By on November 19, 2019

nissan

With America now fully retreated from the compact car space, Japan is left holding the bag in a dwindling market. For two automakers — Honda and Toyota — the abandonment of the compact car market has added wind to slackening sails, but their gain comes at the expense of other players. Nissan is one of those players.

With its next-generation Sentra, Nissan hopes to steal from its rivals’ plates and amass a bigger slice of the pie.

Let’s face it, the current-generation Sentra, while in possession of some serious value, suffers on the styling front — especially when placed alongside the popular Civic and new-for-2020 Corolla sedan. It’s boring to look at, and Nissan doesn’t want you to be bored.

Enter the 2020 Sentra. It’s wider than the last Sentra (by 2 inches) and also lower (by 2.2 inches). Yes, there’s a new platform underneath. It looks a lot like the Maxima, which Nissan bills as a sports sedan, and also like the Altima, which people actually buy. It even looks like the Versa, which underwent its own revamp for 2020. With a signature V-motion grille up front, angular bodysides, slim headlamps, and a floating roof (made all the more apparent in two-tone guise), this Sentra isn’t your buddy’s fiance’s Sentra.

You can order one of three roof combos, by the way.

nissan

Nissan claims the upgraded model revealed Tuesday night at the L.A. Auto Show raises the bar in terms in interior refinement and driving dynamics, rather than limboing under it. It’s refined and luxurious, Nissan claims, which are two words seldom applied to a Sentra.

“Extra attention was paid to the smallest of details to improve the perceived and actual quality of the new Sentra,” the automaker said in a statement. “The feel of the steering wheel in the driver’s hands, the smooth operation of the dials and switches were carefully crafted to create a premium feel.”

Premium is another word seldom applied to the Sentra. Of course, there’s a first time for everything, but it will take a spin behind the wheel to determine just how updated this compact sedan really is. By the sounds of it, comfort won’t be too much of a problem, with the company offering quilted, leather-appointed Zero Gravity front heated seats as an available nicety. Upgraded window, door, and body seals add up to a quieter cabin, the automaker promises.

nissan

Mercifully, the model arriving for 2020 also sees changes under the hood. Gone is the old Sentra’s 1.8-liter four-cylinder (good for 124 horsepower and 125 lb-ft when paired with a continuously variable automatic, 130 hp/128 lb-ft for six-speed models), replaced by a 2.0-liter unit making a healthier 149 hp and 145 lb-ft. Expect better fuel economy on top of the extra power, Nissan claims.

Unfortunately, the only transmission on offer is a CVT. It’s the latest Xtronic CVT, but still — it’s another death in the manual transmission family. No word on returning turbo NISMO models, either. Given the automaker’s financial problems and ongoing streamlining efforts, it’s not surprising to see reduced build configurations. It seems we’ve retreated to core Sentra.

Indeed, that’s exactly what has happened. For 2020, Sentra buyers will choose from only three trims: S (with hub-capped 16-inch wheels), SV, and SR. Just two options packages exist to temp buyers any further.

Elsewhere, there’s a new steering rack for improved feel, a revamped rear suspension, and standard Nissan Safety Shield 360 driver-assist features to go with existing safety nannies. All told, the safety bundle includes automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blind spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert, lane departure warning, rear automatic braking, high beam assist, forward collision warning, driver alertness monitor, and rear door alert.

 

Headlights aren’t LED in base and mid-range trim, but the running lights are. LED projector headlamps and LED foglights adorn the SR’s face, and springing for that model also delivers a range of go-fast trappings to the table. Among them, side sills, 18-inch wheels, black side mirrors, black chrome grille, spoiler, and chrome exhaust finisher. That’s “finisher” — singular.

While entry-level Sentras make do with a 7-inch touchscreen and 4.2-inch driver information display, moving up one rung on the food chain brings aboard an 8-inch touchscreen and 7-inch driver’s display, with standard NissanConnect featuring Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity. Base drivers will still get standard Bluetooth hands-free talk and text, Siri Eyes Free, and Google Assistant Voice Recognition.

Adaptive cruise control and an around-view monitor also populate the options list.

Going on sale in January, the 2020 Sentra is quite possibly Nissan’s last chance to retain brand loyalists and create new buyers in the compact space. It’s put together an attractive package, only one that lacks the ridiculous amount of choice offered to Honda buyers. Understandable, given the automaker’s present state.

And maybe Sentra buyers really don’t care about anything but the core product; honestly, when was the last time you saw a Sentra NISMO? The model’s current sales aren’t all that far off the model’s 21st century peak in 2017. We’ll see whether less choice and better product, combined with the brand’s signature value pricing, has the intended effect.

[Images: Nissan, Tim Healey/TTAC]

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55 Comments on “Can You See Me Now? 2020 Nissan Sentra Debuts, Prepares to Fight Back Against Honda and Toyota...”


  • avatar
    slavuta

    It is good looking car with nice front overhang. But no MT, Made in Mexico, Nissan quality…..

  • avatar
    dal20402

    I’m sure it will be an upgrade over the awful current model when there are only a few cars left on the Emerald Aisle.

  • avatar
    Superdessucke

    Great to read about a new vehicle other than the Mustang “Tuna” Maki. And I like it. I think it looks a lot better proportioned than the prior one. Hopefully they make an SE-R version that has some real performance. Maybe that would inspire Toyota to do another GT-S based off the Corolla hatchback? We can dream!

  • avatar
    gtem

    Surprised to find myself legitimately impressed with the effort that they’ve put into this thing, inside and out. The old car was very practical in its shape: maximum interior room for the footprint, but that gave it very much a “third world taxi” look on the outside, disproportionate and tippy looking. Power looks competitive, and everyone in the class has adopted the CVT as their standard transmission now so that’s hardly a demerit these days. Too bad about the manual being dropped, right as they introduce a sportier looking/more powerful Sentra.

    I see barely used current gen SR Turbos with stick shifts listed for very low prices, that could make a fun little commuter to tinker with.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      How does Nissan fare in Siberia? I’m aware of the Toyota following there but don’t recall hearing much about other Japanese marques.

      • 0 avatar
        gtem

        They’re well liked but the consensus is that they’re on a lower tier than Toyota, based mostly on how they tend to rust faster and the suspensions don’t hold up to massive abuse quite as well. Sunny/Sylphys (Sentra), Cefiros (Infiniti I30), AD/Wingroads (Sentra Wagon), are very popular, along with the Patrol (Y60/Y61/Y62), Terrano/Terrano II. That’s the older JDM stuff. Newer Nissans are plentiful as well, there was the Korean made Almera, currently the Qashqai and Rogue are strong sellers.

    • 0 avatar
      redapple

      GTEM

      Tippy Looking = Tall Green House (I like cars I can see out of. Not many like it. The trend is gun slits.)

      • 0 avatar
        gtem

        Somehow throughout the 80s and 90s we were able to achieve both big windows AND proportionate styling: it comes down to roominess. The Sentra utilizes vertical space with very tall slab sided doors. I’ve ridden in old school Tsurus (B13 Sentra) and new Versa taxis back to back in Mexico, the Versas are vastly more comfortable to sit in. But I prefer how the B13s look by a mile!

      • 0 avatar
        Hummer

        “Tippy Looking = Tall Green House (I like cars I can see out of. Not many like it. The trend is gun slits.)”

        Incorrect, a 1st gen S10 blazer doesn’t look tippy and has excellent greenhouses, a Bronco II is unnecessarily tippy (not just looking) and gains nothing over that blazer.

        90 years of big American cars, including the last gen BOF Caprice and Panther platform, are also examples of good greenhouses that don’t look tippy.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Looks are not bad but without a manual transmission and the trouble prone CVT this is a disposable car. Count on Nissan to not warranty this long enough to cover a new transmission which I have read is between 4k to 7k. I wouldn’t touch a Nissan product with a CVT with a 20 foot pole. Nissan use to be a good brand but recent years I would put a Chinese or even Indian car above Nissan in reliability.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      Nissan CVTs are doing OK these days.

      Even the first ones weren’t guaranteed to break. My BIL’s 2006 Murano with something like 150k miles is still plugging along, clearcoat peeling and leather cracking but no issues with the CVT.

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    2.0 “SR20” 4 cylinder as offered in the B13/B14 Sentra/200SX starting in 1991:

    145hp @ 6400 RPM
    132 lb ft @4200 RPM

    2.0 from the 2020 Sentra
    149 HP
    145 lb ft
    (RPM ranges not given)

    Yay Progress!

    • 0 avatar
      stuckonthetrain

      …although the real world MPG will likely be almost 10mpg better. My old ’99 G20t manual barely got mid-20’s mixed. Every current-gen rental Sentra I’ve had gets low 30’s mixed at least.

    • 0 avatar
      slavuta

      At least it has 4 cyl unlike recent Buick

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      One is was performance tuned for the era with fuel economy as purely secondary. This new one is first and foremost about squeezing out maximum MPGs, warming up quickly, having lower emissions. And note that SAE hp ratings have been adjusted atleast twice(?) since the 1990s. That new one’s 149hp rating is very likely 160hp or a bit more using the old standards.

      There are plenty of other modern 2.0L engines making a lot more power, engineered to do just that. Nissan themselves extracted 200hp+ out of a naturally aspirated SR20 (VE) overseas by the end of the 1990s.

  • avatar
    crtfour

    It’s nice to see the continued Japanese effort into sedans despite the loss in popularity. The idiot domestic companies are going to be caught with their pants down again and I sure as heck hope we don’t bail them out a second time.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Hopefully they will simply liquidate if they fail. I really want to do some research but I predict in the medium term FCA is going to be the big winner with GM probably stable and Ford could be in serious trouble depending on the EV gamble and have much money was actually involved.

      GM has talked game for years on pure EVs and produced three to my reelection the first of which, Volt, they took a huge bath on in both per unit and R&D costs. Yet GM’s big sellers are what Silverado/Sierra and Tahoe/Yukon with derivatives? GM also has large Chinese operations to lean on in the event of US recession. Ford does not have this luxury and it’s European operations are usually a cash drain not a profit center. Nearly all profit comes from F-series and if this was largely allocated to EV and “mobility” R&D which IMO has a decent chance of becoming a dumpster fire, may not be looking good for Dearborn over the next two to five years. FCA is sitting on cash, sells nearly everything they build with some exceptions, had not p!ssed away money in the EV black hole and due to its merger now has access to some of that tech if it chooses to field a model. Sergio’s labors are bearing fruits.

      • 0 avatar
        Hummer

        28, as far as GM being stable are you assuming the Chinese operations are going to be responsible for that?

        I know a lot of ex-GM people that bought GMs for the mechanical bits, and GM isn’t interested in us customers any longer. They don’t sell 250k Tahoe’s a year any more, they don’t have a couple V8 sedans or sports cars any more, their trucks aren’t easy on the eyes, their front drive cars aren’t cheap as the build quality suggests. No off-road vehicles in the entire companies portfolio when that’s the new hotness. Reliability is at its worst.
        There’s nothing special or interesting happening at GMoA any longer and personally they don’t seem interested in correcting ship.

        • 0 avatar
          indi500fan

          Lutz came, things got better (product wise anyway). Lutz retired, things are decaying.

          • 0 avatar
            Hummer

            “ Lutz came, things got better (product wise anyway). Lutz retired, things are decaying.”

            This.

          • 0 avatar
            PrincipalDan

            I wish that GM had followed Lutz suggestion and turned the SS into the new Impala having a full line like the Charger. Base V6 through fire breathing V8 all RWD.

          • 0 avatar
            Hummer

            Dan, I’ve always wondered about that reality myself, unfortunate that it never came to fruition along with the station wagon and ute platform mates.

          • 0 avatar
            Hummer

            I would definitely replaced the wife’s suburban with a fuel efficient V8 wagon. With an LT based 5.3 or 6.2L highway fuel economy could have easily been 30 or 27 depending on the V8. Oh well, best for me to buy her a new suburban before GM neuter it with IRS.

          • 0 avatar
            gtem

            Honestly, I view Lutz’ tenure as a very mixed bag. His taste in slathering everything in chrome reminds me most of some old Geezer with a PT Cruiser that puts chrome trim on all the door edges, port holes, chrome vent shades, and chrome tipped mudguards on. He also championed outsourcing sub-assembly production to China and is proud of it(!) in his own Car Guys vs BeanCounters. He proudly talks about how much better panels gaps are on a GMT900 Silverado vs a GMT800 with its clamshell style hood. I for one think the GMT800s are much higher quality trucks overall compared to the Chinesium-packed GMT900s.

          • 0 avatar
            Hummer

            Lutz certainly had his faults and I can’t counter any of your points against him, but I think the good he brought GM, the entire automotive world, and hell even America – far outweighs the bad. The current GM is neck deep in all of the those issues without Lutz, the issue is there aren’t many bright areas left.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          @Hummer

          Yes, but this may be ignorant of me to assume so.

          GM is dead as far as I am concerned, what’s left but the LS motor architecture?

          Zeta – gone
          Y-body Corvette – gone
          3800 – gone
          60V6 – gone
          Sigma II – gone
          Bolt – can’t sell
          Trucks – losing to Dodge FFS.
          Alpha – garbage
          Other FWD crap – garbage
          Turbozzzz – garbage

          I’d really like to see them just go away but I don’t think that is what will happen, they will simply lose market share in USDM while trying to grow elsewhere. The focus is on moving operations to P.R. China and fully becoming a Chinese company with foreign interests such as Geely.

          @all of you

          Brother Lutz’s wisdom should have been heeded, instead its just been the typical clusterf**k you’d expect from a company who has not changed and is mismanaged in so many areas.

          • 0 avatar
            Hummer

            Honestly I’m starting to see GM as Mitsubishi with wishful pricing.

            4 brands with mediocre products, below average reliability, and unrealistic pricing. All of these issues seem to correlate with the brands move away from what they specialize in, being American V8s.

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      “The idiot domestic companies are going to be caught with their pants down again”

      what, you think small sedans are suddenly going to become profitable again?

      man, you people really sound like Adam Savage: “I reject reality and substitute it with my own.”

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    “…it’s another death in the manual transmission family”.

    It’s also another death in the automatic transmission family. My initial impressions of their CVT (14 Versa Note test drive) were very good, but my rental of a 19 Sentra this year changed my mind back.

    All it did was whine, and the fuel economy hardly made the terrible driving experience worth it. I’d be happy with a 6-speed automatic.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Pour one out for the Sentra SR manual.

    Not that Nissan had anywhere for someone to go if that was the model that got them hooked on the brand.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Steph I disagree with you on this. I believe that the outgoing Sentra is the most ‘handsome’ compact available in North America. More interior space, better headroom and more greenhouse than its competitors. And none of the finicky, overstyling seen in vehicles like the Civic.

    We don’t need more of these dissolving lozenge compact sedans.

  • avatar
    6250Claimer

    Nissan hasn’t made a decent Sentra since the early ’90s original SE-R. Nothing but a parade of turds since.

  • avatar
    dougjp

    ” Mercifully, the model arriving for 2020 also sees changes under the hood ” 149 HP? Hopeless weak sauce, still. Why even talk this way about basically a non event?

    Weak motor, CVT, why do they even bother.

  • avatar
    R Henry

    Nissan’s weakness over the past two decades made room for Hyundai/Kia in the US market…and the Koreans were smart enough to capitalize on it. I would consider an Elantra/Forte long before I bothered to check out Sentra.

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    There was a time when I thought of Nissan as a ready alternative to Honda or Toyota. That was a long time ago!

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Nissan I knew you once to make great affordable and reliable compact cars and trucks but now you are a distant memory ever so fading away until there is no trace of you.

  • avatar
    Thomas Kreutzer

    You have the heart of a poet Jeff S. A poet of doom.

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    I like the fact that at least one of the cars above has a two-tone paint scheme and has broken away from the monochromatic generic coloring that simply makes the car disappear in traffic. If Nissan simply offers more and brighter colors and gets away from black, white, and three shades of grey, I’ll at least consider one when I can no longer handle my (to me) giant pickup truck. If, by then, it’s a battery-electric, then all the better.

  • avatar
    piratethecat

    This looks halfway decent. Some personality without being all the way over on the Civic side of things. I think quilted seats as a “luxury” marker just died with this though.

  • avatar
    nrd515

    Not liking this thing much at all. I hate the floating roof look, and hate the two toned roof thing even more. The two toned interior would be fine in all black, but that cream color is horrible. The basic styling of it is 21st Century standard where almost all cars look alike from the side, with the only differences being the back end and what sort of angry bug face it will have in front. Oh, and how insanely big the grill will be.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    My concern on all Nissan products is the CVT transmissions improve the quality of the transmissions and warranty them for 100k miles. Too many stories about bad CVTs and Nissan leaving their customers high and dry when it comes to service on these transmissions.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Consistently we have see have 10 cents here and a dollar there per unit cost savings eventually doom certain automotive subsystems, and frankly I don’t think the automakers care at all anymore which is reflected in poor product.

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        Automakers already know their cars are too expensive. They have to cut costs just to keep cars “affordable” and the only reason some brands are able to keep going is because their pickup trucks carry the profit load.

  • avatar
    Thomas Kreutzer

    So these have a nice look, but the ones shown are at the top of the option range where most people won’t be buying. What do the most basic specs look like? That’s what will decide whether or not these are a success.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    @28-Cars-Later–Maybe you are correct but if your sales are cratering and you are bleeding money bad products are going to make things worse. I don’t expect vehicles to last forever but many of Nissan’s vehicles are defective from day one and having transmissions going out in less than 100k miles is not going to build repeat business.

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      My complaint with the CVT is the simple fact that it can’t handle torque above a certain level; pushing 150 horses and similar torque is already straining those limits. Remember, the CVT is essentially nothing but a belt drive and even with steel reinforcements (similar to a rubber-coated bicycle chain) there will be slippage which will wear the contact material and eventually allow metal-to-metal contact which will in turn see either the chain or the disks damaged or destroyed over time. CVT may be great for smooth and economic power applications but they just can’t eliminate wear; belts and plates will have to be changed, just like brake rotors and pads.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    @Vulpine–Those are my concerns with the CVT as well. I don’t even care that there is as much acceleration or that it feels different but I do care about wear of the belts and chains and that the fact that the ones Nissan offers cannot be rebuilt but have to be replaced at a cost of 4k to 7k. I don’t even care as much if the vehicle has less than 150 hp and I don’t expect it to last as long as many of the transmissions. Maybe 100k miles is the most Nissan can get out of the CVTs but then their vehicles should be priced a lot less. If the future is just CVTs and small turbo engines for ICE then I will be ready to switch to EVs. I don’t want to pay a lot of money for something that is junk.

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      Quite the point. If the transmission is going to be a “normal wear” item, then it needs to be easily and cheaply replaced. The core could then be rebuilt with new disks and belt and re-sold as a re-manufactured unit.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    That would be acceptable at about $1,200 for a re-manufactured transmission.

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