GO
#34

in Affordable Small Cars

MSRP: $15,990 - $19,640
Invoice: $15,590 - $18,521
MPG: 27 City / 36 Hwy
Find the best local price: submit
How the Best Price Program works »

Nissan Sentra Performance

Test drivers say that the 2014 Nissan Sentra is underpowered and struggles to pass on the highway. While reviewers note that its handling is adequate, they think that rival cars like the Ford Focus are a lot more fun to drive.    

  • “But the truth is that sharper sedans, like the Focus or Mazda3, feel more athletic than does this Nissan." -- Autoblog (2013)
  • "And what all this fasting does is provide a well-balanced, solid handling machine. It isn't engaging to drive though, which is shame." -- Jalopnik (2013)
  • "The four-cylinder engine leaves the Sentra feeling underpowered." -- CNET (2013)

Acceleration and Power

All Sentra models have a 1.8-liter, four-cylinder engine that makes 130 horsepower. A six-speed manual transmission is standard on the base trim and a retuned continuously variable transmission (CVT) is optional on the base trim and standard on higher trims. The Sentra gets its best fuel economy with the CVT at an EPA-estimated 30/39 mpg city/highway, which is one of the highest ratings in the class.

Test drivers agree that the Sentra could use more power, and that it struggles to pass and merge on the highway. They also write that shifting is tough with the manual transmission, which feels cheap and flimsy.

  • “‘Cannot keep up’ will be a common refrain from Sentra drivers now that the only engine option is a 1.8-liter four. Its 130 horsepower and 128 pound-feet of torque are reductions of 10 and 19, respectively, from the 2.0-liter in the outgoing car." -- Car and Driver (2013)
  • “The engine uses variable valve timing for intake and exhaust, but no turbo or direct injection, which means its horsepower comes in at a wimpy 130, while torque is only 128 pound-feet. That means very little power overhead for passing maneuvers and merging." -- CNET (2013)
  • “A manual six-speed gearbox is available in the base, rental car/pond dweller model. But even if you are a dingy, swamp inhabitant, you won't find it performs much better. It's horrendously notchy and feels like it's made out of cardboard. Up until this point, the Sentra was in the ballpark. But this issue would prevent me from ever purchasing one." -- Jalopnik (2013)

Handling and Braking

Auto writers agree that the Sentra simply isn’t as athletic or engaging to drive as rivals the like Ford Focus or Mazda Mazda3.Test drivers say the Nissan Sentra’s brakes are adequate, and the steering has very little road feel. The ride is firm, but the Sentra absorbs most road bumps, they note.

  • "Competent and predicable on the road, the Sentra is nonetheless not the most engaging compact sedan around; more fun can be had in rivals like the Ford Focus or Mazda Mazda3." -- Left Lane News
  • "The ride is too firm for people who don't care about driving, but the level of body roll will disappoint those who do." -- Car and Driver (2013)
  • “Though the Sentra's handling abilities around corners are respectable, the steering is rather numb. Other small sedans are more rewarding to drive." -- Edmunds (2013)
  • "The steering, at least, is nicely weighted, but unsurprisingly, transmits no information from the road. Not that there's much need for it. From a dynamic standpoint, the brakes were the highlight in that they were perfectly acceptable." -- Motor Trend (2013)
  • "Over city streets, the Sentra rode with economy-car competence, neither excessively bumpy or comfortable." -- CNET (2013)
Review Last Updated: 5/15/14

Next Steps: Nissan Sentra