2021 Nissan Sentra: A Compact Sedan with Grown-Up Appeal

The Nissan Sentra incorporates many design details from the Altima.

The family sedan still has a place in many homes as these models bring style, value, efficiency, and affordability to the market. Nissan is well represented in this area with models such as the flagship Maxima, midsize Altima, compact Sentra, and subcompact Versa to consider.

We recently spent a week with Nissan’s compact model, which is arguably one of the best in a still competitive segment.

Trims and Changes

Nissan offers the 2021 Sentra in S ($20,410), SV ($21,470), and SR ($22,750) trims, including a $950 destination charge. Both the SV Premium Package and SR Premium Package add $2,270 to the cost.

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 Review

The following are the highlights of the 2021 Sentra:

Baby Altima

2021 Sentra by Nissan
Stylish wheel choices and size upgrades are available.

Manufacturers previously pushed a design separation between small and medium to large cars. In part, the automakers preferred to emphasize more comprehensive design elements in their larger vehicles and use that as a selling point to market their cars. Consequently, small cars were often overlooked and given simple designs.

Well, in recent years we’ve seen that thinking tossed to the side. Every manufacturer is now giving the star treatment to its small cars, but we think Nissan does it best.

Indeed, from bumper to bumper, top to bottom, and from side to side, the Sentra taps the Altima for its look. It largely pulls this off with its gaping grille, cutouts, flowing character lines, and available LED lighting elements.

Among the standard features are a chrome-trimmed grille, power side mirrors, and 16-inch steel wheels. Move up to the SV trim and Nissan includes 16-inch aluminum-alloy wheels and heated side mirrors.

Choose the SR Premium Package and those wheels become 17 inches. A power-sliding moonroof is added.

Make your move to the SR trim and the Sentra’s sporty side becomes apparent. Here, you’ll find a dark chrome grille with black outside mirrors, side sill extensions, a sport rear design, and a rear spoiler.

Nissan adds LED turn signal indicators to the side mirrors and brings all LED lighting elements to bear. Finally, 18-inch aluminum-alloy wheels are included.

Choose the SR Premium Package and this model gains a power-sliding glass moonroof.

Roomy Interior

2021 Nissan Sentra

On paper, the Nissan Sentra seats five. In reality, four is the ideal. We found the interior room quite acceptable for this sized vehicle, although we think that it’s best for two adults and two children.

The trunk is sizable, measuring 14.3 cubic feet and that’s more space than what we have found in some larger models. It’ll hold all your groceries or a weekend’s worth of luggage with ease. Fold down all or part of the rear seat and your storage capacity increases accordingly.

We’re impressed with Nissan interiors and the Sentra did not disappoint us, especially in its Premium Package guise. Specifically, the interior offers excellent fit and finish, with a clean layout. The front seats are comfortable, easily better than what’s found in the Toyota Corolla.

2021 Nissan Sentra

In base form, the seats are covered in cloth and offer manual adjustment. With the Premium Package, the driver’s seat gains power adjustment with lumbar support. Furthermore, the quilted leather interior is a pleasant addition, something we typically do not find in this segment.

All three trims come with full power accessories, air conditioning, and a tilt-and-telescopic steering column. Among the upgrades are heated front seats, dual-zone climate control, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, and premium cloth seats. We like the look of the sport cloth seats with contrast orange stitching.

Safety is a Priority

It’s good to see manufacturers incorporating more standard safety features to attract customers and distinguish themselves from the competition. Largely, Nissan has been successful in that endeavor.

Every trim comes with the Nissan Safety Shield 360 suite of driver-assist technology. These features include automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blind-spot monitoring, lane departure warning, rear cross-traffic alert, rear automatic braking, and automatic high beams.

On some trims, adaptive cruise control and a surround-view monitor are available.

The only thing lacking is Nissan’s ProPilot Assist technology. This package introduces elements of semi-autonomous driving that ease driver fatigue and help keep this sedan centered while driving. We think upcoming models will gain this tech, but for now, you’ll have to look at such models as the Altima sedan or Rogue Sport crossover to consider it.

Desirable Tech Features

2021 Nissan Sentra
Two screen choice sizes are available, depending on the trim.

The standard tech offerings include a 7-inch touch-screen display, voice recognition, Bluetooth connectivity, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, Siri Eyes Free, and one USB port. The 4-speaker audio system isn’t anything to get excited over.

Among the upgrades is an 8-speaker Bose audio system. We’re Bose fans as we’ve noticed how well sound clarity and the distribution of it improves. Keep in mind, though, that the Bose system is only available with the SR Premium Package.

Other upgrades include two additional USB ports starting with the SV grade, satellite radio, and NissanConnect services with a Wi-Fi hotspot and an 8-inch touch-screen display. An around-view monitor is also available.

One Powertrain Choice

What works for one model may not be necessary for another. To wit, where the Altima offers two engine choices, the Sentra gets away with just one. But the singular powertrain choice is common to the compact segment.

For the Sentra, a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with 149 horsepower and 146 pound-feet of torque sends power to the front wheels. It’s paired with a continuously variable transmission and this teaming is adequate. We found the available power around town was strong, while acceptable on the highway.

When pushed, the continuously variable transmission tends to whine and strain, but it manages to adjust as it sends power to the wheels. Direct steering and an independent suspension give this little sedan a more engaging drive than we’ve seen in the past.

What should interest drivers is its efficiency – you’ll average in the low 30s mpg in combined city and highway driving and that fact is critically important as gas prices climb throughout 2021.

Competitive Set

Several players have left the segment, including the Dodge Dart, Ford Focus, and Chevrolet’s Cruze. The domestic players have switched to crossovers, but Nissan is doubling down on car models and building utility vehicles.

The remaining competitors include the Subaru Impreza, Mazda Mazda3, Hyundai Elantra, Volkswagen Jetta, Kia Forte, Toyota Corolla, and the Honda Civic.

Our Recommendation

2021 Nissan Sentra rear view

Just $2,340 separates Sentra’s three trims. In any case, we recommend beginning your shopping experience by looking at the SV and SR trims and comparing these two. That they both offer a package upgrade appeals to us.

The packages are nearly the same and include the quilted leather interior, heated front seats, and a power driver’s seat among other amenities. Choose the SR model with the package and you’ll pay about $25,000 (and gain the Bose audio system) while saving about $1,000 by doing likewise with the SV trim and the package upgrade.

All in all, the 2021 Nissan Sentra makes a compelling case for customers shopping for a new vehicle. You don’t get all the features of the similar-sized Nissan Rogue crossover, but the price differential is measured in thousands of dollars, and that’s a distinction that shouldn’t be lost on consumers.

2021 Nissan Sentra Specifications

Nissan 2021 Sentra
Segment Compact Sedan
Price Range $19,460 to $21,800
Destination Charge $950
Standard Engine 2.0-liter, I4
Horsepower 149 hp @ 6,400 rpm
Torque (lb.-ft.) 146 lb.-ft. @ 4,400 rpm
Transmission Xtronic (CVT)
Seating 5
Curb Weight (pounds) 3,047 to 3,084
Wheelbase (inches) 106.8
Length (inches) 182.7
Width (inches) 71.5
Height (inches) 56.9
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
Towing (pounds) NR
Payload (pounds) NR
Fuel regular
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.

See Also – Small Nissan Crossover SUVs: Kicks, Rogue Sport and Rogue

Photos copyright Auto Trends Magazine. All rights reserved.

Matthew Keegan

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