By KBB.com Editors
KBB Expert Rating: 6.8
The Sentra has been one of Nissan's most successful cars year after year, decade after decade. The 2012 Nissan Sentra sedan continues to appeal to buyers for one reason: value. Available in four trims (2.0, 2.0 S, 2.0 SL and 2.0 SR), the Sentra runs the gamut from simple and affordable to quite nicely equipped but still very affordable. Thanks to its Xtronic Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT), the 2012 Nissan Sentra sedan posts some very respectable fuel-economy numbers, and its 2.0-liter engine is far from underpowered. With styling that is close enough to the mainstream as to be widely acceptable, the Sentra's ability to appeal to a varied consumer audience is yet another key to its success. With the performance-oriented SE-R and SE-R SPEC V rounding out the line, the 2012 Nissan Sentra sedan proves its versatile design will continue to remain competitive against heavy hitters like the Honda Civic, Ford Focus, Chevrolet Cruze and Toyota Corolla, as well as newcomers such as the Hyundai Elantra and Kia Forte.
If a roomy, comfortable interior and lots of low-priced, high-end features mean more to you than a flashy exterior and go-kartlike handling, the 2012 Nissan Sentra sedan is a great choice. Its Xtronic CVT transmission, which is standard on all but the base trim, is so efficient it delivers better fuel economy than the 6-speed manual.
If you are seeking a flashy exterior and go-kartlike handling, not to mention a more powerful engine and a manual transmission on the top-of-the-line trim, the Mazda Mazda3, Honda Civic or VW Golf is probably better suited to your needs. If you can afford to spend a bit more, the 2012 Nissan Sentra SE-R might also be a better choice.
Changes for the 2012 Nissan Sentra sedan are limited to a new Technology Package on the S trim, and a Special Edition package for the SL that combines the Technology, Convenience and Moonroof packages into one low-cost bundle.
Driving Impressions Because most people don't dart in and out of traffic or attack S-curves with Formula1-like zeal, the 2012 Nissan Sentra sedan has been infused with the appropriate balance between capable...handling characteristics and a smooth, quiet ride. The front-disc/rear-drum brake setup works fine for the Sentra, and is another reason Nissan is able to keep the cost of this vehicle so low. The 2012 Nissan Sentra's small size and quick steering make it easy to move about in city traffic (not to mention to parallel park), while on the highway the car's interior remains commendably quiet. Although engine power is hardly overwhelming, the 2012 Nissan 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 6-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 costs a mere $650, an amazing price for a factory-installed system.
Designed with American-sized buyers in mind, the 2012 Nissan Sentra sedan's well-appointed interior provides plenty of room to stretch out in all directions. Large door openings both front and rear mean you won't have to squeeze to fit into the Sentra, and its seat cushions are both wide and long, providing good support for tall drivers. Because Nissan knows we Americans love to take our gadgets everywhere we go, the Sentra is given a number of storage compartments including a laptop-sized locking glove compartment and a deep 13.1-cubic-foot trunk that can be expanded via the 60/40 split-folding rear seat. Interior color choices include beige or charcoal punctuated by either aluminum or faux-wood accents (depending on trim). The 2012 Nissan Sentra sedan's large and clearly labeled controls are easy for all to see and operate. Sadly, the same cannot be said for the charcoal-and-orange LCD displays for the fuel and temperature indicators.Exterior
The 2012 Nissan Sentra sedan retains the upright angular style that filtered down through Nissan's line a few years back. While not as sleek as the new Ford Focus or Hyundai Elantra, the 2012 Nissan Sentra sedan's styling is bold and attractive, and its tall roof makes for impressive headroom in this segment. The Sentra's long 105-inch wheelbase is responsible for the car's smooth ride and stable handling; it also makes the Sentra look much bigger than a standard compact car. How attractive you want your 2012 Nissan Sentra sedan to be depends on how much you're willing to invest. Where the base 2.0 and 2.0 S trims feature steel rims with wheel covers and simple exterior treatment, the 2.0 SR and SL gain 16-inch alloy wheels. The SR also touts foglights, a sport grille and front fascia, smoked headlight surrounds and smoked taillights, and chrome exhaust finishers.
The 2012 Nissan Sentra 2.0 sedan includes a 6-speed manual transmission, front, front-side and side-curtain airbags, anti-lock brakes (ABS), 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 the Xtronic CVT automatic transmission, standard iPod integration, 6-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. The SE-R and Spec V add features such as sport seats, special trim, more instrumentation and unique alloy wheels.
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. The Technology Package, which costs just $650, brings navigation with XM NavTraffic and XM Satellite Radio as well as a USB interface. The 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 8-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 5-inch navigation/radio system that includes XM NavTraffic real-time traffic information updates.
All 2012 Nissan Sentra 2.0 sedans share an identical 140-horsepower version of Nissan's 2.0-liter, 16-valve 4-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 0-to-60-mph 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 6-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. The 2.5-liter in the Spec V employs more high-tech features, such as a dual-branch exhaust manifold and revised piston crown shape to create a 10.5:1 compression ratio and higher horsepower and torque output.
2.0-liter in-line 4
140 horsepower @ 5,100 rpm
135 Horsepower @ 5,100 rpm (California)
147 lb-ft of torque @ 4,800 rpm
142 lb-ft of torque @4,800 rpm (California)
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 24/31 (manual), 27/34 (automatic)
2.5-liter in-line 4
177 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm
200 horsepower @ 6,600 rpm (Spec V)
172 lb-ft of torque @ 2,800 rpm
180 lb-ft of torque @ 5,200 rpm (Spec V)
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 21/28 (manual), 24/30 (automatic)
By Lynne on Sunday, March 15, 2015
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 93,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Roomy, mileage, response time."
Cons: "No Cruise control :("
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"For the basic of "basics", this Nissan is a Great Car. It has no options however, I have always liked Nissans. The ride is smooth, the mileage is very reasonable, there is plenty of room for 5 adults, the trunk space is amazing also. On the freeway it is a nice, quiet, smooth ride. The response for needing to "GO" or pass, is excellent. I have nothing bad to say about this car. It was a gift but if I were out looking to buy a car and my finances were limited, I would definitely consider buying this car."
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."
10 people out of 18 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."
3 people out of 5 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."
4 people out of 6 found this review helpful