It has been improved in every way.
After debuting at the 2019 Los Angeles Auto Show, it quickly became apparent that the 2020 Nissan Sentra was a massive improvement over its predecessor. Now in its eighth generation, the B18 Sentra is completely redesigned and wants to bury its reputation as a rental fleet specialist. Nissan sent us a 2020 Sentra finished in a bold shade of Monarch Orange with a black roof and optioned with the top SR Premium Package to test for a week. After driving the car, we have concluded that this is the best Sentra that Nissan has ever built. Here's why:
For a car to be taken seriously as something other than a boring rental car, it has to look the part. Here Nissan has succeeded in transforming the Sentra from drab to chic. Especially when finished in Monarch Orange with the 18-inch wheels of the SR trim, this latest Sentra is a seriously handsome vehicle. Nissan has made the latest Sentra lower and wider than the car it replaces, dressing it with its signature V-motion grille and available LED headlamps. From all angles, this redesign is a major victory.
The bold new look is backed up with an interior that is now one of the best cabins in the compact sedan segment. The layout is fantastic, with plenty of space and storage, while the tech is good too, with a simple-to-use touchscreen passing off navigation duties to Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. We especially like the three circular air vents, which wouldn't look out of place in a Mercedes-Benz.
Nissan's zero-gravity seats are the most comfortable chairs in this entire segment and in the back, rear passengers have plenty of legroom and a USB port to charge their devices. The charcoal leather seats with orange stitching on the SR Premium Package look sporty and the diamond-stitched pattern found on the lower SV Premium Package is also well-executed.
The last Sentra was slow. Like, really slow. It only produced 124 horsepower from a 1.8-liter four-cylinder, with 0-60 mph taking a cumbersome 9.5 seconds. Nissan has tossed the old 1.8-liter engine into the dumpster, instead opting for a larger 2.0-liter mill with a more useful 149 hp (an increase fo 20%). Not only has the 0-60 mph time now dropped to just eight seconds flat, but fuel economy has also been improved with up to 29 mpg in the city and 39 mpg on the highway (though we bested these numbers in our testing).
Power still goes out to the front wheels through an Xtronic (CVT) transmission that simulates gears in an astonishingly convincing fashion. We hope Nissan will add a turbocharged model into the mix in the coming years that will cater to the enthusiast crowd.
Many of the Sentra's competitors have reverted to a torsion beam rear suspension, which is less expensive but also less sophisticated than an independent setup. Nissan has taken advantage of this situation by giving the new Sentra independent rear and McPherson strut front suspension, making it one of (if not the) best handling vehicle in this class. A new dual-pinion rack electric power steering system offers great responsiveness and feedback and Nissan's Active Understeer Control system can brake an inside wheel to help pull the car around the corner. This new Sentra handles so well that we can't wait to see what the Nismo division can do with it in the future.
Despite being improved in every measurable way, Nissan had managed to keep the Sentra more affordable than the vast majority of its competitors. In base S trim, the Sentra undercuts the $20,000 mark at $19,090. Even the highest trim SR tester we were sent with the SR Premium Package and two-tone paint tops out at $25,120. With many of its rivals going well past the $30,000 mark, the Sentra remains a bargain in the compact sedan class.