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2015 Nissan Sentra: New Car Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Autotrader January 2015

The 2015 Nissan Sentra places small-car value into a roomy and efficient package that borders on midsize sedan comfort and style.

With such worthy competitors as the Honda Civic, Ford Focus and Toyota Corolla, the 2015 Sentra charts a decidedly different course. It emphasizes a quiet and roomy cabin, with special attention paid to back-seat head and legroom. The Sentra is impressively fuel efficient, yielding an estimated 30 miles per gallon in the city and 39 mpg on the highway (40 mpg hwy with the FE+ package).

One potential drawback is that the Sentra's mandatory 1.8-liter engine is less powerful than almost everything else in this 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.

Still, in every other category that matters, Nissan's newest compact comes up smelling like roses. We think it's the company's most well-rounded small sedan in years.

What's New for 2015?

Big changes for 2015 include more standard equipment for the base car, such as Bluetooth, a USB port and cruise control. The SV is upgraded with Nissan's Intelligent Key and a rearview camera, while the SR trim gains heated front seats and the optional equipment from last year's Driver's package.

What We Like

Spacious interior; strong fuel economy; agreeable ride; attractively priced; user-friendly navigation and instruments

What We Don't

Not a speed demon; no 5-door hatchback or performance-oriented model; extra cost for the FE+ 1 mpg gain isn't worth the extra $400

How Much?

$17,305-$25,000

Fuel Economy

Every Sentra is powered by a 1.8-liter inline-4 that produces 130 horsepower and 128 lb-ft of torque. That's about all the Corolla gets out of its 1.8-liter 4-cylinder, but almost every other engine in this class has more juice. Still, the Sentra barely weighs 2,800 pounds, so it generally keeps up with traffic well enough.

In most Sentra models, the little 1.8 will be overseen by a gearless, continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). While the base Sentra S offers a 6-speed manual transmission, the rest of the lineup comes only with the CVT. Nissan has been building CVTs for a while now, and this one is a good match for the humble motor, delivering nearly seamless acceleration.

Fuel economy estimates for mainstream models with the CVT are very good at 29 mpg city/39 mpg hwy. The CVT-only FE+ package creeps up to 30 mpg city/40 mpg hwy, while the 6-speed manual drops to a more pedestrian 27/36 mpg.

Standard Features & Options

The 2015 Nissan Sentra is offered in five trims: S, FE+S, SV, SR and SL. Only the base S trim offers a manual transmission; all others employ a CVT.

The Sentra S ($17,305) includes a 6-speed manual transmission, 16-inch 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 USB and auxiliary audio jack.

The Sentra FE+S ($18,555) adds the CVT, a rear spoiler and low-rolling resistance tires.

The Sentra SV ($19,125) features a 6-speaker audio system, illuminated steering-wheel-mounted audio controls, Intelligent Key with push-button start, a rearview camera, a security system and upgraded cloth trim.

The Sentra SR ($20,735) includes 17-in alloy wheels, more aggressive front and rear fascias, side-sill extensions, a rear spoiler, fog lights, rear disc brakes, a chrome exhaust tip, a special silver interior trim and unique sport-cloth upholstery.

The Sentra SL ($21,495) is stocked with different 17-in alloys, automatic headlights, heated exterior mirrors with integrated LED turn signals, keyless entry with push-button start, leather steering-wheel and shift-knob trim, heated front seats, leather seating surfaces, wood-tone interior accents, dual-zone automatic climate control, a 4.3-in audio display with SiriusXM satellite radio (subscription sold separately) and USB/Bluetooth connectivity.

Five option packages are offered on various trims. The Navigation package features a navigation radio, a rearview monitor, Bluetooth streaming audio, NissanConnect apps and SiriusXM Travel Link. The Cold Weather package adds heated side mirrors and heated front seats. The Style package adds a power glass moonroof, rear spoiler and 16-in alloy wheels. The SR Premium Package adds a power moonroof, an 8-speaker Bose audio system and leather seats with heated front seats. The SL Premium package adds the same features minus the leather seats (they're already standard on SL).

Safety

The 2015 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 this end, note that the Sentra S and SV models come only with rear drums, while the SR and SL models feature discs all around.

Every Sentra is outfitted with six airbags (front, front-side and full-length side curtain).

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave the 2015 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 but its small-overlap front-crash test, which earned the Sentra a Poor rating.

Behind the Wheel

Unlike some rivals, the Sentra 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 2015 Sentra hits most of the right notes.

Other Cars to Consider

Chevrolet Cruze -- The Cruze has an older feel inside than the Sentra does, but its handling is sharper. The turbocharged motor pairs nicely with the manual shifter in the Cruze Eco.

Dodge Dart -- With a chassis by Alfa Romeo, an available turbocharged engine borrowed from the FIAT 500 Abarth and an interior by Chrysler, the new Dart is an intriguing intercontinental mix.

Hyundai Elantra -- A direct rival to the Sentra in terms of both power and fuel economy, the Elantra offers distinctive style and a more generous feature set.

Used Nissan Altima -- A 2013-2014 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 under $21,500. We'd make ours an SV with the Navigation, Cold Weather and Style packages, and we'd still be out the door with an MSRP of just over $21,000. That's refreshing.

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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.
2015 Nissan Sentra: New Car Review - Autotrader