Are people at Nissan aware of how far the Sentra has fallen? Such a cheap, bland interior just doesn't cut it in 2011. Neither does such an unrefined powertrain. CVT automatics may once have been a good way to achieve superior fuel economy numbers, but now competitors are achieving much better results with torque converter and dual-clutch transmissions that don't make the engine sound like a clogged shop vac.
I hate to bring up the nationality card, but if a Korean or American automaker produced a small car this far behind the curve, there'd a be chorus of whining about how said automaker can't/won't build a serious small car contender. Now, obviously, Nissan can and does build nice small cars -- the Versa, the Cube, and the Juke are all plenty competitive. But the Sentra is still Nissan's standard-bearer in the crucial C-segment. Other automakers -- Volkswagen, Ford, Hyundai, Chevrolet -- are killing themselves to put out superior compacts. Where is Nissan?
- David Zenlea, Assistant Editor
When it comes to cargo space and versatility in the world of compact cars, hatchbacks almost always trump conventional four-door sedans. The Sentra isn't exactly an exception to that rule, but it does have one neat party trick, at least on higher-trim models like this SL. Yes, that 60/40 split rear bench does fold, but with a little elbow grease, the seat cushions pop up and flip forward, allowing the seat backs -- headrests and all -- to fold down. The result? A lengthy load surface that's almost completely flat.
I'm not as quick to dismiss the Sentra as some of my colleagues, but certainly, other competitors (especially the new Hyundai Sonata) manage to outclass and undercut Nissan's compact offering. This is a plain-jane, bread-and-butter C-segment offering but the extra flash, efficiency, and affordability found in rivals means Nissan dealers may be facing an uphill battle.
- Evan McCausland, Web Producer