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2018 Nissan Sentra: New Car Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Autotrader November 2017

Offering handsome styling, loads of content for the money and really good fuel economy is the name of the game for the 2018 Nissan Sentra. But the Sentra line also includes a more sinister side with two performance models: the NISMO and SR Turbo.

In a segment quickly filling with newer competitors, Nissan has decided to play to the Sentra's strengths, those being its comfortable ride, affordable price and huge interior. In fact, the compact Nissan Sentra is so roomy the EPA actually categorizes it as a midsize sedan. The Sentra is also impressively fuel efficient, yielding an estimated 29 miles per gallon in the city and 38 mpg on the highway. Of course, competitors such as the new Honda Civic, Chevrolet Cruze and Toyota Corolla are also growing in size, efficiency and power, giving consumers a lot to think about.

One potential drawback is that the Sentra's standard 1.8-liter engine is less powerful than almost everything else in its class. That might not mean much to those who care more about fuel economy than power -- until the need to overtake slower-moving traffic or merge onto a busy freeway arises, in which case the turbo model should be given serious consideration.

What's New for 2018?

For 2018, the Sentra gains automatic emergency braking as standard equipment. The Sentra S gains a rearview monitor and 5-inch color touchscreen, while the SV grade gets new 16-in aluminum wheels and dual-zone automatic climate control. Intelligent Cruise Control is standard on SR 1.8 and SL models, and the previous NISMO and SL Tech packages are made standard on those trims.

What We Like

Spacious interior; strong fuel economy; agreeable ride; attractively priced; user-friendly navigation and instruments; high-tech safety and infotainment features; sporty Turbo and NISMO trims

What We Don't

Non-turbo models not particularly quick; no 5-door hatchback model; lacks some flashier color options offered on other makes; no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto

How Much?

$17,875-$28,000

Fuel Economy

The Sentra S, SV, SR and SL are all powered by a 1.8-liter 4-cylinder engine that produces 124 horsepower and 125 lb-ft of torque. A turbocharged 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine with 188 hp and 177 lb-ft of torque is offered in the SR Turbo and NISMO models.

With the exception of the base S model, which comes with a 6-speed manual transmission, all models with the 1.8-liter engine employ a gearless continuously variable automatic transmission(CVT). The Sentra SR Turbo and NISMO also come with a 6-speed manual transmission and offer a uniquely tuned CVT transmission with manual shift mode as an option.

Fuel economy estimates for SV, SL and SR models with the CVT are very good, at 29 mpg city/37 mpg hwy. The S with the 6-speed manual returns a slightly lower 27 mpg city/35 mpg hwy. In the turbo models, the 6-speed manual earns 26 mpg city/32 mpg hwy, while the CVT ups those figures to 27 mpg city/33 mpg hwy. The NISMO 6-speed manual earns 25 mpg city/31 mpg hwy, while the CVT gets 25 mpg city/30 mpg hwy.

Standard Features & Options

The 2018 Nissan Sentra is offered in six trims: S, SV, SR, SR Turbo, NISMO and SL. Only the S, SR Turbo and NISMO trims offer a manual transmission; all others employ a CVT.

The Sentra S ($17,875) includes a 6-speed manual transmission, 16-in steel wheels with plastic covers, LED headlight and taillight accents, power windows and door locks, air conditioning, a tilt-telescopic steering wheel, Bluetooth, cruise control, a height-adjustable driver's seat and a 4-speaker audio system with a 5-in touchscreen, a rearview monitor and USB and auxiliary audio inputs. Automatic emergency braking is added when equipped with the CVT automatic.

The Sentra SV ($19,845) features a 6-speaker touchscreen audio system, illuminated steering-wheel-mounted audio controls, Intelligent Key with push-button start, a 5-in driver information screen, dual-zone automatic climate control, 16-in wheels, NissanConnect, Siri Eyes Free (requires an Apple smartphone), a security system and upgraded cloth trim.

The Sentra SR ($21,255) includes unique 17-in alloy wheels, more aggressive front and rear fascias, side-sill extensions, a rear spoiler, fog lights, LED low-beam headlights, rear disc brakes, a chrome exhaust tip, adaptive cruise control and heated front seats and side mirrors, plus unique sport cloth upholstery.

The Sentra SL ($24,325) is stocked with different 17-in alloys, automatic headlights, heated exterior mirrors with integrated LED turn signals, keyless entry with push-button start, a leather steering-wheel and shift-knob trim, a power moonroof, Bose audio, a 6-way power driver's seat with 2-way power lumbar support, heated front seats, leather seating surfaces, Piano Black interior accents, dual-zone automatic climate control, a 5.8-in color touchscreen with SiriusXM radio (subscription sold separately) and USB/Bluetooth connectivity. Also standard is a blind spot monitoring system, rear cross-traffic alert and NissanConnect with navigation and mobile apps.

The Sentra SR Turbo ($23,085) builds on the the SR's features with stiffer springs and dampers, revised electronic steering settings and larger brakes. A power sunroof is standard.

The Sentra NISMO ($26,675) brings unique NISMO exterior and interior design elements, the 1.6-liter turbocharged engine, a stiffer chassis, upgraded brakes and suspension and 18-in NISMO 10-spoke alloy wheels.

Several options packages are available on various trims offering such upgrades as navigation, Bose audio, a power moonroof, a 6-way power driver's seat with 2-way power lumbar support, leather seating surfaces, a blind spot monitoring system and rear cross-traffic alert.

Safety

The 2018 Nissan Sentra comes with anti-lock brakes that use front discs and rear drums. Rear drum brakes, which are cheaper and simpler than disc brakes, are a common feature on entry-level economy cars, but you'll want discs if possible. To that end, note that the Sentra S and SV models come only with rear drums, while the SR, SL and NISMO models feature discs all around.

Every Sentra is outfitted with six airbags -- front, front side and full-length side curtain. Models equipped with the automatic transmission also come standard with automatic emergency braking.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave the 2018 Nissan Sentra an overall score of four out of five stars, with four stars awarded in the front and rollover tests and five stars in the side-impact test. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the Sentra a Good score in all of its crash tests -- including a Superior score in the crash-avoidance and mitigation tests -- and lists the Sentra as a Top Safety Pick.

Behind the Wheel

Unlike some rivals, the Sentra SL doesn't aspire to be sporty or aggressive on the road. Even the smartly dressed SR is really the same agreeable Sentra underneath. This Nissan just provides comfortable basic transportation highlighted by a relatively quiet, compliant ride. Handling is adequately composed in emergency maneuvers, but the Sentra is all about setting it and forgetting it. If you're simply looking for an affordable sedan that'll get you through the daily commute with minimal fuss, the 2018 Sentra hits most of the right notes.

Move up to the turbocharged SR and NISMO models, however, and the story gets a bit more exciting. The 188 hp adds a nice boost to the Sentra's ability to dart across intersections and pass slower-moving objects. The suspension upgrades are most welcome in sharp curves, giving the Sentra a more sporty feel reminiscent of the old Sentra SE-R. Thicker glass helps keep cabin noise at a respectable level, and even with its stiffer springs and shocks, the SR Turbo's ride remains comfortable on most road surfaces. Although we have yet to drive it, we expect the NISMO version to offer even better handling but a harsher ride.

Other Cars to Consider

2018 Chevrolet Cruze -- The Cruze offers a more playful suspension, but its turbocharged engine isn't as powerful as the Sentra's turbo. Stylistically, the Cruze is much sleeker than the Sentra and offers a 5-door hatchback model. It also costs a bit less. There's also a high-mileage diesel option.

2018 Honda Civic -- The Civic offers a more modern design inside and out, with a choice of coupe, hatchback or sedan body styles. The Civic gets better fuel economy than the Sentra and offers a wide range of models, including the sporty Si and Type R.

2018 Hyundai Elantra -- A direct rival to the Sentra in terms of both power and fuel economy, the Elantra offers distinctive styling and a more generous feature set. Passenger volume is nearly identical between the two, but the Sentra has greater cargo volume.

Used Nissan Altima -- A 2013-2016 Nissan Altima offers more power, more room and more features -- with the same good looks and Nissan quality.

Autotrader's Advice

As Nissan rightly points out in its marketing materials, the Sentra is a good deal, with even the SL starting at a hair over $24,000. We'd make ours an SR with the Technology package and we'd still be out the door with an MSRP of just under $23,000. That's refreshing. For those wanting a bit more power, the SR Turbo with the Premium Technology package is a really sweet deal.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2018 Nissan Sentra: New Car Review - Autotrader