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2021 Nissan Sentra Performance

#12 out of 12 in Compact Cars

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2021 Nissan Sentra Performance Review


Performance: 6.1

The 2021 Nissan Sentra trails its classmates when it comes to performance. Its handling and ride are both fine, if a bit dull, and while its engine suffices for daily driving, lackluster acceleration and the continuously variable automatic transmission hold it back.

  • "Unfortunately, the Sentra's superficial qualities don't translate into fun behind the wheel as well as, say, in the pretty and sporty Mazda 3. We're also not impressed with the Sentra's lethargic four-cylinder engine or the choppy ride rendered by the suspension in the sportiest SR model." -- Car and Driver
  • "For an affordable compact car, the new Sentra is a competent handler. But the Sentra has a dynamic Achilles heel. While the 2.0-liter engine is sufficient, it's mated to a continuously variable automatic transmission that is programmed for high fuel economy above all else. So even in routine driving there's a delay before power is available for merging or passing." -- Edmunds (2020)
  • "Power aside, the Sentra isn't half bad to drive. The independent front and multi-link rear suspensions give the sedan a compliant ride quality, nicely tuned for city and highway driving alike. The Sentra won't round a corner with the same verve or engagement as a Honda Civic or Mazda3, but the steering and chassis are still fine enough for the kind of driving Sentra owners will do most." -- CNET (2020)

Engine Options, Horsepower, and Acceleration

  • Engine: 2.0-liter four-cylinder with 149 horsepower and 146 pound-feet of torque
  • Drivetrain: front-wheel drive
  • Transmission: continuously variable automatic (CVT)

The Sentra’s engine supplies sufficient power for getting around town, and it helps this sedan feel decently quick from a stop. However, the engine struggles at higher speeds and drones under hard acceleration. Furthermore, the transmission doesn’t always supply power quickly enough when it's needed.

  • "While the gearless automatic simulates traditional gearchanges, it doesn't alter the fact that the Sentra we tested was noisy and slow, especially when trying to pass at highway speeds." -- Car and Driver
  • "There’s a Sport mode that tightens the engine’s throttle response and retunes the transmission to hold lower ratios longer at part throttle. Unfortunately, the CVT remains a fun killer in a car that’s otherwise dynamically well sorted." -- Autoblog (2020)
  • "The Sentra's powertrain is similarly inoffensive. Nissan's four-pot is nowhere near segment-leading from a power perspective, but for most buyers it'll get the job done just fine. It's relatively smooth off the line – only getting a touch surgey in heavy stop-and-go traffic – and it makes power consistently throughout its rev band." -- Motor Trend (2020)

MPG Estimates

The base Sentra gets 29 mpg in the city and 39 mpg on the highway, which is about what you’d expect for a compact car. The slightly sportier SR trim returns estimates of 28 mpg in the city and 37 mpg on the highway.

Handling and Braking

For the most part, the Sentra provides a smooth ride, although larger road bumps may jostle occupants. Body roll is kept in check, and the steering is well-weighted, but there’s not enough feedback for this car to feel sporty.

  • "Whereas the old Sentra wheezed, groaned, and floated down the road, the 2020 model feels solid, competent, and quite nice to drive. The biggest improvement is in ride quality and body control." -- Motor Trend (2020)
  • "The Sentra rides smoothly and is composed over bumps. In our limited initial testing, we found the Sentra dealt with potholes, speed humps, and uneven freeway surfaces quite well. We were also impressed by Nissan's improvements to the Sentra's steering and handling. Steering is precise and nicely weighted, and there's even a bit of communication from the road. Body roll is present but controlled, and the Sentra handles predictably through corners." -- Edmunds (2020)
  • "Yet even though the steering has ample heft, there's not enough feedback to encourage anything beyond a comfortably brisk pace. Ride quality is firm but acceptable most of the time. Medium-size bumps were especially noticeable." -- Car and Driver (2020)
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2021 Nissan Sentra

MSRP: $19,410 - $21,750

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