It's the Sentra of attention.
With a strong reputation for reliability and a high-value price tag, over six million units of Nissan's compact sedan have found homes in North America. What the model has failed to do is provide much in the way of excitement or desirability, especially when parked alongside bolder new rivals like the acclaimed Honda Civic and stylish Mazda 3. That all appears to be in the past because the 2020 Nissan Sentra is here and it takes just one walk-around to banish memories of the bland current model - the new one sports a cohesive, chiseled design that better aligns it with the brand's premium Altima and Maxima.
The eighth-generation Sentra is built on a brand new platform and is around two inches lower and two inches wider than the current model, dramatically contributing to its sportier stance. Incorporating Nissan's latest design language, the V-motion grille, narrowed LED headlamps, and floating roof design all blend together brilliantly. New wheel designs and a color palette that includes two-tone combinations make it clear that injecting the Sentra with a more vibrant personality was part of the brief.
Inside, the same disdain for generic design is displayed. A stitched dashboard and three centrally-mounted air vents evoke a distinctly more upscale feel.
Infotainment is taken care of by an eight-inch touchscreen and NissanConnect which includes both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto on the SV and SR, while the cheaper S gets a seven-inch touchscreen. Available amenities that continue the move upmarket include quilted, leather-trimmed front seats and even NASA-inspired Zero Gravity seats. Nissan has also carefully redesigned major touch points like the steering wheel and switches to impart a more luxurious feel. The brand's suite of driver-assist systems fall under the Nissan Safety Shield 360 moniker and includes rear automatic braking and intelligent forward collision warning.
It's not all about showroom appeal, of course, as the Sentra also gets a new 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with 149 horsepower and 146 lb-ft of torque. These represent increases of 20 and 16 percent, respectively, over the outgoing model's lackluster 1.8-liter. A revised independent rear suspension and a new electric power steering system should hopefully contribute to a more spirited driving experience, as the current Sentra isn't known for its sparkling dynamics.
David Kershaw, division vice president of Nissan Sales and Regional Operations in Nissan North America, is rightly proud of the new Sentra: "The all-new Sentra delivers the whole package, with features and value that are hard to ignore. It's stylish, confident and connected - a true breakthrough in compact sedans."
Based on this first look, we're inclined to agree. Pricing is unconfirmed, but expect the new Sentra to build upon the previous generations' sales success when it hits the local market in late January.