The Nissan Sentra is an Affordable Compact Sedan With Premium Touches

In the shrinking sedan market, the compact Nissan Sentra offers an upscale vibe.

2021 Nissan Sentra Front
The 2021 Nissan Sentra channels its Altima vibes in a compact package. It is affordable and offers an upscale look on the top-trim Premium model.

With the average transaction price for a new vehicle now topping $40,000, consumers are rightly concerned about affordability. Fortunately, there is a slew of low-cost vehicles to be hand for under $25,000 and they come fully equipped too. The 2021 Nissan Sentra is an excellent example of a new vehicle that combines style with efficiency and for a reasonable cost.

Nissan offers the 2021 Sentra in S ($20,410), SV ($21,470), and SL ($22,750) trims, including a $950 destination charge. The Sentra is a compact front-wheel-drive sedan with room for up to five people.

New for 2021

Completely redesigned for 2020, light changes to equipment availability are evident this year. For example, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone compatibility are now standard across the model line.

2021 Nissan Sentra profile

Model Highlights

One glance at the compact Sentra may have you doing a double-take. And that’s a good thing as this small sedan resembles the larger and midsize Altima sedan from bumper to bumper.

The Sentra cuts a stylish stance with a gaping grille and handsome LED accent lights upfront. Its bolstered hood adds character, giving this sedan a muscular appearance. The Sentra’s flowing profile lines and body sculpting convey distinction. We like the beltline kink where it meets the “floating” roofline that ends with the abbreviated trunk. It’s very European in design.

Roomy Trunk

Inside, the cabin is ideal for four although five can sit in a pinch. The trunk measures 14.3 cubic feet and that’s about average for this class.

The interior is clean and uncluttered with circular vent dials, a flowing dashboard, and sizable door panels projecting sportiness and detail. The front seats are all-day comfortable, thanks to the NASA-inspired Zero Gravity seats. These were designed to mitigate discomfort on long trips.

Our test Sentra SV trim came with the SV Premium Package ($2,270). This package takes an already sporty interior and elevates it with contrasting colors for a more sophisticated and elegant expression. Besides the beautiful 17-inch aluminum-alloy wheels, Nissan adds a power tilt-and-slide moonroof. The interior gains quilted leather seats front and back along with heated front seats and a 6-way power driver’s seat with 2-way lumbar support. It’s a visually pleasing example that’s also unusual for the class.

2021 Nissan Sentra front seats
2021 Nissan Sentra rear seats

Safety and Tech

We give the Nissan Sentra high marks in all areas of safety and the prestigious Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) does likewise. Specifically, the Institute awarded the Sentra with a Top Safety Pick when equipped with certain headlamps. Nissan impresses us with its strong roster of standard driver-assist safety equipment. Indeed, the “budget” Sentra has more features standard than some luxury makes.

The equipment list is bolstered by the standard Nissan Safety Shield 360 bundle that includes several cameras, sonar, and radio technology to keep drivers safe. Here, you’ll find automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blind-spot warning, and rear cross-traffic alert. Also included are lane departure warning, high beam assist, and rear automatic braking. Adaptive cruise control and an around-view monitor are also available.

On the tech front, Nissan equips the Sentra with a 7-inch touch-screen display, Bluetooth, smartphone integration, and USB ports. A four-speaker audio system is standard. Among the list of upgrades are a 6-speaker audio system or an 8-speaker Bose package. Satellite radio and additional USB connectivity are available as is an 8-inch touch-screen display.

2021 Nissan Sentra tech

Nissan Sentra Performance

Let’s face it: a small car is strong on fuel efficiency, therefore anything else, including step-off power, steering, handling, braking, and ride comfort is usually of secondary concern.

The good news for the current Sentra is that its performance is better than we’ve ever seen, thanks to a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that is larger and more powerful than the one it replaced. This engine makes 149 horsepower and 146 pound-feet of torque and those are strong numbers for this segment.

Front-Wheel Drive and a CVT

Power routes to the front wheels utilizing a continuously variable transmission. As such, drivers can expect to earn nearly 40 mpg for highway driving or 32/33 mpg for combined city and highway. That’s excellent for this class.

We were impressed with the Sentra’s strong acceleration and ample passing power. The engine tends to whine under hard acceleration, but eases as the transmission adjusts accordingly. Light steering, decent handling, and strong braking are among its strong suits. We found the ride reasonably comfortable – the current Sentra is the longest we’ve ever seen it, with a suspension system tuned to handle bumps with relative ease.

2021 Nissan Sentra rear

Our Recommendation

The Nissan Sentra is ideal for the driver looking for his/her new car and doesn’t want to pay a bundle for one. A growing family might also be attracted to this model, but take care as you enter and leave the rear compartment: you might bang your head. Otherwise, that area is more suitable for children or average-sized adults.

Our test model included every feature we would want, plus a few safety and comfort features we weren’t expecting, but were glad they were included. Notably, there is only a $2,340 price separation between the three trims, with packages available for all but the standard S model. Therefore, we recommend shopping with the SV or SL trims in mind and choosing the package upgrade to outfit your model. All in all, When all is said and done, your out-the-door price should come in around $25,000, and that’s a reasonable cost for this handsome sedan.

See AlsoThe Third-Generation Nissan Rogue Crossover

Photos copyright Stumpwater Media Group, LLC. All rights reserved.

Matt Keegan
Author: Matthew Keegan
Matt Keegan is a journalist, media professional, and owner of this website. He has an extensive writing background and has covered the automotive sector continuously since 2004. When not driving and evaluating new vehicles, Matt enjoys spending his time outdoors.

Leave a Reply