Connection Consumer Review

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$19,410
MSRP based on S CVT
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6.0
Overall
Expert Rating
Rating breakdown on a scale of 1 to 10?
Styling 6
Performance 5
Comfort & Quality 6
Safety 6
Features 7
Fuel Economy 6
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2021 Nissan Sentra Pricing Insights

  • All-new 2020 Sentra includes a more powerful engine
  • Rebates: Up to $1,000 cash back
  • Finance: From 0% APR for 36 months + $500
  • Lease: From $149 per month for 36 months
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