Although the Sentra does have a couple of useful features, such as the flip-and-fold rear seats that Evan mentioned, adjustable cupholders, and a very reasonably priced option package that includes navigation and satellite radio, it doesn't have a whole lot to recommend it over competitors like the Honda Civic, the Toyota Corolla, the Ford Focus, etc.
I drove the Sentra the weekend before Christmas and loaded it up after spending a day at the outlet mall. The forty-mile drive to the mall was uneventful -- the 140-hp engine produces enough power so that this 3000-pound car can cruise at 80 mph pretty effortlessly. The CVT transmission, as is common with most transmissions of its type, makes a fair amount of noise under hard acceleration, but once underway it's smooth enough.
The only word I can use to describe the interior is bland. I don't imagine anyone climbing into the Sentra and thinking that this is a car they have to own. There's nothing particularly objectionable about it, but there's also nothing that stands out.
And that opinion is borne out when you look at the sales statistics. While almost 95,000 Sentras were sold in 2010, that number is dwarfed by the 260,000-plus Honda Civics and Toyota Corollas sold last year. The Sentra was also substantially beaten by the Ford Focus and the VW Jetta, which themselves are looking to increase sales this year by virtue of their recent redesigns.
- Amy Skogstrom, Managing Editor