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 Very Reliable on Wednesday, February 26, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 165,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Quality and reliability"
Cons: "Interior is pretty bland. Almost like a shell."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"For the life of me, I can't figure out why Honda and Toyota get the credit for being the most reliable cars on the road. Everyone I know who drives a Nissan has had wonderful results. I got this car used with 17,000 miles on it and 4 1/2 years later with the odometer about to hit 165k it has never broken down, and still runs perfectly. I've had a couple of minor issues, an engine mount needed replacement, driver's side power window motor needed replacement, and heater/ac fan needed replacement, but that's it. It still runs as smooth and flawless as the day I bought it, and even with such high mileage, there aren't even any funny noises or quirks. Just change the oil, keep up with the maintenance, and don't beat on the car, and it will last you for years. Buy one for yourself and see."
1 person out of 1 found this review helpful
By el on Tuesday, February 18, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 48,000overall rating 7 of 10rating details
Pros: "great price, good on gas, roomy and comfortable"
Cons: "side mirrors & windows too small, poor visibility"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 8
"My husband drives a truck and I drive an Outback. We got this car as a commuter car if one of my husband's jobs was far away and too expensive to drive his truck.The gas mileage is around 30 mpg. A complaint we both have is that it is scary to drive on the Interstate because it is so small. We like the performance and it has enough pep. I do not like the design of the car (my husband thinks I'm nuts-he thinks it's a sharp looking car and comfortable to drive). I don't like the little windows in the back - it's hard to see when I'm backing up and the side mirrors are too small. I REALLY HATE those side mirrors. For such a tiny car I don't trust them when I'm changing lanes, and then the stupid windows in the side doors and back are so stinking small there are blind spots. The crash ratings aren't very good so I really don't like it as a commuter car."
By Bones on Saturday, February 15, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 24,000overall rating 5 of 10rating details
Pros: "Perfect interior size"
Cons: "The ride"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1
"This car rides like the shock absorbers don't work. The ride is bumpy and shaky, especially over railroad tracks. The interior is roomy. Otherwise the car was perfect for me. It accelerates very well getting on the expressway. The view out of the windows is large enough to see all the traffic especially for backing up. I don't like the car because of the ride. I feel like a bobble head bouncing around over every crack in the pavement."
1 person out of 1 found this review helpful
By rick on Tuesday, January 21, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 123,500overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "comfort-great gas milage, responsive handling"
Cons: "road noise"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"Bought new, kept up the service-no problems and comfortable on long trip. steady 29 plus mpg. only down side is road nose. Car still handles and drives like new with no oil useage between 4000 mile changes."
3 people out of 3 found this review helpful
By quickbob on Sunday, January 12, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 57,000overall rating 6 of 10rating details
Pros: "Agile, Nimble, Fuel Economy, quiet"
Cons: "Cheaply made, Exhaust issues, CVT issues"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 4
"I purchased this car brand new, and at first it was great. It is a very nimble and agile little car. Road noise is very little, and the power is fine unless there are multiple passengers, then it tends to be a bit sluggish. Fuel economy is not bad at ~30mpg depending on how heavy my foot is. However There have been a multitude of issues with it ranging from the CVT having weird issues that Nissan claims are normal, to my exhaust needing to be replaced from the headers back at just 30k miles because the metal was rotting away (not covered under warranty). The struts were also in need of replacement at just 20k miles (this was at least under warranty). There are also smaller nit-picky issues that are a constant annoyance. Bottom line: its a cheap car, and it shows as its aging. Regarding the number of repairs needed, and my whole exhaust needing replacement before my "warranty" expired, I will never purchase another Nissan vehicle in my life, and will recommend to my friends that they do the same."
3 people out of 3 found this review helpful
By Pete on Thursday, November 28, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 28,000overall rating 7 of 10rating details
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 5
"My main reason for selling is steering. It doesn't seem to track well. I don't know if its just my car or they are all like this. Wheel covers show premature abrasion. I drive strictly on paved roads at mainly urban speeds rarely exceeding 45 mph. The interior trim on the driver's side around the lower edge of the window has begun to show wear. I would expect such appearance issues to show up at 100000 miles not at 28000 miles. Factory recommends changing the CVT oil at every 60000 mile at a cost of $400 ouch!"
12 people out of 15 found this review helpful