The 2021 Nissan Sentra SR: After reviewing several crossovers back to back, it feels good to drive a decent compact sedan. In fact, it feels even better when that car comes with a manual transmission. We all know that manual transmissions are slowly dying and some brands even totally got rid of them. However, there are some manufacturers that still have faith in stick shifts, Nissan being one of them. We had a chance to review the latest Nissan Sentra and here is how it performs in the compact sedan segment.
Exterior and Interior
Unlike a decade ago, Nissan designs are among the most attractive models in each segment. The Sentra is no exception. The body lines, headlights, and overall design look very upscale. The SR trim is designed for a more sporty look, but it does not add any sportiness to the driving experience. Nissan created a nice tradition with their overall model lineup, and this one looks very like its bigger sisters, Altima and Maxima.
The rear design also looks similar to the rest of Nissan’s sedan lineup. Though it does not come with LED taillights, SR trim comes with standard LED headlights, which is a premium feature in the compact class. Overall the car looks perfect for what it is, and two-colour is an option that not many other manufacturers offer. The SR trim also comes with blacked-out 17″ rims that make the car look sportier, and also a great match with the top colour.
Sentra’s premium outlook and features we mentioned above apply to the interior too. The car’s interior looks much better compared to the previous generation. It may not be class-leading when it comes to overall quality, but it is above average. Where you touch is usually soft-touch plastics or leather. Granted, you should not expect S-class craftsmanship, but it’s pretty good for what it is, and much better than the previous generations.
Exterior wise, it is not the largest entry in the compact sedan segment, but the rear legroom space is pretty impressive. All Sentra trims have 34.7″ rear legroom standard, and the best part is, it does not sacrifice cargo space too much. It comes with 14.7 cubic feet (416 lt) which is definitely not class leading, but it’s acceptable considering this is one of the smaller entries in this class. Getting in and outs are not too hard as it allows rear doors to open almost 90 degrees. We usually see this feature in SUVs or Crossovers, good to see in a compact sedan.
Drivetrain & Driving Impressions
The 2021 Nissan Sentra SR offers driving impressions which are a little bit disappointing because this model falls behind the expectations of being the sportier trim in the Sentra model lineup. Granted, this is not a sporty hot-hatch, but we wish there was a faster alternative that can compete with Jetta GLI or Honda Civic SI. As this is just a sporty-looking trim, you need to sacrifice road comfort compared to other trims.
One of the biggest reasons why driving impressions were not very “impressive” is that it comes with a standard 2.0L engine that produces 149 horsepower and 146 lb-ft of torque. Even with a manual transmission, it feels slow and sluggish. Not only it is slow, but the way that Nissan tuned the engine is annoying, there is constant rev hangs, and throttle response is not the best. Steering feeling is also very numb, there is no communication between the car and driver. This is definitely not a driver’s car, but it is completely fine since most people will buy and drive this car to meet their basic transportation needs economically.
Yes, it’s completely fine if you drive it daily, it is a great car especially around the city. It’s extremely easy to drive, the clutch is lightweight, the suspension is not harsh, the shift gates are not vague, brakes feel neutral and hence the Sentra is a great car for daily driving. If you treat it like a commuter that gets you to work and home, it is a great machine. In our opinion, it would be a wiser choice, if Nissan would have put the 2.5L naturally aspirated engine instead of 2.0L. Thankfully, the 2.0L engine is very efficient. Our consumption test results are 8.0L/100km average, but you can even lower this figure with a softer driving style.
Manual transmission is very easy to live with, and Nissan decided to keep the gear ratios short to compensate for lack of power. Though it is a smart decision, it means it runs at higher rpms on the highway than it’s supposed to. Even with manual transmission and its short gear ratios, Sentra is one of the slowest entries in this segment and if Nissan won’t add another engine to the lineup, seems like it will hold the title for a foreseeable future.
What we like about driving the Sentra SR is the seating/driving position. Everything around you is easy to reach, all essential features have dedicated buttons and it is very easy to learn and navigate through the features, and it also comes with a very user-friendly infotainment system. Like the other Sentra trims, it comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Like other Nissan models, we are a fan of their safety systems including Blind Spot Monitoring, Adaptive Cruise Control system, Automatic Emergency Braking and so on, they are all available in Nissan SR trim.
Pricing and the Verdict
I understand the fact that it’s not easy to be in the compact sedan segment, as there are several behemoths in this category, such as Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla. However, unlike the previous generations, Nissan Sentra is not a budget compact sedan for people who can’t afford to buy a Civic. It’s as premium as other entries, and I think it even looks better than anything in this segment. SR trim makes the car look even better, and the two-color option makes it unique.
There is a huge missed opportunity when it comes to drivetrain choice, but if you don’t mind slightly underpowered engine you will be very happy with it. 2021 Nissan Sentra starts at a very competitive price of $19,198 with the absolute base trim, and SR trim with manual transmission is priced at $22,898. This is where the new Sentra shines, as the competition can be much more expensive. If you are looking for a great-looking daily driver with decent overall build quality, this is actually a pretty good deal.
For details of pricing and specifications, please see the window sticker below:
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Article and Photos by Dan Gunay