The Nissan Sentra hasn’t been significantly updated for a few years, but it remains a reasonable choice in the compact-sedan class. Key to the car’s appeal are an interior that is more spacious than its compact exterior dimensions suggest, a comfortable ride for a small car, and an abundance of available technologies. It looks a bit like a scaled-down Altima, but the Sentra is not the most beautiful car in its segment. The relatively bland interior can be outfitted with touch-screen navigation, push-button start, satellite radio, heated leather seats, a 340-watt Rockford Fosgate sound system, and a backup camera. Driving the base Sentra is an unremarkable experience, but at least there are two higher-performance versions. The SE-R packs 177 hp and a continuously variable transmission; it is sportier but not a true performance machine. The SE-R Spec V is the choice for enthusiasts, as it offers 200 hp, a six-speed manual, and optional performance bits like a limited-slip differential. Both SE-Rs score larger brakes, bigger wheels, and a firmer suspension than other Sentra models. They’re fun for enthusiasts but not as polished or refined as competing hot compacts. The Nissan Sentra would probably fill the bill for someone who wants a simple, inexpensive sedan, but there are many newer models on the market that surpass the Sentra in style, handling, and value for money, such as the Ford Focus and the Hyundai Elantra. We expect a new, improved version of the Sentra to debut in the next year or two.

Drive: Front-wheel

Trim levels: 2.0, 2.0 S, 2.0 SR, SE-R, SE-R Spec V
body style: Sedan, 5-passenger

Engines: 2.0L I-4, 140 hp, 147 lb-ft
2.5L I-4, 177/200 hp, 172/180 lb-ft

Transmissions: 6-speed manual, continuously variable

Passenger volume: 97.4-97.7 cu ft

Cargo space: (2.0 and SE-R/SE-R Spec V)
13.1/12.0 cu ft

The 2012 Sentra 2.0 S can be equipped with a new technology package that includes a touch-screen navigation system, satellite radio, and iPod connectivity.

Front, side, and side curtain air bags are standard, as are stability control, traction control, ABS with brake assist, and a tire-pressure monitoring system.

All: 21-27 mpg city/ 28-34 mpg highway

  • Spacious rear seats and trunk
  • Lengthy options list
  • Comfortable ride
  • Bland interior styling
  • Not as satisfying to drive as
    its competitors

A capable and roomy compact sedan.

  • Ford Focus
  • Honda Civic
  • Hyundai Elantra
  • Kia Forte

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