By on September 25, 2019

It has come to your author’s attention that this series has not paid one iota of consideration to the Nissan Sentra. Plenty of other cars from the Yokohama-based brand have passed through these cheap seats, but not the Sentra. Let’s correct that oversight right now.

While other brands are scuttling away from small sedans like cockroaches scattering when the lights are turned on, Nissan soldiers on with the segment. This compact car competes with Civic and Corollas but, unlike those models, no hatchback variant is offered here.

The penultimate Sentra wore some strange styling choices, trying to walk the line between its new lot in life as (technically, by interior volume) a midsize sedan and its history as a foil to the Civic Si in its tasty SE-R form. For the current car, introduced back in 2013, its visage is much more in line with big bros Altima and Maxima.

Unlike some of its competition, who reserve a stick shift for expensive trims, Nissan makes the six-speed manual transmission available on the cheapest Sentra. Its 1.8-liter four-banger makes 130 horsepower and a roughly like amount of torque, average for entry-level cars in this segment. Note: those are indeed drum brakes out back, hiding behind 16-inch rubber.

Those sideview mirrors are of the power variety, as one would expect these days, as are the car’s locks and windows. Air conditioning is also standard, along with the likes of cruise control and a tilt/telescope wheel. Your chairs are cloth covered and manually adjusted at this price. The rear bench does fold in a 60/40 split, expanding on the already large 15.1 cubic feet of space.

Infotainment wasn’t Nissan’s banner feature when this car appeared five years ago and it continues to show its age. Bluetooth is present and accounted for in that 7-inch touchscreen, however, plus alleged hands-free text messaging. I say “alleged” because a good friend has a Sentra much like this one and cannot command her car to transcribe text messages for love nor money. Carplay doesn’t appear until zootier trims.

Sitting on dealer lots with a sticker of just $17,890, the Sentra represents a solid but often overlooked value, especially considering its competition routinely trades for thousands more. Given that price differential, one could jazz up their Sentra with $145 dual USB ports for rear seat passengers and a $365 decklid spoiler while remaining money-in-the-bank compared to others in its class.

[Images: Nissan]

Not every base model has aced it. The ones which have? They help make the automotive landscape a lot better. Any others you can think of, B&B? Let us know in the comments and feel free to eviscerate our selections.

The model above is shown with American options and priced in American Dollars. Your dealer may sell for less.

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40 Comments on “Ace of Base: 2019 Nissan Sentra S...”


  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    The only Sentra’s worth a darn would be the ones with manual trans so you don’t have to roll the dice on Nissan’s CVT.

    That leaves you with the “S” and the “SE-R”

    The SE-R may not be the one of legend but given the current state of the Altima and Maxima I’ll take the Sentra SE-R if forced into a Nissan sedan.

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      I understand that there is little love for the Sentra on these pages. However I find the styling of the Sentra more ‘mature’ than that of the Civic or Corolla. And the greenhouse and headroom in the Sentra are larger.

      And since the base vehicle is available with a MT, then the CVT worries can be eliminated.

      Based on price point, styling, and interior room, I find this vehicle to be worthy of consideration.

      • 0 avatar
        gtem

        Yes I think “car guys” under-appreciate just how roomy these Sentras are. 15.1cu ft is mid-size tier. Rear legroom specifically to fit huge modern rearward facing child seats, is excellent. My non-car-cauy coworker swapped an ailing old Grand Cherokee on a new Sentra SV about 4 years ago and has been ecstatic about the 40-43mpg he AVERAGES on his commute. It’s a plain grey mouse of an economy car, but it delivers exactly what it promises, at a good price.

      • 0 avatar
        Art Vandelay

        I have nothing but love for the Sentra…It remains one of my all time favorites in SE-R trim. That love just doesn’t extend to any built after 1994.

    • 0 avatar
      sirwired

      I’m pretty sure by this point, Nissan’s teething problems with their JATCO CVT’s are long-past, and it’s no longer a “dice-roll” to order car equipped with one.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        But when manual is an option why wouldn’t you take one over a CVT?

        I’d try Subaru’s CVT because its the only option with the turbo but if they made a manual Turbo Legacy I would special order one if I had to.

      • 0 avatar
        PandaBear

        What makes you think their CVT problem is long gone? I wouldn’t count on it. The car is otherwise ok as an alternative to Hyundai and Kia.

        • 0 avatar
          Arthur Dailey

          Since Nissan has more experience than other mainstream manufacturers with CVT’s is it not logical to assume that they have refined their transmission to eliminate the most costly/problematic issues?

          And since so many manufacturers are now jumping on the CVT bandwagon, it is no longer a ‘unicorn’ with technicians unfamiliar with it and parts being excessively expensive.

    • 0 avatar
      Hydromatic

      All I can say about the Sentra’s CVT is that it felt better to drive than the one used by the current Toyota Corolla. In fact, the Sentra felt roomier and more livable overall.

  • avatar
    R Henry

    “This compact car competes with Civic and Corollas”

    I think it is more accurate to assume Sentra is more frequently cross-shopped with Kia Forte and Hyundai Elantra–and USED Civics and Corollas. Nissan’s marketing missteps over the past decade has unintentionally moved the brand down-market, at or below the level of the Korean brands.

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      People really look back on Nissan’s history with rose tinted glasses. The Sentra’s market position- a cheap but reliable alternative (not direct competitor) to the Civic/Corolla has been its definition for nearly 40 years.

      The 2020 is gonna be a new generation… I am almost certain I saw one at a Nissan dealership at lunch today.

      • 0 avatar
        Art Vandelay

        Car guys think one thing when you say Sentra…The B13 SE-R. That is where the rose colored glasses come in. It was great and lived up to the hype. The rest…meh, not so much.

  • avatar
    thornmark

    “available on the cheapest Sentra”

    sounds redundant

    cheap is in the Nissan DNA

  • avatar
    thornmark

    if Nissan disappeared tomorrow rental fleets would be hardest hit

  • avatar
    thejohnnycanuck

    Wow, this thing is a ripoff in the States. The base price in Canada is $16,698 which converts to $12,576 USD at today’s rates.

    Aside from that any opinion on how it drives?

    • 0 avatar
      Dale Houston

      I had one as a rental earlier this year. It was, I dunno, adequate. It got me from place to place. I have driven worse cars in my life. I wouldn’t buy one for myself, but it will get you where you need to go (within reason).

  • avatar
    volvo

    Looking at the pictures I would worry about engine cooling. The front grill is so small compared to comparable Honda or Toyota sedans that I wonder how enough air gets in to cool the radiator. /s

  • avatar
    redapple

    In the 90 s I owned a SE-R. Not that big a deal- I was not impressed.

    Current Sentra>? Tall and upright. Good ingress/egress and visibility. Thank you.

  • avatar
    thegamper

    So much hate for Nissan in these here threads at TTAC. I really dont get it. OK they sell a lot to fleets and yes, I suppose to subprime customers as well. But I really dont see how that reflects on the cars. An ill-advised pursuit of volume at all costs doesn’t automatically mean anything with a Nissan hamburger badge is an automatic fail.

    In my experience most Nissan’s are fairly competitive in their segments, personally I think the current Maxima is quite a nice place to spend time in. Just because you can get a nice discount doesn’t make it garbage. Line up an Altima and a Camry and its not a profound moment of realization that one is quality and the other is junk. Just a lot of anecdotal comments about what once was and “I know a guy”, etc. I saw a brand new Honda CRV break down recently. Every Honda must be crap based on that. And anyone giving Nissan a hard time about CVT’s and Honda, Subaru a pass is an automatic fail in my book. They are all the same! This BS about being able to carve out all the refinement and goodness from a Subaru’s CVT from the seat of your pants and that Nissan’s is somehow so inferior that every vehicle they use a CVT is outclassed without even so much as a testdrive is basically nonsense. Just sayin.

    I confess that I leased a 2011 Maxima….and I loved it. I loved its CVT ridden V6 FWD 4DSC bassmouth goodness…..and I have a good credit score. That’s right… I said it.

    • 0 avatar
      jack4x

      “An ill-advised pursuit of volume at all costs doesn’t automatically mean anything with a Nissan hamburger badge is an automatic fail.”

      I agree with you in general, but a CVT equipped Sentra actually is a miserable place to spend time.

      • 0 avatar
        volvo

        A serious (not snarky) question for you since I have no experience with CVT other than an occasional rental.

        Is there something unique about the CVT Sentra or are all Sentras miserable places to spend time. Also many other brands are moving to CVTs (CAFE standards I imagine). Do they all have similar driving characteristics and are something to be avoided?

        • 0 avatar
          ajla

          Best advice is to drive one yourself and see what you think. I find CVTs slow to respond and provide an extremely annoying “biplane” experience under acceleration but some people enjoy not feeling any shift.

        • 0 avatar
          jack4x

          @volvo,

          I have never driven a manual Sentra so I can’t comment on anything but the CVT. I certainly found the Sentra I had as a long term rental to be cheaply made and not very comfortable.

          I don’t have a lot of reference points to compare cars in the compact class, but for example a Fiesta 1.0L is much more fun to drive than the Sentra while not giving up anything in the way of comfort or build quality for its lower price. Then again, it’s not made anymore, so the market must not have agreed with me.

          Regarding CVTs, I will say that another recent rental car experience with a traditional automatic has reinforced that what I really despise is a low powered engine without a manual transmission. A CVT is worse/less intuitive than a planetary auto for me but maybe only marginally so. The only other CVTs I’ve driven have been in Subarus and those I thought were better than the Nissan application but still not great.

          • 0 avatar
            sgeffe

            Some of the manufacturers have done a better job at controlling the tendency of the engine to “rubber-band” by jumping to the torque peak and droning while the transmission varied the ratios. The Versa I had from Enterprise back in July exhibited quite a lot of the behavior, while CVT-equipped Hondas, not so much.

    • 0 avatar
      caljn

      @thegamper Agree with your point. There is a good deal of kneejerk Nissan hate around here and has been for awhile. I’ve had some time in a new Maxima and it is quite nice on the interior, screwed together well and a fast and smooth power delivery with the v6/cvt combo.

      And to @PrincipalDans my guess is you have no experience in a new Altima or Maxima. They’re not the same drive, which is a point you’ve made often (think Camry/Avalon) and both are competitive in their segments.
      C&D picked the Maxima over the new Impala when the current gens were released.

      • 0 avatar
        Art Vandelay

        “C&D picked the Maxima over the new Impala when the current gens were released.”

        Way to set that bar high.

        • 0 avatar
          thegamper

          But even consumer reports gushed over the Impala when it first went on sale. Exactly what I’m talking about. It’s a GM sedan, must be garbage.

          But really all I’m saying is that if you put the Maxima up against the vehicles it legitimately competes with, Impala, Taurus, Avalon, Charger and to an extent high trim midsizers like Camry and Accord…..I really think you would have a tough time saying that any one of those is soooo much better than the other that there is simply only one objective winner. I’ve never been in a Sentra of any vintage, but the Nissan’s I have been in have been pretty decent. It’s really not the night and day comparison that detractors here would have you believe.

          I don’t own a Nissan currently but I wouldn’t avoid them due to some perceived inferiority.

  • avatar
    CKNSLS Sierra SLT

    If a manual was available-the “take rate” would be less than 5% and insignificant to Nissan’s bottom line. That’s why it’s not available.

    There are not any wide spread “current” CVT issues. This myth, along with Fram oil filters, still failing (GM) motors due to AFM issues are all inaccurately perpetrated by the mighty Internet.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      Nissan’s CVTs could be perfectly reliable but they would still be annoying enough to drive that I wouldn’t want one.
      Same for my feelings on stop/start and cylinder deactivation (at least FCA’s implementation). I don’t know their total reliability impact but they still don’t give a pleasurable ownership experience.

      • 0 avatar
        DenverMike

        An out of warranty CVT or automatic trans (failure) is what’s most likely to “total” a car that’s otherwise fine. For many, it’s what’s most likely to cause a repo.

        If I was stuck driving a Sentra or similar, the manual trans would be the only thing to keep me from going insane.

        But is it ever possible to get an actual “review” on an actual Ace of Base?

      • 0 avatar
        sgeffe

        I think, just from the sound outside the vehicle, that the current Malibu has the worst auto-stop, by far!

    • 0 avatar
      DweezilSFV

      Please.
      http://www.nissanproblems.com/cvt/

      http://www.lemonlawcase.com/problem-vehicles/nissan-cvt-problems/

      https://www.carcomplaints.com/Nissan/

      https://www.wcpo.com/money/consumer/dont-waste-your-money/nissan-owners-say-transmissions-still-going-bad

      http://www.carproblemzoo.com/nissan/sentra/transmission-failure-problems.php

      http://nissancvtfail.com/?p=reports

      Shh. Don’t say anything. Even more results when one does a search on Duck Duck Go.

  • avatar

    After reading many of the Nissan Sentra comments I am surprised by the degree of negativity. I purchased a 2017 Sentra S, 6 MT in April of 2017 and it just rolled over the 150,000 km mark. It consistently gets 650 km on 40 litres of fuel and has not had a single mechanical issue.

    I bought the car as a commuter and it does what it is suppose to do and with a much lower purchase price, mine was under 16,000 CDN. It is not a sports car or a luxury car so don’t expect it to be.

    The one issue, and this may be a Canadian issue, you cannot get A/C with a manual transmission.

    In closing, I would gladly replace my Sentra for another one in about 30,000 more kms.

  • avatar

    It is better than any compact car GM has produced in the America.


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