2019 Nissan Sentra essentials: Affordable, adequate, uninspiring wheels

The 2019 Nissan Sentra is offered in six trims ranging from the S ($17,890) to the Nismo ($25,940).

The 2019 Nissan Sentra is offered in six trims ranging from the S ($17,890) to the Nismo ($25,940).

The 2019 Nissan Sentra is offered in six trims ranging from the S ($17,890) to the Nismo ($25,940).

The 2019 Nissan Sentra is offered in six trims ranging from the S ($17,890) to the Nismo ($25,940).

The 2019 Nissan Sentra is offered in six trims ranging from the S ($17,890) to the Nismo ($25,940).

The 2019 Nissan Sentra is offered in six trims ranging from the S ($17,890) to the Nismo ($25,940).

The 2019 Nissan Sentra is offered in six trims ranging from the S ($17,890) to the Nismo ($25,940).

What is it: Positioned just above the Versa in size and price, the Sentra is Nissan’s compact sedan offering. The car is in its eighth generation, and while it has received updates over the years — including a facelift in 2016 — it looks and feels a lot like the model first introduced in 2012.

Key Competitors: Kia Forte, Toyota Corolla, Mazda 3

Base Price: $19,985 As-Tested Price: $21,490

Full review: Nissan Sentra Turbo SR review

Highlights: The Sentra SV is one rung up the model’s trim ladder. Compared to the base-level S, the SV gets a mandatory continuously variable transmission (CVT) and features like the Advanced Drive Assist display, a five-inch info screen that sits between the tach and the speedometer in the instrument cluster.

The 2019 Nissan Sentra SV comes with push-button ignition and dual-zone automatic climate control; the base S and Nismo offer a manual transmission.

The 2019 Nissan Sentra SV comes with push-button ignition and dual-zone automatic climate control; the base S and Nismo offer a manual transmission.

The 2019 Nissan Sentra SV comes with push-button ignition and dual-zone automatic climate control; the base S and Nismo offer a manual transmission.

The 2019 Nissan Sentra SV comes with push-button ignition and dual-zone automatic climate control; the base S and Nismo offer a manual transmission.

The 2019 Nissan Sentra SV comes with push-button ignition and dual-zone automatic climate control; the base S and Nismo offer a manual transmission.





Our Opinion: I’ll start with the good here: The Sentra SV is affordable, and despite the fact that it’s basically a car from 2012 under its skin, Nissan has done a fairly good job of keeping it updated with regard to technology, if not necessarily looks. In addition to features like blind spot warning, rear cross traffic alert and intelligent cruise control, all part of the reasonably priced $1,000 special edition package (it also gets you rear disc brakes instead of the standard drums!), the Sentra is Apple CarPlay and Android Auto-equipped. Nothing cutting edge, maybe, but current. And that might be all a commuter in search of affordable wheels might want.

Unfortunately, the CVT has a nasty way of sucking all of the fun out of this Nissan, and whining mightily about it in the process. A refined powertrain, this is not; a small-displacement, low-horsepower, low-torque naturally aspirated motor and a CVT has to be the least-enjoyable combo on the planet. If there’s cheap-car-fun to be had anywhere in the Sentra lineup, it’s probably in less expensive S-trimmed car with its six-speed manual transmission. Indeed, we’ve liked those well enough every time one has come through the test fleet. The Nismo range-topper is a nice sentiment, but doesn’t quite seem worth the money.

Base Price: $19,985

As-Tested Price: $21,490

Powertrain: 1.8-liter I4, CVT, FWD

Output: 124 hp @ 6,000 rpm, 125 lb-ft @ 3,600 rpm

Curb Weight: 2,895 pounds

Fuel Economy (written as city/highway/combined): 29/37/32 mpg

Pros: Current entertainment tech; (barely) sub-$20k starting price

Cons: Devoid of anything approaching charm; whiny CVT

 

Of course, this tester Sentra SV costs a mere $21,490. What do you expect in that range?

A little more than this, I think it’s fair to say. The subcompact sedan market is perhaps not what it once was, but there are plenty of relatively fresh Sentra competitors that just plain do it better. The Kia Forte benefits from being an all-new car with a more appealing design inside and out. The Toyota Corolla is…well, it’s a Corolla, but its powertrain is less grating. The Mazda 3 is a bit more expensive to start but far more rewarding to drive and much more pleasant to look at.

The Sentra, as well as the Versa and to a lesser extent the Altima, feel almost like products from a budget Nissan sub-brand rather than part of its broader product lineup. If you’re utterly loyal to Nissan for some reason, and assuming you want something more than merely adequate, inexpensive basic transportation, save up your money and wait for a big Sentra update (a new generation should be coming, and not a moment too soon) — or maybe keep on saving until you have enough for a new Maxima. There simply isn’t much for an enthusiast here.

–Graham Kozak, features editor

Options: Special edition package including 17-inch alloy wheels, power sliding glass moonroof with tilt feature, blind spot warning, rear cross traffic alert, intelligent cruise control, center room dim lamp, dual illuminated visor vanity mirrors, Special Edition badge ($1,000); all-weather package including heated front seats, heated outside mirrors ($300); carpeted floor mats with trunk mat ($205)

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