The Nissan Sentra has been a part of the automaker's lineup since 1982, providing stiff competition for other vehicles in the affordable compact sedan segment. While the performance-oriented models aren't up to snuff with competitors, the regular Sentra is surprisingly roomy and has good fuel economy figures, making it an ideal choice for consumers looking for a no-frills daily driver.
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2018 Nissan Sentra Overview
What's New for 2018
The Sentra gets various updates for 2018, the most noteworthy being those that bring new technology to the vehicle. Automatic emergency braking is now standard throughout the entire lineup, except on manual transmission models. A rearview camera and a 5.0-inch display come standard on the S trim. The SV trim benefits from 16-inch aluminum-alloy wheels and dual-zone automatic temperature control. SR 1.8L and SL trims come with adaptive cruise control as standard. The Sentra's list of available packages has been reshuffled, as well, with the previous SL Premium Tech Package coming standard on the SL trim and the previous Nismo Tech Package being standard on Nismo trims.
Choosing Your Nissan Sentra
The Sentra comes with three different engine options. The base engine is a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 130 horsepower and 128 pound-feet of torque. Stepping up to a higher trim level brings the same engine, but with a different output (124 hp and 125 lb-ft of torque). SR Turbo and Nismo variants feature a 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that puts out 188 hp and 177 lb-ft of torque.
The base Sentra S comes with a six-speed manual transmission as standard, while a continuously variable transmission (CVT) is standard throughout the rest of the lineup. The Nismo trim has a CVT with a Manual Shift Mode as standard and has a six-speed manual gearbox as an option.
Fuel economy figures for the Sentra are competitive with other vehicles in the segment. The most efficient Sentra is rated by the EPA to get 29 miles per gallon in the city and 37 mpg on the highway. The Nismo trims are the least efficient with a fuel economy rating of 25 mpg in the city and 30 mpg on the highway.
With the new additions for 2018, the Sentra has a good amount of available safety features. The compact sedan can be fitted with blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and automatic emergency braking.
The Sentra is available in six trims that range from economical to sporty.
The entry-level S trim starts at $17,875 (prices include the $885 destination charge). A six-speed manual transmission is standard, while the CVT gearbox is an extra $1,285. Standard exterior features for the S trim include: 16-inch steel wheels, automatic halogen headlights, and power exterior mirrors. On the inside, the S trim features Bluetooth, Siri Eyes Free, a rearview camera, remote keyless entry, power door locks and windows, cloth seats, and a 5.0-inch color display. There are two available packages for the S trim: the Appearance Package ($495), which adds 16-inch 10-spoke aluminum-alloy wheels and a rear decklid spoiler, and the S Midnight Style Package ($495), which brings black exterior mirrors, bespoke 16-inch black alloy wheels, and a black rear spoiler.
The next step up is the SV trim that costs $19,970. The model gets the 124-hp 1.8-liter engine over the standard model and a CVT as standard. On the outside, the SV trim adds 16-inch aluminum-alloy wheels. The interior of the sedan benefits from more features, including: an advanced drive-assist display with a 5.0-inch color display, Nissan Intelligent Key with push button start, dual-zone automatic temperature control, premium cloth seats, a 370Z-inspired steering wheel, and three USB ports. The SV Premium Package ($990) that brings navigation, SiriusXM, sun visors with illuminated vanity mirrors, NissanConnect mobile apps, and a moonroof. The All-Weather Package ($300) brings heated exterior mirrors and heated front seats to the car.
The SR trim is priced from $21,385 and adds some premium touches over the lower trims. LED low-beam projector headlights, 17-inch wheels, fog lights, a sport rear fascia, lower body side sill extensions, a chrome exhaust finisher, a rear spoiler with an integrated LED brake light, and heated exterior mirrors are standard exterior features. The interior gets premium sport cloth seats, heated front seats, and sport interior trim as standard. There are three available packages for the SR trim. The Technology Package ($1,020) includes navigation, SiriusXM, rear cross-traffic alert, NissanConnect mobile apps, and blind-spot monitoring. The SR Premium Package ($3,560) adds an eight-speaker Bose audio system, HomeLink, SiriusXM, NissanConnect mobile apps, NissanConnect services, and a moonroof. Lastly, the Midnight Edition Package ($495) adds black touches to the sedan, including: a black V-Motion grille, black exterior mirrors, a black license plate finisher, black 17-inch wheels, black trim pieces for the fog lights, a black rear spoiler, and bespoke badges.
The SR Turbo shares a lot of the same features as the SR trim, but brings the 1.6-liter turbocharged engine to the sedan. The trim also benefits from some sport components and has a starting price tag of $23,375. The SR Turbo adds larger brakes and a tuned suspension and steering setup. The exterior doesn't get any changes and the only addition to the interior is a moonroof. The SR Turbo Premium Package ($2,590) adds leather seats, navigation, HomeLink, NissanConnect mobile apps, a six-way power driver's seat, SiriusXM, and a eight-speaker Bose audio system. The Midnight Edition Package ($495) brings the same black accents as on the non-turbo SR.
The SL trim starts at $24,325 and brings some luxurious touches to the Sentra. The SL trim comes with 17-inch wheels on the outside, and navigation, adaptive cruise control, NissanConnect Mobile Apps, Nissan voice recognition, SiriusXM, a HomeLink universal transceiver, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a six-way power driver's seat, leather seats, piano black interior trim, a 5.8-inch color touchscreen, and an eight-speaker Bose audio system to the inside of the sedan. There are no available packages for the SL trim.
The range-topping Nismo trim is the sportiest Sentra available. The trim starts at $26,675 and comes with a six-speed manual gearbox as standard, while a CVT is available as a no-price option. The Nismo has all of the same features as the SR Turbo trim, but adds some more performance components including a Nismo-tuned suspension and steering setup, 18-inch Nismo wheels, and Michelin Pilot Sport A/S 3+ tires. The exterior also gets some more features over the SR Turbo trim, including: LED daytime running lights, a Nismo aerodynamic body kit, a Nismo chrome exhaust finisher, Nismo black outside mirrors, and Nismo badges. On the inside, it comes with Nismo synthetic suede seat trim, Nismo signature red stitching, a Nismo Alcantara and leather-wrapped steering wheel, a Nismo leather-wrapped shift knob, carbon-fiber-like trim, and a black headliner.
The Sentra may not have the chops to go up against other performance-oriented compact cars, but the SR Turbo adds the right amount of sportiness and amenities to be a comfortable and enjoyable daily driver. Consumers wanting something that’s not as sporty should go with the SR trim as it includes tech, convenience, and handsome exterior features. The Technology Package is a good addition to the vehicle, as it adds more tech features at a reasonable price.
2018 Nissan Sentra Review
The 2018 Nissan Sentra is a compact car that provides everything you need to get back and forth from work, but doesn't bring much else to the table. The Sentra is roomy inside with solid fuel economy and it has standard emergency braking, but don't be fooled, this is purely a commuter car.
The one exception is the top Sentra Nismo trim which adds styling upgrades, an upgraded suspension, and a more rigid chassis, but, unfortunately, the car still lacks the special stuff to make it a true sport compact on par with cars like the Volkswagen GTI.
The best value in Sentra line lies with the SV trim level, even though it forgoes the new turbocharged engine. Unfortunately, the 1.6-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder doesn’t bring enough to the party to justify its higher cost, so it’s best to stick with the more fuel efficient and less-powerful 1.8-liter four cylinder.
The SV is reasonably equipped with standard dual-zone automatic climate control, three driving modes, a five-inch touchscreen infotainment system with SiriusXM satellite radio, and automatic emergency braking making it fairly well equipped for just shy of $20,000.
The only option packages available for the Sentra SV are the SV Premium Package and All-Weather Package. The heated seats of the $300 All-Weather Package would be nice to have, particularly in frostier climates, but there isn’t much to the $990 Premium Package, so we’d skip it.
Here’s how we would equip our Nissan Sentra.
- Model: 2018 Nissan Sentra SV
- Engine: 1.8-liter, inline four-cylinder
- Output: 124 hp/ 125 lb-ft
- Transmission:Continuously variable transmission
- Drivetrain: Front-wheel drive
- MPG: 29 City / 37 Hwy
- Options: All Weather Package ($300, heated front seats, heated outside mirrors)
- Base Price:$17,875 (including a $895 destination charge)
- Best Value Price:$20,270
The Sentra is not much of a performer on its own, and even with the SR Turbo and Nismo trims and their 188-horsepower turbocharged engines, there just isn’t enough power to actually feel fast. For the Nismo, it seems Nissan chose to spend their budget on making the chassis and suspension stiffer, but it doesn’t make the Sentra appreciably sportier, just less comfortable. The base Sentra also doesn’t inspire confidence in the handling department either, as it’s more set up for a comfortable and non-eventful ride to work.
While the 1.6-liter turbocharged four is more powerful than the base Sentra engine, it isn’t enough to make the Nismo quick enough to keep up with the hot hatch competition like the Volkswagen GTI or Focus ST, even though it’s priced roughly the same.
Other Sentra trims get a naturally aspirated inline-four. The engine is enough to get the car moving and through traffic, but you won’t be winning any races. Rivals provide considerably more power in their base models, and without the 1.8-liter's wheezing character. Fuel economy is pretty good, though, with the 1.8-liter getting up to 37 mpg on the highway and 29 mpg in the city.
While the Sentra isn’t an ugly car, it isn’t a good-looking car either. It’s just bland and characterless, which isn’t a good place to be with competitors like the Mazda3. Several trims have access to the Midnight Style appearance packages that add black trim and wheels to make it a bit more interesting to look at. The Sentra Nismo is the only trim that will turn heads, with its aero upgrades and red trim, but honestly most people still won’t know it’s anything special.
The interior more or less matches the interior. There isn’t anything to really complain about, but there isn’t anything to get excited about either. There’s very little that is aspirational in the cockpit of a Sentra, and you won’t forget that you’re in an economy car.
What the Sentra does have going for it, though, is a simply enormous backseat. The second row in this compact is roomier than the backseat of the mid-size Altima sedan – there's 37.4 inches of leg room in the Sentra versus 36.1 in the the Altima. The front seats aren't quite as comfortable, although we aren't blaming that on the seats themselves.
The Best and Worst Things
The Sentra’s greatest strength is its price at lower trim levels. You can get a fair amount of car for less than $20,000. Once you move beyond those lower trims, that value proposition starts to melt away as the competition heats up.
The Sentra suffers from so much unnecessary blandness. It’s mediocre at everything, but there’s nothing to set it apart. Cars like the Kia Rio and Ford Fiesta are cheaper and smaller than the Sentra, but somehow manage to feel more upscale with their styling.
Right For? Wrong For?
The Sentra is the right car for someone who just wants a safe choice at a good price to use to commute back and forth with. It doesn’t make a ton of effort to be anything more than that, but that’s okay. A lot of people don’t want or need anything more.
The Sentra would be a poor choice for someone who wants their car to excite them in any way. If you want to look back at your car as you walk away, don’t buy a Sentra.
The Bottom Line
In many ways, the Sentra is the vanilla ice cream of cars, but it can be well equipped at a fairly low price, including with some advanced safety features. But if you’re someone who wants a more exciting experience, the Sentra isn’t what you’re looking for.
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