The Nissan Sentra is a compact sedan that offers much more than a first impression might suggest. It's bigger than it looks, so it opens up to a roomy interior. It offers a commendable level of features, sophistication, safety and technology. And it's fun to drive, so just because you're saving money on gas doesn't mean the commute, or the vacation trip, has to be boring. Finally, it's stylish in a way that looks more expensive than the window sticker indicates.
The Sentra, available as a four-door sedan only (there is no hatchback or two-door model) was designed for the American market and American buyers. The spacious cabin is finished like that of a more expensive car and it has comfortable and supportive seats. There's a 60/40-split rear seat that folds flat, opening up the trunk space and creating a large flat cargo area that's handy for hauling long items.
The Sentra is fun to drive, with a level of performance and handling that's a pleasant surprise in a compact sedan. It's powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder of 140 horsepower, which is matched to a very nice six-speed manual in the base car, with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) optional in the base car and standard on all other trim levels. It is EPA-rated at 24 mpg City, 31 mpg Highway with the manual and a very thrifty 26/34 mpg with the CVT.
There are two high-performance versions: The Sentra SE-R has a 2.5-liter engine with 177 horsepower and the CVT; its fuel economy figures are 24/30 mpg City/Highway. The even higher performance SE-R Spec V has the 2.5-liter engine, but upgraded to 200 horsepower and fitted with a six-speed manual; it is EPA-rated at 21/28 mpg City/Highway. The SE-R models also have suspension modifications for sharper handling. Even though they offer higher levels of power and handling, they're easy to live with, offer all the advantages of the standard Sentra and still deliver good fuel economy.
For 2010, Nissan Sentra gets several upgrades. Headlamps and taillights are new. 2010 Sentra 2.0 models have new grille and front-end designs. Inside are revised seat upholstery and door trim, for 2010, and freshened instrument panel accents and illumination. There have also been changes to the options, including new Technology and Navigation Packages; the Navigation Package includes XM NavTraffic Real-Time Traffic Information. The upper-end 2.0 SL has standard Vehicle Dynamic Control (electronic stability control) and Traction Control. 2010 Sentra models also get new wheel designs and other detail exterior changes.
The Nissan Sentra represents a solid value. It's roomy inside, the engine is modern and competitive, and the chassis provides good handling and a comfortable ride. We like the continuously variable transmission. All told, if you're in the market for a compact sedan that offers a lot of value in a lot of areas, the Sentra deserves your attention.