By KBB.com Editors
KBB Expert Rating: 6.8
With the addition of the Versa as Nissan's smallest car, the once tiny Sentra moves up the line to nearly mid-size status. Anchoring the lineup are the 2.0, 2.0 S, 2.0 SL and the sporty 2.0 SR models. In addition, the performance-oriented SE-R and SE-R Spec V variants (reviewed separately) appeal to the frugal enthusiast. This front-drive four-door boasts sophisticated styling, competent ride and handling, excellent fuel efficiency and a long list of standard and available creature comforts – traits that serve it well in dealing with market challenges from the likes of the Chevrolet Cruze, Ford Focus, Honda Civic, Hyundai Elantra, Kia Forte, Mazda MAZDA3 and Toyota Corolla.
When interior space and serenity really matter, the Sentra delivers in a big way. Those facing long, tortuous commutes will also appreciate the practical charms of its Xtronic Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT). Standard on all but the base 2.0 model, the CVT earns better EPA mileage numbers than the six-speed manual.
Those who prefer crisp handling response or brisk acceleration are likely to be disappointed, although moving up to the SE-R or SE-R Spec V models would dramatically change both elements of the overall performance equation. And the Sentra' styling, both inside and out, is beginning to show the car's age.
Changes for the 2011 Nissan Sentra include an increase in city fuel economy and a realignment of some option packages. 2.0 CVT, S and SL trims receive an SE-R style rear spoiler, while anti-lock brakes, traction control and stability control are now standard on all trims.
Driving Impressions With SE-R and Spec V variants to please the enthusiast crowd, Nissan tuned the suspension of its mainstream Sentras to deliver the kind of ride comfort that core buyers clearly...prefer. As a result, all four display a bit more body roll during aggressive cornering maneuvers and prominent nose-dipping under hard stops with their capable front disc and rear drum anti-lock brakes. However, this more polished personality also delivers smooth, relaxed in-town commutes and effortless freeway cruising with cabin noise levels that remain commendably low regardless of vehicle speed. Although engine power is hardly overwhelming, the Sentra's CVT automatic makes the most of the 2.0-liter's output, providing snappy off-the-line launches and adequate power for merging and passing.
Xtronic Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT)
While it lacks the "sport mode" found on several other Xtronic applications, this seamless automatic is a good match for the Sentra engine and offers EPA fuel economy ratings that are superior to those of the six-speed manual gearbox that's standard on the 2.0 S.
The newest navigation/radio system from Nissan includes a large bright view screen, points of interest (POI) data base, touch screen controls and XM NavTraffic updates (requires subscription). Best of all, the unit cost less than $500, an amazing price for a factory installed system.
Designed for U.S. buyers, the Sentra's nicely finished and well-appointed cabin comes in either beige or charcoal tones with aluminum-look or faux-wood accents. Large doors simplify entry and exit for all seats, and the Sentra offers more space for both people and their carry-ons than most of its competitors – including a laptop-sized locking glovebox and a 13.1 cubic foot trunk. Control layouts are good and main gauges easy to read, but the charcoal-and-orange LCD displays for the fuel and temperature indicators and audio and air conditioning readouts suffer legibility problems. Well-contoured front seats are matched with a 60/40 split-folding rear bench that's fit for two average-size adults or three medium-size kids.Exterior
The 2011 Nissan Sentra clings to the boxy style that was Nissan's calling card a few years back. The car's high-profile bodywork features a sloping nose and short decklid separated by a tallish roofline and large glass area that ensures good outward visibility. A relatively long 105.7-inch wheelbase results in fairly short front and rear overhangs while prominent shoulder lines transition into softer front and rear contours set off by large, wraparound head and tail lamps. Inside pronounced fender flares, the 2.0 has 205/60 tires on 15-inch steel rims while the 2.0 S, 2.0 SR and 2.0 SL move up to 205/55 tires on larger 16-inch wheels, steel on the former and alloy on the two top-line offerings.
The base Sentra includes a six-speed manual transmission, front, front-side and side-curtain airbags, anti-lock brakes, traction and stability control, power windows and door locks, air conditioning, trip computer, and an AM/FM/CD audio system. The 2.0 S adds a CVT automatic transmission, standard iPod integration, six-speaker stereo larger wheels with lower-profile tires, remote keyless entry, cruise control and steering wheel-mounted audio controls. The 2.0 SL provides keyless start, 16-inch alloy wheels, XM Satellite Radio, 4.3-inch color audio head unit with controls for iPod and Bluetooth, and a power trunk lid release.
Sentra extras are largely model specific and are bundled into packages. The Convenience Package (2.0 S, 2.0 SR) offers Nissan's Intelligent Key keyless entry and start, power trunk lid release, Bluetooth phone connectivity and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. 2.0 S and 2.0 SR models can also be equipped with a 4.3-inch color display audio head unit, USB port and eight-speaker 340-watt Rockford Fosgate audio system. The SL trim offers leather seating, rearview monitor, heated front seats, a power sunroof, Rockford Fosgate premium audio and a five-inch navigation/radio system that includes XM NavTraffic real-time traffic information updates.
All 2.0 Sentras share an identical 140-horsepower version of Nissan's 2.0-liter, 16-valve four-cylinder engine that was co-developed with parent-company Renault. The 2.0-liter makes an impressive 147 pound-feet of torque, and features variable timing on the intake valves that helps enhance its mid-range punch. Acceleration with either transmission is decent if not exhilarating, with a zero-to-60 mile-per-hour sprint requiring about nine seconds. Perhaps the biggest surprise is that EPA fuel economy figures with the Xtronic Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) actually surpass those of the six-speed manual gearbox, in both city and highway mode. Due to different emissions regulations, the 2.0-liter's output in California is rated at 135 horsepower and 142 pound-feet of torque.
2.0-liter in-line 4
140 horsepower @ 5100 rpm
135 Horsepower @ 5100 rpm (California)
147 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4800 rpm
142 lb.-ft. of torque @4800 rpm (California)
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 24/31 (manual), 27/34 (automatic)
By TBM on Tuesday, August 05, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 95,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Smooth, economical, dependable and fun."
Cons: "Engine has always been a little rattly."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"This car has not had any problems so far and is powerful, smooth and very economical. I am making my final payment in a few days and am glad in my selection. This car is fun to drive and still gets over 30 mpg combined."
By John N. on Friday, May 23, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 173,500overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Overall quality. Nissans run til the end of time."
Cons: "The inner design isn't very stylish."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"For the life of me I can't understand why Honda and Toyota have the reputation for being the longest lasting cars on the road. Every Nissan I've ever driven has gone for years and years with no problems at all. My Sentra has 173,000 miles on it and it has never broken down, and still runs perfect. Others I know who drive Nissan have all had similar experiences. These are the cars to drive if you don't want to deal with mechanical problems or costly repairs. If those are your thing, buy an American car."
19 people out of 31 found this review helpful
By dakin on Wednesday, May 21, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 70,000overall rating 5 of 10rating details
Pros: "gas mileage"
Cons: "SOUND LOOKS BLAHHH"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1
"i have owned my car for almost 2 years now. let me just say this...its really reliable and amazing on gas (20 mpg around town) but unfortunately that's all its good for. the gutless 2.0 engine is hardly acceptable (all its built for is gas mileage) and the very interesting not shifting CVT will have you scratching your head because it doesn't shift. the car has gear ratios the smaller it is the faster you go the bigger it is better gas mileage. the car does come equipped with a really good sounding stereo system. Oh yeah enough beats that the car next to you might glance over. The interior of the car is so boring it could literally put you to sleep. now lets move to the back seat i have a 2 year old and this car is our family car. On ever seat in the back it has safty hooks for car seats.....Only one problem tho....um...the back seat is very tiny. seriously NO ONE will be sitting in the back if you have a car seat in the back. And now the trunk! Its amazing super big.. whoopdy-do..... In all honesty i hate my car the way it drives, sounds, looks, and sounds....OOPS did i say that already? i wish i would have gotten something completely different"
2 people out of 6 found this review helpful
By huskernut on Wednesday, May 07, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 95,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Super reliable, good gas mileage, interior is soli"
Cons: "Gas mileage could be better"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"Bought this car used in 2009, when it was about 2 years old with 30k miles on it. Have driven it as a daily driver for the past 5 years, racking up close to 60k miles on the odometer. We have done regular oil changes and replaced the tires once during that time. Other than that normal scheduled maintenance, we have had to do zero repair work to the vehicle. We love the keyless entry and start with the key fob - literally impossible to lock your keys in the car, and super convenient to keep your keys in your pocket at all times and never have to pull them out. The interior of the car is laid out about as well as you can expect, with great controls for the radio and A/C. Overall, everything you could ask for out of a compact sedan, with excellent reliability, good gas mileage and fun to drive to boot."
8 people out of 12 found this review helpful
By Bell on Sunday, April 20, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 24,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Reliability based on price"
Cons: "Leather seats on some SL models"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I love my 2011 Sentra SL - Nav sys w/back up camera, bluetooth, sunroof, rear spoiler, chrome trim etc... Due to a partial highway closure around here, the recent traffic on the local roads has constantly been just stop then go then stop... This car still hits avg 30 mpg no matter what - I actually calculated this based on a full gas then next-time-fill-up ratio a few times and not based on the Sentra's calculation. The stereo sounds excellent with embedded equalizer w/6 speakers with the automatic volume control based on the speed. I can hook up iPhone, Android, iPod and/or whatever I can via USB that my 6 year old daughter can even control what she wants to listen to and the volume off of her device that is connected to it while sitting in the rear seat. One thing I do not like it? I've never been a big fan of leather seats... I always feel I'm not settled while driving for some reasons but it came with it. So, it wasn't Nissan's fault since I could go for something else if I wanted to. My son and I play ice hockey and the trunk actually easily holds two full hockey bags w/o even folding the rear seat if you know how big each is. VDC (Vehicle Dynamic Control) on/off is really helpful if you ever get stuck in mud and/or snow."
4 people out of 6 found this review helpful
By Susie on Friday, April 11, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 26,500overall rating 7 of 10rating details
Pros: "Styling is nice."
Cons: "Interior "blind" spots; uncomfortable seats"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1
"I am not totally satisfied with the Sentra. MPG has never gone beyond 23 MPG. I do not do much highway driving, but expected much more out of the Sentra driving locally. There are a couple "blind" spots on the driver's side between door window and windshield, making it very difficult to see if someone is coming on my left (in my parking lot). A/C Heat vents do not allow A/C heat be directed to me. Seats are very uncomfortable."
2 people out of 4 found this review helpful