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Is the Nissan Sentra a Good Car?

a close up of a steering wheel

The Nissan Sentra has long been a familiar sight on Canadian roads, with its compact and affordable package attracting buyers from coast to coast. As one of the best-selling cars in its class, the Sentra’s combination of value, fuel efficiency, and Nissan’s reputation for reliability have made it a popular choice among practical-minded drivers.


However, in the fiercely competitive compact sedan segment, simply being a recognized name is not enough. With rivals like the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, and Hyundai Elantra constantly evolving and raising the bar, the question remains: Is the Nissan Sentra truly a good car for Canadian drivers, or are there better options out there?


To answer that, we’ll take an in-depth look at how the Sentra measures up in key areas like performance, interior space, ride and handling, safety features, and overall ownership satisfaction. By examining both its strengths and weaknesses, we can determine if this popular compact sedan deserves its place among Canada’s top choices, or if it’s starting to show its age against fresher competition.

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Performance: Engine Options and Power Ratings

When it comes to performance, the Nissan Sentra offers a choice of two four-cylinder engine options in Canada. The base engine is a 2.0-liter unit that produces 149 horsepower and 145 lb-ft of torque. While these figures are respectable for a compact sedan, they lag behind key rivals like the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla.

The Civic’s base 2.0-liter engine generates 158 horsepower and 138 lb-ft of torque, giving it a slight edge over the Sentra in outright power. The Corolla, on the other hand, offers a 1.8-liter engine with 139 horsepower and 126 lb-ft of torque, making it the least powerful of the trio.

For those seeking a bit more oomph, Nissan offers an optional 1.6-liter turbocharged engine in the Sentra SR trim. This boosted powerplant cranks out a healthy 188 horsepower and 177 lb-ft of torque, allowing it to outmuscle both the Civic and Corolla in terms of raw performance numbers.

While horsepower and torque figures don’t tell the whole story, they do provide a good baseline for comparing the acceleration and passing power of these compact sedans. The turbocharged Sentra SR is likely the quickest of the bunch, while the base Sentra and Corolla trail the Civic’s naturally aspirated engine in overall output.

 

Real-World Fuel Efficiency for City and Highway Driving

When it comes to fuel economy, the Nissan Sentra delivers impressive numbers that make it a smart choice for cost-conscious Canadian drivers. The base Sentra S trim with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and continuously variable transmission (CVT) is rated at 8.1 L/100km in the city and 6.3 L/100km on the highway by Natural Resources Canada. These figures put it among the leaders in the compact sedan segment.

Stepping up to the higher Sentra SV and SR trims with the same powertrain yields slightly better fuel efficiency ratings of 7.9 L/100km city and 6.1 L/100km highway. This improvement is likely due to the higher trims’ lower rolling resistance tires and aerodynamic enhancements.

In real-world driving conditions, owners report the Sentra easily meets or even exceeds its official ratings, especially with a light foot on the highway. Many have achieved impressive numbers in the 5.5-6.0 L/100km range during highway cruising. City mileage tends to align closely with the published figures.

Compared to key rivals like the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, and Hyundai Elantra, the Sentra holds its own in terms of fuel efficiency. The Civic rates 7.6 L/100km city and 6.0 L/100km highway with its base engine, while the Corolla checks in at 7.8 L/100km city and 6.2 L/100km highway. The Elantra achieves 7.8 L/100km city and 6.0 L/100km highway in its most efficient configuration.

 

Interior Space: Legroom, Headroom and Cargo Capacity

When it comes to interior roominess, the Nissan Sentra holds its own against other compact sedans in the Canadian market. While not class-leading, the cabin dimensions provide adequate space for four adults to ride in reasonable comfort.

In the rear seating area, the Sentra offers 37.4 inches of legroom. This falls slightly behind the Honda Civic’s 37.4 inches and the Toyota Corolla’s 37.6 inches. However, most passengers under 6 feet tall will still find the rear legroom acceptable, even for longer journeys.

Headroom is more generous, with 36.7 inches in the rear outback. This bests the Civic by 0.2 inches and matches the Corolla. Taller occupants should be able to sit upright without brushing against the ceiling.

The trunk measures 15.1 cubic feet, putting it on par with the cargo hauling abilities of key rivals. The Civic has a slight edge at 15.5 cubic feet, while the Corolla lags just behind at 13.1 cubic feet. The Sentra’s trunk is a nicely squared-off shape that makes it easy to fit larger suitcases or boxes inside.

 

Cabin Practicality and Ease of Use

Beyond the numbers on interior space, the Nissan Sentra excels in everyday cabin practicality and user-friendly design. The front seats provide good support and a range of adjustments to accommodate drivers of different sizes. Outward visibility from the driver’s seat is excellent, with slim roof pillars and well-positioned mirrors aiding sightlines.

Storage space for smaller items is abundant throughout the cabin. The door pockets are generously sized to hold water bottles and other loose items. The center console bin provides secure storage, and there’s a deep cubby at the front of the center console perfect for smartphones. Rear passengers also get door pockets and cupholders in the fold-down armrest.

For families, the Sentra makes installing child seats a straightforward process. The rear doors open wide, and the LATCH anchor points are easily accessible. Even with a rear-facing infant seat installed, there’s still adequate room for a front passenger’s legs. The sloping roofline may make loading taller rear-facing seats more challenging, but most will fit without major issues.

Overall, the Sentra’s cabin feels well-thought-out for everyday driving needs. Controls for the audio and climate systems are simple and within easy reach. The available 8-inch touchscreen is responsive and intuitive to use. There are plenty of USB ports to keep devices charged. With good small-item storage and family-friendly versatility, the Sentra makes an excellent pick for those prioritizing cabin practicality.

 

Ride Quality Over Bumps and Imperfections

While the Nissan Sentra may not be a luxury vehicle, its ride quality is surprisingly smooth and composed over most road surfaces. The suspension does a commendable job of absorbing bumps and imperfections, providing a comfortable driving experience even on rougher city streets.

The front MacPherson strut and rear multi-link suspension work together to soak up road irregularities without excessive bouncing or harshness. Even larger potholes and expansion joints are dampened effectively, preventing that jarring sensation that plagues some competitors.

On the highway, the Sentra remains pleasantly settled, gliding over expansion joints and grooved pavement with minimal disturbance transmitted into the cabin. Longer trips are made more enjoyable by the supple ride and lack of constant fidgeting over surface imperfections.

The suspension tuning strikes a good balance between ride comfort and body control. While there is some expected lean during aggressive cornering maneuvers, the Sentra keeps body motions nicely in check during normal driving situations. This composure pays dividends in creating an overall sense of solidity and stability on the road.

 

Handling Dynamics: Steering Feel and Cornering Ability

When it comes to driving dynamics and handling, the Nissan Sentra delivers a competent but unremarkable experience. The electric power steering system provides decent responsiveness and feedback at lower speeds, making the Sentra easy to maneuver in city traffic and tight parking lots. However, as speeds increase, the steering feel becomes rather numb and disconnected from the road.

In terms of cornering ability, the Sentra exhibits noticeable body lean when pushed hard into turns. The suspension does an adequate job of keeping the car planted, but there’s a fair amount of body roll that becomes unsettling when driving spiritedly on twisty roads. Grip levels from the standard all-season tires are sufficient for everyday driving, but driving enthusiasts will likely find the Sentra’s cornering prowess underwhelming compared to rivals like the Honda Civic and Mazda3.

While the Sentra’s handling dynamics are far from sporty, they strike a reasonable balance for a compact sedan focused on affordable transportation. The car remains stable and composed under normal driving conditions, though it lacks the poise and agility of segment leaders when driven aggressively. Buyers prioritizing engaging driving dynamics may want to explore alternatives, but for most Canadians, the Sentra’s handling should prove perfectly adequate for their daily commute and highway travels.

 

Safety Ratings from IIHS and NHTSA

When it comes to safety, the Nissan Sentra has earned respectable ratings from two of the most reputable safety organizations in North America: the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

In IIHS testing, the 2023 Nissan Sentra received the highest possible rating of “Good” in six out of seven crashworthiness tests, including the challenging small overlap front test. However, it scored a “Marginal” rating in the driver-side small overlap front test, which simulates a frontal collision with another vehicle or fixed object.

The IIHS also evaluated the Sentra’s available crash prevention technologies, awarding it a “Superior” rating for its vehicle-to-vehicle front crash prevention system. This system earned top marks for its ability to avoid collisions in both the 12 mph and 25 mph test scenarios. The Sentra’s child seat anchors were rated as “Acceptable” for ease of use.

Over at NHTSA, the 2023 Nissan Sentra secured an overall five-star safety rating, the highest possible score. In the frontal crash test, it received four stars, while side crash testing yielded five stars. The Sentra also performed well in the rollover assessment, earning four stars.

It’s worth noting that these safety ratings apply to the 2023 model year Sentra. Ratings can vary slightly from year to year as vehicles undergo design changes and updated testing procedures. Prospective buyers should always check the latest ratings before making a purchase decision.

 

Advanced Driver Assistance Technologies

The Nissan Sentra offers a comprehensive suite of advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) to enhance safety and provide an extra layer of protection on Canadian roads. While availability varies across trim levels, key ADAS features include:

Automatic Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection: This system can automatically apply the brakes to avoid or mitigate a frontal collision with another vehicle or pedestrian. It provides an invaluable safeguard against distracted driving or failure to react in time.

Blind Spot Warning: When another vehicle enters the Sentra’s blind spot zones on either side, this system illuminates a warning indicator light on the corresponding side mirror. It helps prevent dangerous lane change maneuvers that could lead to a collision.

Rear Cross Traffic Alert: When reversing out of a parking spot or driveway, this technology can detect approaching vehicles that may be out of the driver’s line of sight. Audible and visual alerts warn of potential impact from crossing traffic.

Lane Departure Warning: Using a camera to monitor lane markings, this system alerts the driver if the vehicle begins to drift unintentionally out of its lane without signaling. Gentle steering input can help nudge the car back into its intended path.

Rear Automatic Braking: When reversing at low speeds, this feature can automatically apply the brakes if an object or vehicle is detected behind the Sentra to prevent a backing collision.

While not all ADAS technologies are standard on entry-level Sentra trims, the higher SV, SR and SR Premium models offer most of these driver aids as either standard or optional equipment. Enabling these cutting-edge safety systems can provide added confidence and security for Canadian drivers.

 

Nissan Sentra Ownership Costs Over Time

When considering the long-term ownership costs of a vehicle, maintenance and repair expenses play a major role. The Nissan Sentra has earned a reputation for being a relatively affordable car to maintain, though some models have experienced more issues than others.

According to data from RepairPal, the average annual repair cost for a Nissan Sentra is around $483. This places it slightly below the average for compact cars, which is $526 per year. However, the frequency of unscheduled repairs is slightly higher than average, with Sentras requiring a trip to the mechanic about 0.4 times per year compared to 0.3 for other compact cars.

Some of the most commonly reported issues with the Sentra include problems with the brakes, electrical systems, and engine cooling system. Owners have noted that brake pads and rotors tend to wear out faster than expected, while electrical gremlins like failing sensors or wiring issues can be frustrating to diagnose and repair.

That said, the Sentra’s overall reliability scores from organizations like J.D. Power and Consumer Reports have been about average for its class in recent years. Proper maintenance, such as regular oil changes and fluid flushes, can help maximize the Sentra’s longevity and reduce the likelihood of major repairs down the road.

It’s also worth noting that repair costs can vary significantly based on the specific model year, trim level, and whether maintenance is performed at the dealership or an independent repair shop. As with any vehicle, following the recommended maintenance schedule in the owner’s manual is crucial for keeping long-term costs in check.

 

Owner Feedback and Satisfaction Scores

To gauge real-world opinions on the Nissan Sentra, it’s important to look at feedback from actual Canadian owners. Online forums and review sites provide a wealth of insights from those who have experienced living with the Sentra day-to-day.

On popular Canadian automotive forums like RedFlagDeals and RevScene, Sentra owners generally report being satisfied with their vehicles. Many praise the car’s reliable nature, affordable running costs, and decent fuel economy. However, some owners mention issues with interior quality, lack of power, and road noise at highway speeds.

“I’ve had my 2019 Sentra for almost 3 years now and it’s been a great commuter car. No major issues, just basic maintenance. The fuel mileage is really good for city driving too.” – RevScene user, Toronto

“The engine is pretty underpowered, but I knew that going in. For just getting around town, it works fine. The biggest gripe is probably the amount of road and wind noise on the highway.” – RedFlagDeals user, Vancouver

On review aggregator sites like Edmunds and Cars.com, the Sentra scores above average for its segment. Edmunds readers give it a 4.2/5 overall rating, while Cars.com user reviews average 4.3/5 stars. Positive points mentioned include good value, ample standard features, and Nissan’s reputation for reliability. Negatives cited echo the forums – lacking power, excessive noise levels, and lower-rent interior materials.

 

Mechanical Durability and Resale Value

When it comes to long-term ownership, the Nissan Sentra has demonstrated reasonably good mechanical durability and resale values that are competitive within its class. With proper maintenance and care, Sentra owners can expect their vehicles to provide reliable transportation for many years and miles.

According to data from Canadian Black Book, a leading provider of vehicle valuations, the Nissan Sentra retains around 45-50% of its original value after three years of ownership. This puts it slightly above average for the compact sedan segment. After five years, Sentras tend to hold onto roughly 30-35% of their initial price when purchased new.

Resale values do vary based on factors like trim level, mileage, accident history, and overall condition. Well-maintained Sentra models with desirable equipment packages and lower mileage will fetch higher resale prices. The Sentra’s reputation for affordable running costs and Nissan’s complimentary basic maintenance plan for the first few years also help bolster its long-term value proposition.

In terms of mechanical longevity, the Sentra has proven itself as a durable and reliable option when cared for properly. Engine issues are relatively uncommon, with the 1.8L and 2.0L four-cylinder motors demonstrating few major problems if maintenance schedules are followed. The continuously variable transmission (CVT) has been a source of some complaints, but Nissan has made refinements to improve its durability in recent years.

With reasonable expectations for a vehicle in this price range, Sentra owners can anticipate getting 150,000-200,000 km of service before major repairs become necessary. Avoiding deferred maintenance, adhering to service intervals, and taking care of any issues promptly will help maximize the Sentra’s longevity and residual value down the road.

 

Comparing the Sentra to Top Compact Sedan Rivals

While the Nissan Sentra holds its own as an affordable and practical compact sedan, it faces stiff competition from well-established rivals like the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla. In a head-to-head matchup, how does the Sentra measure up against these segment leaders?

When it comes to performance, the Sentra’s base 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine produces 149 horsepower and 146 lb-ft of torque. This puts it slightly behind the Civic’s 158-horsepower 2.0-liter and the Corolla’s 169-horsepower 2.0-liter. While the power deficit isn’t massive, the Sentra can feel a bit sluggish during highway merging or passing maneuvers compared to its sprightlier competitors.

Handling is another area where the Civic and Corolla have an edge. With sharper steering and a more composed ride, they inspire greater confidence when tackling twisty roads. The Sentra’s softly-tuned suspension prioritizes ride comfort over agility, leading to noticeable body lean when pushed hard through the corners.

Cabin space is fairly comparable across this group, with the Sentra offering generous headroom and legroom for front and rear passengers. However, its 14.3 cubic feet of trunk volume falls behind the cavernous 15.1 cubic feet in the Civic and the Corolla’s 13.1 cubic feet.

When it comes to interior quality, the Sentra lags its rivals with an abundance of hard plastics and subpar materials, especially on lower trim levels. The Civic and Corolla simply feel more upscale and solidly constructed.

On the safety front, the Sentra holds its own with top scores from both the IIHS and NHTSA. However, advanced driver aids like adaptive cruise control and blind spot monitoring are optional extras, whereas the Civic and Corolla make some of these technologies standard across the lineup.

 

Best Trim Levels and Option Packages to Consider

When it comes to choosing the ideal Nissan Sentra trim level and option packages for Canadian buyers, there are a few standout choices that offer excellent value and features tailored to our driving needs.

The mid-range SV trim is a popular pick, providing a solid blend of amenities and affordability. It comes equipped with heated front seats, a heated steering wheel, blind spot monitoring, and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto integration – all highly desirable for Canadian winters and commuting. The available Premium Package adds even more sought-after extras like a power driver’s seat, dual-zone automatic climate control, and adaptive cruise control.

For those seeking a more premium experience, the range-topping SR trim is worth considering. It builds upon the SV’s features with sportier styling cues, a turbocharged engine for increased performance, and an upgraded infotainment system. The SR Premium Package brings heated rear seats, a heated steering wheel, and Nissan’s innovative Around View Monitor for easier parking.

Safety-minded buyers will appreciate the availability of Nissan’s Safety Shield 360 suite of driver assistance technologies on higher trims. This package includes automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, rear automatic braking, lane departure warning, high beam assist, and rear cross traffic alert – valuable assets for navigating Canadian roads with confidence.

Ultimately, the SV trim with the Premium Package represents an excellent value proposition for many Canadian Sentra shoppers. It delivers a well-rounded blend of comfort, convenience, and safety features without breaking the bank. Those desiring more performance or luxury can step up to the SR, but the SV strikes a compelling middle ground for most buyers.

 

Final Verdict: Is the Nissan Sentra a Good Car for Canadians?

The Nissan Sentra is a solid choice for Canadian drivers seeking an affordable, fuel-efficient and reliable compact sedan. While it may not be the most exciting car to drive, the Sentra shines when it comes to practical virtues that matter to many buyers.

One of the Sentra’s major strengths is its impressive fuel economy ratings, especially for city driving where most Canadians rack up the majority of their miles. The base 2.0L four-cylinder engine delivers up to 7.8 L/100km in the city and 6.1 L/100km on the highway according to official estimates. Real-world owners report getting very close to those numbers, making the Sentra one of the thriftiest non-hybrid options in its class.

Another plus is the Sentra’s spacious cabin which offers ample room for four adults, with a surprising amount of rear legroom for a compact vehicle. The trunk is also generously sized at 510 litres, giving it a cargo capacity advantage over key rivals like the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla. Overall interior quality could be better with more soft-touch materials, but controls are straightforward and ergonomics are sound.

On the road, the Sentra delivers a comfortable ride that smooths over most bumps without feeling overly floaty. The downside is uninspiring handling dynamics, with numb steering feel and noticeable body lean when pushing the Sentra hard into corners. But for daily commuting duties, it gets the job done just fine.

Safety is one area where the Sentra could use some improvement. While it earned a Top Safety Pick rating from the IIHS, certain driver assistance features like blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert are optional extras rather than standard equipment on lower trims. Buyers looking for the most advanced safety tech will need to step up to the higher SV and SR trim levels.

Long-term durability and ownership costs are where the Sentra truly shines. Owners report very few issues and low maintenance expenses over years of driving. Combine that with the Sentra’s affordable purchase price and strong resale value ratings, and it represents an excellent long-term value proposition in the compact sedan segment.

 

The Verdict: For Canadian car buyers prioritizing a comfortable, spacious, fuel-efficient and affordable compact sedan, the Nissan Sentra is an excellent choice. It may not be the most thrilling car to drive, but it excels in areas like cabin practicality, long-haul comfort and low operating costs. The mid-range SV trim represents the sweet spot in terms of features and value. Overall, the 2023 Nissan Sentra is a smart buy for budget-conscious buyers seeking reliable and cost-effective transportation.

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Questions About The Nissan Sentra

The Nissan Sentra is generally considered a reliable and affordable compact sedan for the Canadian market. It offers good fuel economy, decent interior space, and standard safety features like automatic emergency braking. While it’s not the most exciting vehicle to drive, the Sentra is practical transportation with a low cost of ownership.

Recent Nissan Sentras have proven quite reliable for Canadian drivers according to consumer surveys. The 2019 and 2020 model years showed improvement over earlier generations, with most owners reporting no major issues. As with any vehicle, proper maintenance is key to longevity. But the current Sentra seems to be holding up well over both short-term and long-term ownership.

Official fuel economy ratings for the 2023 Nissan Sentra in Canada are 7.7L/100km in the city and 5.8L/100km on the highway. These numbers are quite good for the compact sedan class. Real world results will vary depending on driving style and conditions, but the Sentra’s fuel sipper status remains one of its strengths.

The Nissan Sentra represents strong value in the Canadian compact sedan market. It starts around $17,500, undercutting rivals like the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, and Hyundai Elantra on base pricing. It also frequently offers better rebates and incentives than those models. Value-minded shoppers get a lot for their money with the Sentra.

All Canadian-spec Nissan Sentras now come standard with forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, and automatic high beam assist. Higher trims add desirable features like a moonroof, heated front seats, leatherette upholstery, an 8-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, and a WiFi hotspot. Safety and connectivity are Sentra strengths.

The Sentra provides a decent amount of interior room for a compact sedan, including good headroom and legroom in both the front and rear seats. Taller adults may find it slightly cramped in the back, but overall comfort is quite good. The seats provide adequate support as well and most reviewers find the Sentra pleasant enough for everyday driving duties.

While comfort and efficiency are bigger priorities than sporty handling, the latest Nissan Sentra is reasonably nimble and composed around turns. The steering and suspension provide adequate feedback. Acceleration is merely adequate even on higher SR and NISMO models, so the Sentra focuses more on point-to-point transportation over excitement.

In the most recent 2023 ratings from J.D. Power and Consumer Reports, the Nissan Sentra scores 3.5 out of 5 for predicted reliability. This places it slightly below the top compact sedans like the Corolla and Civic, but above the category average. It suggests fewer issues than past Sentra generations while still lagging the segment leaders.

The mid-range SV trim strikes the best balance of price and features. It adds the important safety tech, intelligent cruise control, blind spot warning, 17-inch wheels, and other amenities over the base trim for very reasonable cost. Unless the NISMO’s sportier suspension tuning or SR’s dual exhaust is needed, the SV optimizes bang-for-buck.

All versions of the 2023 Sentra except the very base model come standard with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration. Simply plug your smartphone into the USB port and the 8-inch center touchscreen displays those interfaces. It allows convenient access to navigation, streaming music, and other phone functions.

Yes, trunk space is a Sentra strong point. At 428 liters, it offers impressive cargo volume for a compact sedan. The trunk opening is wide, the liftover height is low, and the folding rear seats (standard from SV trim up) allow transporting longer items when needed. Few compromises are required thanks to its practical trunk.

There is adequate room in the Sentra’s rear outboard positions to install child seats properly. The seat anchors are easily accessible and the doors open nice and wide for loading little passengers. Taller kids may feel somewhat cramped, but car seat fitment is generally good. Just ensure the front seats aren’t pushed fully rearward.

Some top-rated winter tires for Nissan Sentras in Canada include the Michelin X-Ice Snow, Bridgestone Blizzak WS90, Continental VikingContact 7, Toyo Observe GSi-6, Hankook Ipike RW11, and Nokian Hakkapeliitta R3. These provide excellent cold weather traction and handling without too much road noise. A dedicated winter set is advisable.

Maintenance costs for the Sentra have proven very affordable so far. Brake pad replacements can often last up to 50,000 kilometres before needing service. Oil changes are only required every 16,000 km or 12 months. And other regular maintenance items have lengthy intervals for this class. Cost of ownership remains low.

Two of the top online forums for Canadian Nissan Sentra owners include NissanClub.com and the Nissan SubReddit. Both have specific sections dedicated to the Sentra with owner experiences, maintenance advice, modding discussions, and community support from coast to coast. They make great resources.

The Nissan Sentra has not fared particularly well in the annual Canadian Car of the Year balloting, which combines journalist votes from across the country. It tends to land in the bottom half of the compact car category. While a solid vehicle, it does not have the driving refinement, features, or excitement to challenge the top finishers.

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