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2018 Nissan Sentra

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2018 Nissan Sentra Expert Review

By Scott Oldham -- Contributing Editor

KBB Expert Rating: 8.2

A roomy compact sedan, the fuel-efficient 2018 Nissan Sentra is perennially popular with first-time car buyers and budget-minded consumers looking for a sporty 4-door. Now in its seventh generation, Nissan offers the new Sentra in a wide range of models including the fun-to-drive SR Turbo and the Sentra Nismo, which is a factory-tuned sports sedan with 188 horsepower. Not much smaller than the midsize Nissan Altima, the Sentra seats five and features a long list of available luxuries and the latest safety features including adaptive cruise-control and autonomous-braking systems. Most models are available with a manual transmission or a continuously variable automatic transmission. Prices start around $17,000 for the base Sentra S, but we recommend stepping up to at least the better-equipped Sentra SV for about $20,000. Competitors include the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, Ford Focus and Chevy Cruze.

You'll Like This Car If...

More spacious than many of its rivals, the 2018 Nissan Sentra is large for its class, which is one of the reasons it’s consistently one of America’s best-selling cars. Shoppers also appreciate the new Sentra’s well-earned reputation for reliability, comfort and style. Plus it's fun-to-drive personality and impressive fuel efficiency.

You May Not Like This Car If...

The new Nissan Sentra is available only as a 4-door sedan. If you’re looking for a hatchback, check out the Honda Civic, VW Golf, Mazda3 or Chevy Cruze. Enthusiast drivers should also look at the better-performing VW Golf GTI and Golf R, the Honda Civic Si and Type R and the Ford Focus ST and RS.

KBB Expert Ratings

  • 8.2
  • 8.4
  • 8.3
  • 6.9
  • 8.5
  • N/A
How It Ranks
What's New for 2018

For 2018 Nissan has made Automatic Emergency Braking standard on all models except those with a manual transmission and the Sentra Nismo. A Rearview Monitor and 5-inch color screen are now standard on all models including the base Sentra S. The Sentra SV gets 16-inch wheels and standard dual-zone climate control. Other trim levels also get a boost of standard equipment.

Driving the Sentra
Driving Impressions

The Sentra’s ride is comfortable and visibility is excellent. The interior is also pleasingly spacious and comfortable. It’s a pleasant sedan in the city, but it’s not a car you...

... would hesitate to road-trip through a few states either. Its interior is quiet on the highway, and its highway fuel economy is impressive. It’s easy to average over 35 mpg. Power is sufficient, but a drive in the mountains with a few on board will make you wish for more. With 188 horsepower speed comes easier for the Sentra SR Turbo and Sentra Nismo. These turbocharged models are quick and much more fun to drive. However, even in Nismo trim the Sentra’s handling is not the best in this class. The Sentra still uses an antiquated rear-suspension design that keeps it from turning corners as well as the Honda Civic, Mazda3 and Ford Focus, which are more athletic. The Sentra’s steering does feel good, however, and its brakes provide plenty of strong stopping power.

ACTIVE UNDERSTEER CONTROL
This system is standard on all Sentras except the base Sentra S with the manual transmission. It’s also used on the Nissan Altima. It improves both the performance and overall safety of the vehicle by lightly braking the inside front wheels during cornering, which enhances traction and the sedan’s ability to turn. Its operation is completely undetectable by the driver.

SAFETY SHIELD TECHNOLOGIES
The 2018 Sentra is one of Nissan’s most affordable sedans, but it still offers an impressive list of active safety systems. Automatic Emergency Braking is now standard on all automatic-transmission-equipped models except the Sentra Nismo. Intelligent Cruise Control, Blind Spot Warning and Rear Cross Traffic Alert are also available.

2018 Nissan Sentra Details
Interior

Inside, the 2018 Sentra offers one of the largest interiors in its class. In fact, according to the EPA's classification system, there's so much room inside the Sentra it's actually a midsize. There’s room for five, ample rear-seat legroom and large trunk capacity of 15.1 cubic feet. A 60/40-split fold-down rear seat is standard. The front seats are comfortable, and the interior layout is simple and intuitive. High-quality materials include soft-touch door armrests, which improve comfort on long drives. Our test car’s piano-black accents were a nice touch and the 5-inch color LED info screen between the main gauges was useful.

Exterior
2018 Nissan Sentra photo

Unlike its little brother, the frumpy Nissan Versa sedan, the 2018 Sentra is well proportioned and attractive. Its design closely mimics the shape of Nissan’s larger Altima sedan with athletic curves and a subtle flare of its wheel wells. Although it’s more conservative than some other designs in the class, the Sentra’s sculpted flanks and dramatic headlights and grille treatment keep it from being boring, while the touches of bright trim around the greenhouse, grille and door handles give it an upscale presence. SL and SR trim levels feature LED low-beam headlights as well. Nissan’s wheel designs are also attractive and the Sentra Nismo gets dark chrome, unique side sills, aggressive front and rear bumper covers and a red stripe.

Notable Equipment
Standard Equipment

The most basic 2018 Nissan Sentra is the S, and it comes with a 6-speed manual, three driving modes -- Eco, Normal and Sport -- and standard air conditioning. It's also equipped with Bluetooth phone and audio integration, a USB port, keyless entry and truck release, electroluminescent gauges, power windows, power mirrors, cruise control, auto headlights, and an audio system with four speakers. For extra cargo space, the rear seatbacks fold in a 60/40 split. Starting this year all new Sentras with the automatic transmission get Automatic Emergency Braking, and the automatic is standard on SV, SR and SL models.

Optional Equipment

The 2018 Sentra SL is the top dog, but the Sentra SR also comes with the LED low-beam headlights, larger 17-inch alloy wheels and keyless ignition, and it can be equipped with the same upgraded audio system that includes a 5.8-inch screen and navigation. SR and SL models also get heated outside mirrors, and the SL gets a moonroof and leather upholstery. Other available luxuries include Nissan Voice Recognition for audio and navigation and a long list of safety systems including Intelligent Cruise Control, Blind Spot Warning and Rear Cross Traffic Alert. The Sentra Nismo gets sports seats, red interior accents and a racy suede-and-leather-covered steering wheel.

Under the Hood

For 2018 Nissan’s Sentra comes with two engine choices. S, SV, SR and SL use a 1.8-liter 4-cylinder that, with only 130 horsepower (124 horsepower with the automatic transmission), is among the least powerful in the class. The SR Turbo gets a turbocharged 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine that bumps output to a more respectable 188 horsepower. The continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) works its magic to get the Sentra up to speed with little fuss, and passing power is fine as long as you plan a heartbeat ahead. There is a 6-speed manual transmission available, but only on the base model, the SR Turbo and the Sentra Nismo, and it actually hurts fuel economy, rather than helping it.

1.8-liter inline-4 (6-speed manual)
130 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm (124 horsepower w/CA emissions)
128 lb-ft of torque @ 3,600 rpm (125 lb-ft w/CA emissions)
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 27/35 mpg

1.8-liter inline-4 (CVT automatic)
124 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm
125 lb-ft of torque @ 3,600 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 29/37 mpg

1.6-liter turbocharged inline-4
188 horsepower @ 5,600 rpm
177 lb-ft of torque @ 1,600-5,200 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 26/32 mpg (manual), 27/33 mpg (automatic)

The 2018 Nissan Sentra S with a manual transmission comes with a Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of about $18,000, including the $885 destination charge. On the other side of the pricing spectrum, the Sentra SL starts around $24,500, which is a pretty solid bargain for a car with adaptive cruise, blind-spot detection and forward-emergency braking. The SR Turbo starts around $23,000. Prices are on the lower side for the segment, undercutting cars like the Honda Civic and Ford Focus, but coming in a bit higher than the Kia Forte. An SR Turbo starts around $23,000 and the Nismo model is over $26,000. As a long-term prospect, the 2018 Sentra's resale value is about average for the compact-sedan class, but its solidity and refinement make it feel like it's worth more. Be sure to check the Kelley Blue Book Fair Purchase Price to see what others in your area are paying for the 2018 Sentra.

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