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 jed on Wednesday, November 05, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 60,000overall rating 2 of 10rating details
Pros: "It runs well! Has a good sized trunk."
Cons: "Very poor visibility, too many blind spots."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1
"I truly dislike this car for many reasons, but the foremost reason is the poor visibility and numerous blind spots. My second item of dislike is the dashboard. The dials are very difficult to read during the day. The orange glow of the nighttime is not very pleasant either. The floor carpets finally had to be removed from the driver's side due to their constant movement under the accelerator. It has been reliable, however, and that is a plus"
3 people out of 6 found this review helpful
By ImPaul2008 on Thursday, October 23, 2014
I owned and sold this car
Reason: needed larger vehicle
Pros: "Easy comfortable ride - lots of interior space."
Cons: "Trunk only opened manually. Felt all the bumps."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I bought this car at the end of 2008 - just before the gov't began offering tax incentives to buy vehicles ... darn! Kept it for about 6 years. Anyway - I always loved this car, except for the fact that when driving in the city or any area where the roads weren't in great shape, you could feel every bump. Didn't bother me as much at first, but now that I'm in my 60's started to bother me. I also didn't like that despite being 2nd tier trim, the trunk only opened manually - not by the key-less entry remote. I always got great fuel mileage of at least 25 mpg and more on the road. I was always amazed by how much I could fit into the car if need be. For Example, my wife and I bought new kitchen cabinets that were boxed. We were able to fit all the cartons (the cabinets were not completely set up) into the car with a bit of room to spare. The guys at the cabinet store thought we were crazy trying to fit it all in, but then apologized after the fact when they saw how easily it all fit in. The car was great on long trips - very comfortable to drive for long hours. And if I wanted to take a snooze, very comfortable to pull off the road and lay the seats back to relax. A cinch to park - Great vehicle for city driving & parking Carried my large dog comfortably in the back seat. The rear seats folded 60/40 - only they didn't lay completely flat. Had no trouble fitting lumber, etc in the car - and if it was really too long, just kept the trunk open with a flag on the stuff sticking out. Soundproofing was pretty good - didn't hear trucks blaring next to us on the road and could easily carry on conversations and on the phone w/o issue. Great visibility - except for a blind spot or 2 on drivers side back window. Only major work needed was that after 45,000 miles (4 1/2 yrs) - I needed to replace the front struts/shocks which were about $700. The bumps really felt awful at that point, so I should've realized there was a problem. Only other major expense I had was replacing all four tires in 2012, all 4 brake drums in 2012 and the battery in 2013. Also the fog lights went a couple of times and were more expensive than I thought they'd be to have done. Other than that never had to bring it in for any service except for the brakes and oil changes - and warranty replacement of air stem sensors. Minor things began to go shortly after warranty ended, example a couple buttons on the radio - which were impossible to locate. The a/c heater fan, didn't kick in as easily after warranty ended, but still worked fine. Also - had to replace (under warranty) the air stems which let you know pressure was low. Brakes were obviously rusted from the get-go (you could see it from outside). The cheap plastic wheel covers - were especially a problem if I bumped the tires against curb - broke easily. With all the larger vehicles on the road (SUVs) I finally decided to sell the car so I could get something bigger so it was easier to see in front of me, otherwise I'd still have it today. I was able to sell it for $8500 w/o a problem - and that was after having 2 accidents, one of which required frame repair in back which impacted resale value."
5 people out of 9 found this review helpful
By Gin on Wednesday, October 22, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 27,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "So worth the price"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I have really enjoyed this car and only need to upgrade because I need a newer model with a back up camera."
1 person out of 2 found this review helpful
By 12sentra on Saturday, August 30, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 17,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "comfortable, quiet, good interior space"
Cons: "engine lacks horsepower"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"This vehicle is a good everyday commuter. Comfortable, quiet with good interior space. Exterior is nice looking, not flashy, but not old either. Have owned this certified Sentra S for almost 1 year and have no real complaints other than the 140hp engine is somewhat lacking. Overall I would recommend this vehicle for the great gas mileage which I average 35+ mpg."
9 people out of 15 found this review helpful
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."
9 people out of 14 found this review helpful
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."
26 people out of 40 found this review helpful