Nissan Sentra Research & Reviews

Overview & Reviews

Average Score

4.22/5 Average
1,907 Total Reviews
Model Overview:

The Nissan Sentra has been vying for the wallets of economy-car shoppers since 1982. For most of that time, the Sentra's overall appeal and image have trailed the segment leaders. There have been periods, however, when this car has been one of the best choices available.

The latest Nissan Sentra is closer to the historic norm. It offers a roomy and high-quality interior and great fuel economy. On the other hand, it lacks the visual pizzazz and driver involvement of its competitors. Overall, this Sentra is a respectable ride, though it doesn't really stand out from the crowd. Much the same can be said of previous Sentra generations, but their good fuel efficiency and low upkeep costs make them solid budget-friendly options.

Current Nissan Sentra
The current Nissan Sentra comes standard with a 1.8-liter four-cylinder rated at 130 horsepower and 128 pound-feet of torque. Fuel economy is excellent and gets a hair better with the special FE+ model. A six-speed manual transmission is standard on the base model, but a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) is specified on all other models.

There are four Sentra trim levels: S, SV, SR and SL. The base model S has air-conditioning, full power accessories and an auxiliary audio jack. The SV doesn't add much in the way of standard equipment, but rather increases the availability of options such as keyless ignition/entry, Bluetooth and a USB/iPod interface. The SR is essentially an SV with sporty design elements, while the SL comes standard with the SL's options, plus dual-zone automatic climate control. Other major options for the Sentra (depending on the trim level) include a sunroof, a premium audio system, a navigation system, smartphone app integration and leather upholstery.

In reviews, the Nissan Sentra has earned high marks for its interior. Nissan has taken a refined and conservative approach here, in contrast to many of its rivals with their youthful, funky vibes. Fit and finish is satisfactory thanks to decent materials and seemingly tight construction. The backseat deserves special mention for nearly matching midsize sedans in spaciousness. A comfortable ride quality is another plus. On the downside, however, the Sentra's acceleration is subpar, and in general it's not very involving to drive.

In total, the Sentra's pluses and minuses speak to the car itself. It's a more grown-up sort of small car that eschews look-at-me styling and zippy wannabe sports car dynamics for a sensible, comfortable and economical formula. It's not necessarily the stuff that dreams are made of, but we suspect it will appeal to many shoppers.

Used Nissan Sentra Models
The current, seventh-generation Nissan Sentra debuted for 2013. It's bigger, yet lighter than its predecessor, with a more refined style. The cabin boasts higher-quality materials, even more passenger space and a full roster of technology features. The engine actually has less power this time around, but it's more fuel efficient.

For the current Sentra's second year of production, Nissan implemented a handful of changes aimed at reducing noise and improving driving dynamics, while smartphone app integration was added via the NissanConnect interface. As such, shoppers considering a used 2013 Sentra would do well to sample a newer model, too, and see if the differences seem like they're worth paying for. We've noticed minor dynamic improvements in the revised version, including more athletic handling.

The previous, sixth-generation Nissan Sentra was produced from 2007-'12. It featured slightly larger dimensions than the fifth-generation model and employed Nissan's edgy design language of the time, giving it an extra serving of style. Thanks in part to its generous wheelbase, this Sentra had a roomier cabin than before, with adequate headroom and legroom for 6-foot passengers.

For much of this generation's production, there were six main trim levels: four variants based on the 2.0-liter engine (base, S, SR and SL) and two high-performance versions (SE-R and SE-R Spec V). All models but the SE-R got a 2.0-liter inline-4 that made 140 hp. The SE-R had a 2.5-liter four with 177 hp, while the SE-R Spec V had a modified version of the 2.5-liter engine that made 200 hp. A six-speed manual or CVT were the available transmission options, the latter available in all but the manual-only Spec V.

The base sixth-generation Sentra was pretty thin on features but did include power windows and locks as well as air-conditioning. Stepping up to the S added common items like power mirrors, a height-adjustable driver seat and an iPod interface (available for 2010 and later), while the SL went the extra mile with items like a leather-wrapped steering wheel, keyless ignition/entry and Bluetooth. The SL was also available with leather seating and a navigation system (2010 and later). The SE-R and Spec V trims featured performance-tuned suspensions, performance tires, larger brakes and sporty styling cues. The 2.0 SR introduced for 2009 essentially added a body kit and wheels inspired by the SE-R.
In reviews, we found that the sixth-generation Sentra offered an improved driving experience, although as with many of its predecessors, it could be described as being "close but no cigar" when compared to the best in class. The CVT made the engine drone noisily, and it provided no way for a driver to change or hold ratios on his own (except in the SE-R with its Manual mode). Another dynamic weakness was the car's suspension, which struggled to dampen bigger bumps and road undulations. The Spec-V was the one Sentra that provided stirring dynamics; it could run to 60 mph in just 6.7 seconds and offered plenty of grip during cornering. However, its tall body design introduced more body roll than expected from a compact car.

In terms of changes, sixth-generation Sentras made prior to 2010 had a different grille and headlights, and lacked standard stability control. There were also various standard and optional features added throughout its lifetime, many of which were high-tech items like Bluetooth that shoppers had come to expect. For 2009, the moniker "FE+" was affixed to all Sentras except the manual-transmission 2.0S and both SE-R trims. Ostensibly meaning "Fuel Economy Plus," the new name signified a 1 mpg increase in fuel economy for those Sentras via a tweak to the engine computer. These FE+ fuel economy improvements were standardized on all except the SE-R trims the following year.

Nissan's fifth-generation Sentra ran from 2000-'06. Available in sedan form only, it was initially available in base XE, nicely equipped GXE and top-of-the-line SE trims. All were powered by a 1.8-liter inline-4 with 126 hp, and power was sent to the front wheels via a four-speed automatic or five-speed manual gearbox. The sporty SE-R returned in '02, and there were two versions: the standard SE-R (165 hp, five-speed manual) and the hot rod SE-R Spec V (175 hp, six-speed manual, 17-inch wheels).

At the time, we praised this Sentra for its functional cabin design, nimble handling, many standard features and peppy SE-R trim level. Downsides included bland styling, an awkward driving position and a small backseat. This generation generally has a solid reputation as far as mechanical reliability, though anecdotal evidence suggests that the engine in the SE-R models was more trouble-prone.

The fourth-generation Sentra (1995-'99), with its low nose and high tail, was a styling departure from the straight-edged look of the previous car. Officially offered just as a sedan (the coupe version became the 200SX), this Sentra had more interior room than before. Trim levels consisted of a bare-bones base model, the slightly less stripped XE, the popularly equipped GXE, the luxury GLE and the sporty SE. All trims but the SE had a 115-hp engine, while the SE actually featured the same 140-hp engine as the previous SE-R.

The sporty SE-R debuted with the third-generation Nissan Sentra (1991-'94). Buyers had a choice of either a coupe or sedan, though both shared the same simple, boxy styling. With 140 hp, four-wheel disc brakes and a tuned, fully independent suspension, the Nissan Sentra SE-R coupe provided a lot of bang for the buck and was a favorite among driving enthusiasts. All other Sentras of this generation had a 110-hp engine and trims included the stripper E, base XE, sporty SE and well-equipped GXE.

Running from 1987-'90, the second-generation Sentra was available in a multitude of body styles, including a coupe, a sedan, a wagon, a hatchback and a Sport Coupe fastback. Engine output ranged from 69 to 90 hp, depending on the year.

User Reviews:

Showing 1 through 10 of 1,907.00
  • Nice Ride - 2004 Nissan Sentra
    By -

    What can I say, it's a nice ride. I live in NYC and I commute about 100 miles a day and this car is great on the highway but not so much on fuel. Little disappointed there. Fun to drive on the highway, not so much on the NYC streets. The potholes are a killer. No time to enjoy the ride. Too much shifting only to slam on the brakes for red lights and taxi cabs. Takes a little time to warm up. I love the shifting but can be hard at times. Great to drive in the mountains. Stiff ride in the city streets and sometimes to highway. Girlfriend complains of the stiff ride but I don't mind. Look for a car that gets better gas mileage. Look at the SE 2.0 liter. Better ride and gas mileage.

  • A little short of great - 2007 Nissan Sentra
    By -

    The car is good, and just comes up short on a couple things. I would have liked the Sentra to have the same push-button as the Altima. Also, it doesn't have daytime running lights, which is a standard feature in Canada. Hmm... anyway, the CVT is nice, but not for those who crave performance. The bluetooth works well, and I hate plastic rims, so the 16" aluminum-alloy option is a must. The Rockford system is nice, but my rear-plastic rattles a little, nothing a little dynamite won't fix though. Don't read too much into my complaints, overall I'm happy with my new Sentra and I expect there to be some shortcomings in a value-priced car. Look at the SE-R for some more power.

  • Fun and economical. - 2004 Nissan Sentra
    By -

    I bought this car to get better gas mileage, but I didn't want a econobox I would get bored with. 6 speed manual and plenty of power.

  • Rides/Drives like a 10 year old car - 2008 Nissan Sentra
    By -

    I am in month 9 of my 24 month lease. I am not happy at all. I want to return this car. It only drove the first 1000 miles 'okay'. Before I even reached my first 1000 miles, I felt that the car's brakes didn't stop the way they should. My husband thought I was being paranoid but it kept driving funny. Finally, I decided to take it in by 3000 miles to get checked. I was told, "Oh, by the way, the brake master cylinder needs to be replaced. It has been recalled." No one ever contacted me saying this part, a major part for stopping the car properly, was recalled. I barely feel safe driving this car and I have to drive my children. I have taken it back and am still not satisfied.

  • Downshift in Quality - 2002 Nissan Sentra
    By -

    My Sentra now has 4100 miles and I am having problems already. I feel like the car is impossible to control at high speeds. As far as the summertime, the AC completely kills any power the car has. It makes merging a nightmare. Have taken to turning the AC off (our turbo switch) to get that power back in a merge situation. The sunvisors on both sides are completely inadequate. There is WAY too much space on the driver's side windshield wiper that is not wiped away (it makes a big difference when you can't see). My ABS brakes are starting to grind already.

  • 2011 Sentra SR CVT 50K miles - 2011 Nissan Sentra
    By -

    My gf and I bought this car for her. She had originally bought a 2011 Corolla (mother of god that was an awful hateful machine) but someone totalled it (thankfully). So instead we got this. It was inexpensive (17.5K loaded) and didn't look as appliance-y as say a civic or corolla. Its nothing great but it does it job, its relatively reliable, has a good resale value, looks pretty good and has an insane amount of space. Just don't be fooled by those 27/34mpg numbers because you are getting far less. Verdict: The car does its job. I'd say because of the high resale value you are better off just buying a new Sentra if you find yourself wanting one though.

  • A great little car! - 1998 Nissan Sentra
    By -

    We just bought this car, but we're quite impressed with it. I own a '92 sentra SE-R, and this is just an addition to the family. First impressions at the dealer were a bit iffy, but once home we changed the air filter and oil and the car came to life! It doesn't stack up to my SE-R in performance by any means, but it is far more economical and much more comfortable. This is a perfect commuter and road trip vehicle, it is economical and comfortable, this car is still fun to drive, and feels just like my coupe.

  • Disappointed - 2004 Nissan Sentra
    By -

    I bought a used 04 SE-R Spec V with only 4,000 miles on it. i'm very disappointed with it. The fuel mileage is average. The first gear is too short and sometimes it is a pain to put it in reverse. The ride is too harsh over little bumps and the suspension is bad. I had front struts replaced after 20K miles and rear twice at 25K and 57K miles. Many little irritating problems like the emergency brake light refuses to go off, it comes with stock summer only tires, factory speakers not that great, no ABS on a car at this price point is ridiculous. Even KIA offers ABS on their much cheaper models.

  • The "Sleeper" for 2007 - 2007 Nissan Sentra
    By -

    I wanted to get a fuel efficient vehicle before the gas prices shoot up again, which will probably be in 2007. Before I actually purchased my Sentra, I looked at all the competitive models including the Corolla. The Sentra offers far more features than any of the other cars and is still in the same price range. My gas mileage is 26.6 in the city 37.1 freeway. It is easy to park and fun to drive. And having to live and commute in California, that says a lot.

  • Grat Car!!! - 1996 Nissan Sentra
    By -

    I love my sentra. It gets fantastic mpg and has been very reliable. It has just had normal wear things need to be replaced even up to 170,000 miles!!!

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