Manufacturers, Nissan, Road Test Reviews, Vehicles

2020 Nissan Sentra SR (Premium) – Road Test

It’s been a while since I had a compact car to drive – other than our own, now departed Ford Focus. Ford may have abandoned the auto landscape in search of people who want trucks and CUV/SUV’s, but there is still a huge market for affordable, reliable cars that don’t cost as much as your mortgage every month. It took Ford 8 years to realize they made a mistake by cancelling the Ranger – maybe they’ve made another poor decision, only with cars this time. Regardless, we’re in the market for a new car and the Nissan Sentra is the type of car that fits into the price point we’re comfortable with. We’ve never even remotely considered the Sentra before now. Why? It’s just never been anywhere near our radar. Will this week’s test drive change our minds? Let’s find out…

What Is It?
• Compact sedan
• All-New for the 2020 (new design, engine, electric power steering, active ride control and vehicle dynamics control and chassis – includes multi-link independent rear suspension) – It’s wider, longer and lower than the outgoing model
• 5 Trims Available (S, S Plus, SV, SR, SR Premium)
• 2.0L 4-cylinder engine (same as in the Rogue)
• FWD, Xtronic CVT (continuously variable automatic transmission)
• We’re driving the top end SR Premium version

How Does It Look?
• While other manufacturers are in a rush to give us really ugly vehicles (Toyota anyone?), Nissan are going in the opposite direction – this is a great looking 4-door sedan
• Test model came in Monarch Orange Metallic (+$335, a bargain if you ask me) – LOVE the colour of it! In the sun it just glows
• The black roof is a nice contrast, no matter the colour you choose – white, orange or gun metallic – but electric blue doesn’t get it
• SR trim comes with a sporty rear spoiler, black-painted side mirrors, lower body side sill extensions, dark chrome V-motion grille, LED headlights and chrome exhaust tips
• Great looking rims too – 18” Alloy’s come standard
• Premium adds: Full LED headlights, fog lights and DRL’s

What’s It Like Inside?
• Heated D-shaped leather-wrapped steering wheel adds a bit of sporty-ness
• Moonroof is included, not extra!
• Centre dash is attractive – I really like the 3 vents – you don’t see that very often now (reminiscent of the Nissan GT-R)
• The HVAC controls are some of the easiest to operate – clear and legible at a glance, exactly what you need when driving
• Nissan’s Zero Gravity seats (front) are quite comfortable
• Heated front seats, with 6-way power driver and manual passenger seats
• Leatherette seats come in the Luxury Package – not quite as nice leather and doesn’t smell like it either, but it’s vegan-friendly I suppose
• The orange stitching throughout the interior is a nice touch (I’m assuming the other colours have the exterior coloured stitching on those)
• Interior noise is very good, surprisingly quiet on the highway – remember, this is a ‘budget’ car – is certainly doesn’t act like it
• 7-inch touchscreen with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay – no SatNav however
• Loved the number of views you can get from the surround cameras at the touch of a button
• Bose Premium Audio System with 8-Speakers – is very good, especially for a car in this price-range
• Blind Spot Warning – I love where the light is placed in the door instead of on the mirror, like most manufacturers – it’s so much easier to see
• Plenty of knee and legroom for rear passengers with completely flat floor, which is nice for anyone relegated to the middle seat
• The trunk is HUGE and offers 14 cu.ft. (405 L) of cargo space. The seats split 64/40 offering even more room if it’s needed

So How Quick Is It & How Does It Handle?

• Quicker than expected, but not eye-ball flattening – if you press the “-“ button on the shifter it switches on the Sport mode and the car really comes alive! Using it takes the fun factor up considerably, but doesn’t punish you in the L/100 km department. Unfortunately, you need to reset it every time you start the car.
• The Xtronic CVT (continuously variable automatic transmission) matches well with the Sentra SR. Most auto journalists hate CVT transmissions, but that’s only because they don’t experience them long enough. We had a Dodge Caliber for 4+ years with a CVT (made by Nissan) and loved it. The car is always in the correct ‘gear’ when you need it. It’s a little noisy at full throttle sometimes compared to a traditional transmission when you step on it, but so is a Subaru or Porsche with their Boxer engine!
• Oddly enough, no paddle-shifters are available in any trim level, but to be honest, I never use them even when they are available
• Manual transmission is available only on the base S trim
• Adaptive Cruise Control is included (not part of the Safety Shield 360 – see below for this suite of features) and works well. Sometimes it felt like it was leaving too much distance between me and the car in front, but as people were hammering on their brakes, the Sentra was very calm and it never felt like a panic stop/braking situation – VERY important when the clown behind you is riding your bumper. It’s very impressive how it goes about its business – it no doubt works in tandem with the Intelligent Forward Collision Warning system – see below
• Steering feedback is very good with just the right amount of weight
• Maximum Towing Capacity – 1,000 lbs (454 kg)

Horsepower: 149 @ 6,4000 rpm
Torque: 145 @ 4,400 rpm
Top Speed: 193 km/h / 120 mph (Est)
0-60 mph (sec): 9.2 (MotorTrend managed to get 8.0)

What Does It Cost? For up-to-date pricing and options visit: or
To Buy…
2020 Nissan Sentra 2.0 SR: $23, 998
+ $2, 000 Premium Package (thin lens LED headlamps, Leatherette seats, 2-way power driver’s seat lumbar, Bose Audio system, Intelligent All-round View monitor, Auto dim rear view mirror and illuminated vanity mirrors)
+ Two-tone Paint $325
As Tested: $26,333

To Operate…
• Rated at (L/100 km): City – 8.2 / Highway – 6.2 / Combined – 7.3 // mpg (U.S.): 28 / 37 /32
• I averaged 7.7 L/100 km being fairly aggressive with the gas pedal
• I easily got 5.7 in less spirited driving on 2-lane highways (80 km/h)
• Basic: 3 years/60,000 km
• Powertrain: 5 years/100,000 km
• Roadside Assistance: 3 years + 3 Year Travel Planning Service

The Competition
Honda Civic, Hyundai Elantra, Kia Forte5, Mazda3, Toyota Corolla, VW Golf

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
• The Good: Price, looks, Nissan Safety Shield 360, adaptive cruise control and the Colour
• The Bad: No navigation available but lots of manufacturers are going this way with everyone using Android Auto and Apple Car Play
• The Ugly: This is very rare, but I can’t find anything negative about this car – other than it could use more power, you can never have too much of that!

What’s The Verdict?
Wow, what a terrific car – not only for the money, but just a nice (almost perfect) car overall. My wife said this is definitely at the top of her list of next-car-to-lease and I agree wholeheartedly. This is a tough car to beat – perfect size, great fuel economy, huge trunk and it looks amazing in the orange. Complete strangers stopped us to tell us that the car was ‘sharp’ and how much they loved the colour. The exterior is sporty without being over the top (Honda Civic – talking to you). The interior quality is impressive and looks like it comes from a much more expensive car. Power and performance are perfectly acceptable for a car of this size and price point. It’s quiet and very comfortable to drive – and with the safety features included… it’s bordering on perfect!!

SAFETY – Nissan Safety Shield 360

(Several cameras, radar technology and sonar work together to create a system that looks in front, behind and beside the vehicle as it drives)
• High Beam Assist
• Automatic Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection – can provide audio and visual alerts and even apply the brakes to help avoid or mitigate a collisions
• Blind Spot Warning – I love where the light is placed in the door instead of on the mirror, like most manufacturers – it’s so much easier to see
• Rear Automatic Braking – watches out directly behind you for stationery items you might not see.
• Rear Cross-Traffic Alert – can alert you to approaching cars that might be out of sight
• Lane Departure Warning – vibrates the steering wheel just enough to get your attention without being annoying
• Intelligent Forward Collision Warning – It watches two cars ahead, monitoring your speed and distance, and when it detects sudden deceleration, it can give you a warning to slow down.
• Driver Attention Alertness – analyzes driver steering behavior to provide an alert if signs of drowsiness or inattention are detected

Copyright © 2020 by Iain Shankland. All rights reserved.
Text: Iain Shankland / Images: Iain Shankland