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 Flaca on Saturday, January 24, 2015
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 54,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Great Gas Miles, Strong car"
Cons: "No GPS or Heated side windows"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"Amazing car, So far I receive a lots of offer to sell my car but I know better, not to sell. 2008 Nissan made this Sentra the best car compare with new models. Very Strong and smooth ride, comfortable and sport design. I bought my car customize even though I have to pay more money, was worth it. only one accident, behind driver hit me in the back and the Nissan took the hit very well. Strong car. After fixing I have no problems at all, is just like new. Car still shine like brand new because of care I give it. Every time I change the oil in the car, there are impress of how well I have taking car of the car. Wonderful gas miles. Car has power I have the CVT engine and I love it.I wish the car came with GPS and Heated side windows. Over all Love this car."
8 people out of 12 found this review helpful
By Mike on Friday, January 09, 2015
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 40,000overall rating 8 of 10rating details
Pros: "Dependable, economical, well equipped"
Cons: "CVT, Washer Nozzles in the Cold"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 7
"So I have had my Sentra Special Edition for over two years now. The majority of the car I love. Not real keen on the headlights, but that was not a deal breaker for me. I bought the car primarily for the GPS and navigation functions. I didn't want the distraction that would come with using my smartphone. That said, it is your base mode nav, and I probably could have gotten a cheaper price if I would have skipped the nav. My biggest issue with this car is the mismatch between the awesome 2.0 Ltr. engine, and the CVT. Our other car is a Prius, so I was somewhat used to a CVT transmission and expected similar results. After driving the car for close to 40,000 miles now, I would not own another CVT. The above description that you will save gas is very dependent on your driving style and conditions. E.G. if you are the type that likes to punch it and feel the horses under the hood, or you have to hit the gas to merge into traffic, the engine will out run the transmission every time. It will slip and you will find yourself at close to 6,000 RPMs only to be waiting for the transmission to stop whining and catch up to the engine, which will usually happen around 75 to 85 MPH, and only after you step out of the gas to allow it to catch up. Once you are there the transmission performs as expected. The other area with the transmission that you will have to get used to is how it breaks the car's forward motion as you come to a stop. To describe it is like the transmission goes into low gear and you are almost lunging forward as you come to a stop. You almost have to drive it to understand the sense you get. I took mine to the dealer within a month to ask if this was normal, and was told there is nothing wrong with your car. Funny my Prius doesn't lung. There is one additional point you may consider if you live in an area where the cold can get and stay around or below freezing. If so, know that the windshield washer nozzles will freeze, and stay frozen when you are driving. This can be a safety concern, especially when you are driving in snow and ice, or in thawing conditions where your windshield is covered with salt spray, or ice melt. Kinda hard to keep it clean if you can't get windshield washer fluid on the windshield. Otherwise, I like my car. A dealer called my over the holiday to ask if I would trade it in, and I responded no. So that should be some indication of the cars performance. I average around 30 miles per gallon even when I punch it. It handles very well, and can corner extremely tight, so much so it took some getting used to."
8 people out of 15 found this review helpful
By Hal on Thursday, December 04, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 74,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "East driving - comfortable - good acceleration - g"
Cons: "CVT transmission - just not thrilled with it."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"Bought this car used with about 44,000 miles on it, from a dealer's website. The car had been completely detailed, and looked and felt new. I like everything about this car except... the CVT transmission. I still prefer the old standard 4-speed automatic or best of all, the standard 4-5 speed stick shift.I've driven it twice New York to Texas, and once to California and back - comfortable to ride and drive. Good visibility. good mileage at better than 32mpg on the road. Will drive next week to Texas again, return after January 1 2015. Like the current (2012-2014 style changes better than the 2009 style). Looking to trade for a new one, or a low-mileage used car. Years ago, I had a Honda Accord with a 4-speed - was the best car I ever had. Maybe this one will approach that standard."
11 people out of 25 found this review helpful
By cathy on Tuesday, November 25, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 36,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"It hurts my back getting out of it. but it is a great car as far as driving, great gas milage.. I am selling it because it is. to small for a older person."
2 people out of 3 found this review helpful
By Schmidt on Tuesday, November 25, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 36,000overall rating 7 of 10rating details
Pros: "Good acceleration."
Cons: "Rattles, blind spot between front and side windows"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 5
"This is my second Nissan and I will not buy another. It drives well, has good acceleration, but does not heat or cool very fast and has some very annoying rattles. Considering how much I paid for this car, it should not rattle. I bought both brand new. Never another Nissan."
2 people out of 4 found this review helpful
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"
10 people out of 22 found this review helpful