The Sentra SR is the sporty of this model’s three trims.
On occasion, manufacturers will supply a specially trimmed model, then follow a few months later with a different trim. Two or more shares of the same product with media folk is a way for the automakers to tout a particular model and its many variations.
That’s exactly what happened this month when a 2020 Sentra SR arrived, just three months after a Sentra SV passed through our test fleet. Nissan, for its part, had every reason to want to place this compact sedan front and center as it is all-new for 2020 and the most stylish Sentra yet. Indeed, as one passer by noted when spotting the car, he recognized it was a 2020 version, mentioning that if it didn’t have a Sentra badge, it might easily be mistaken for the Altima, which is Nissan’s midsize model.
And what this person noted was absolutely true: from the gaping V-motion grille to its distinct body sculpting and pronounced character lines, the Sentra takes the Altima’s design and brings it down to this smaller model. Moreover, the look is so uncanningly similar to the Altima that the Sentra SR features the same “floating roof” design found in the larger sedan. In effect, it makes for an unusual feature for this once-staid class.
Highlights of the 2020 Nissan Sentra SR
You can read our full review of the Sentra SV here. Instead of rehashing everything in this article, we’ll look at the many highlights and distinctions of the SV, which is the top of three Sentra trims.
Modern interior. Today’s compact models are not only much more stylish on the outside, but they’re simply better on the inside. Nissan makes the SR’s cabin seem uncommonly nice with ample soft-touch surfaces, brightwork trim, and moderate amounts of plastic. The dashboard shows styling verve as it lowers and converges with the center stack. The display panel sits on the lower part of the dash just above the console. We like that Nissan chose three big circular vents and placed them in a row beneath the display. The vents are controlled individually by knobs, just as you see in some luxury cars. We found the front seats comfortable and supportive. There is ample storage space in each door pocket. The rear seat is also comfortable, but tall passengers will find the headroom fairly limiting. The legroom too is small, but two average-sized adults can sit back there. Can you fit a third individual? Yes, but only to compromised hip space – do this only for short trips.
The premium package delivers. Both the SV and SR trims offer a premium package, with the latter supplying the most comprehensive (but slightly less costly) upgrade. In the SV, the package costs $2,460 and adds such amenities as upgraded LED lights, a power moonroof, 17-inch alloy wheels, quilted leather seats, heated front seats, and power-controlled front seats. For $2,170, the SR package builds on the SV’s upgrades, adding such features as an around-view monitor, a heated steering wheel, imitation leather sport seats with contrast orange stitching, and an 8-speaker Bose audio system.
Lots of standard tech. Available upgrades too. The 2020 Sentra comes with a 7-inch touch-screen display. Bluetooth, one USB port, and Siri Eyes Free are also standard. Move up to the SV trim and Nissan includes an 8-inch touch-screen display, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone compatibility, satellite radio, and two additional USB ports. The base model has a four-speaker audio system, while the other two trims come with a 6-speaker system.
Safety isn’t an afterthought. We applaud manufacturers such as Nissan for including many driver-assist tech features as standard equipment. The 2020 Sentra underscores these efforts with automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane departure warning, blind-spot warning with rear cross-traffic alert, rear parking alert, and automatic rear braking. Adaptive cruise control shows up on the SV and the surround-view monitor is included with the SR’s package as mentioned.
Roomy cargo space. We’ve seen trunks in larger models that are quite frankly too small. Not so with the Nissan Sentra as this one measures 14.3 cubic feet. That’s on par with some midsize models and is a bonus for anyone needing enough luggage space for a family of four for one week. But it gets better than that: the rear split-folding seat extends the storage compartment, allowing for larger items. If it is just the two of you traveling, the expanded storage space will hold far more room than you may need.
A more powerful powertrain. Take one four-cylinder engine and pair it with a continuously variable transmission, and you have the makings of an efficient powertrain. That’s exactly Nissan’s modus operandi when it comes to the vast majority of its small models. For 2020, Nissan upgraded the powertrain to enhance its performance without diminishing efficiency. This one comes with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine making 149 horsepower and 146 pound-feet of torque. That’s a strong improvement over the 124 horsepower and 125 pound-feet of torque of the previous model. Further, its fuel economy improves slightly from a combined 32 mpg city/highway to 33 mpg. We like that the transmission does a laudable job of mimicking shift points without causing the engine to drone needlessly as is a common experience with some CVTs.
Fun to drive. Not only does the powertrain supply more grunt, but the drivability factor has been enhanced measurably this year. The electric steering system is one of the better ones out there, especially for this class as it supplies some resistance while making turns. We’ve driven cars with minimal feedback. This isn’t one of those. Instead, as you shift the wheel you’ll feel some heft, which increases driver engagement. The independent rear suspension is a bonus – no, you won’t take this sedan to the track, but you’ll certainly notice that it handles twisty roads with poise and pulls out of corners with ease.
Nissan Sentra SR: Parting Thoughts
Perhaps the most significant fact about the SR is its sporty demeanor, amplified by upgraded LED lights, including fog lights. The dark chrome surrounding the grille and on top of the side mirrors contribute to this vibe as do the side sill extensions, rear spoiler, and chrome exhaust finisher. These embellishments bring the sporty look, although if you want the performance chops, you’ll have to look elsewhere.
2020 Nissan Sentra Specifications
|Price Range||$19,090 to $21,430|
|Standard Engine||2.0-liter, I4|
|Horsepower||149 hp @ 6,400 rpm|
|Torque (lb.-ft.)||146 lb.-ft. @ 4,400 rpm|
|Curb Weight (pounds)||3,047 to 3,084|
|Headroom (f,r…inches)||38.9, 36.7|
|Legroom (f,r…inches)||44.0, 37.4|
|Shoulder room (f,r…inches)||56.4, 54.5|
|Hip room (f,r…inches)||NR|
|Storage (cubic feet)||14.3|
|Gross vehicle weight (pounds)||3,957 to 4,001|
|Fuel Tank (gallons)||12.4|
|EPA Fuel MPG (city/highway/combined)||29/39/33|
|Manufacturing Plant||Smyrna, Tennessee|
Data compiled by Tom Keegan. Specifications supplied by the manufacturer.
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