The Altima is available with all-wheel drive, and the Sentra is not.
While some manufacturers are starting to throw in the towel with sedans or greatly reduce their sedan offerings, Nissan is soldiering on with several sedans available in a wide variety of sizes. In the compact sedan segment, Nissan offers the Sentra, which is starting to show its age since it hasn’t gotten a thorough update since the 2013 model year. Nissan’s midsize sedan offering is the Altima, which has been fully redesigned for 2019 with a new look, a very interesting new engine, available AWD, and much more.
Let’s take a look at how the Altima and the Sentra compare in 2019.
The most obvious difference between the Sentra and the Altima is that they’re in different segments. The Sentra is a compact sedan and the Altima is a midsize sedan, so obviously the former is smaller than the latter. As for styling, the Sentra wears an older version of the Nissan corporate design language, while the Altima is ushering in a new one with its full redesign for 2019. As a result, the Altima is a more modern looking car than the Sentra.
The Altima is also the more modern car in terms of interior design. Nissan gave the new Altima a very nice looking interior that we’d even dare say looks a bit German with its premium-looking design. We wish we could say the same about the Sentra, but frankly, this compact is looking pretty dated on the inside with some low-grade materials that are lackluster even at the affordable price point. See the 2019 Nissan Altima models for sale near you
One thing we do like about the Sentra’s interior is the spacious seats and the back seats, which are accomodating to adults. Being pretty roomy on the inside, the Sentra is on the larger side of the compact segment, which makes it a pretty good family car. However, since the Altima is a size bigger, it’s an even better family vehicle with generous room for passengers. See the 2019 Nissan Sentra models for sale near you
The Sentra and the Altima both have two engines available under the hood. Both come standard with front-wheel drive, and the 2019 Altima is the first Nissan sedan with available AWD in the United States. This and the available VC-Turbo engine are part of what makes the Altima stand out in its competitive segment.
2019 Nissan Sentra Engines
1.8-liter inline-four with 130 horsepower, 125 lb-ft of torque, and 29 miles per gallon in the city/37 mpg on the highway
1.6-liter turbocharged inline-four with 188 hp, 177 lb-ft of torque, and 27 mpg city/33 mpg hwy
2019 Nissan Altima Engines
2.5-liter inline-four with 188 hp, 180 lb-ft of torque, and 28 mpg city/39 mpg hwy
2.0-liter VC-Turbo inline-four with 236 hp, 267 lb-ft of torque, and 25 mpg city/34 mpg hwy
The fuel economy numbers for the Sentra sound pretty good until you compare them to the surprisingly similar fuel economy ratings of the engines in the Altima. The Altima clearly outclasses the Sentra in terms of performance and achieves better highway fuel economy when it’s equipped with FWD. As with any other vehicle, adding AWD means a slight fuel economy penalty.
A notable change to the 2019 Sentra is that you can no longer get a manual transmission with the SR Turbo trim. If you want the turbocharged engine and manual transmission, you need to upgrade to the NISMO model, which is a little pricey. The 2019 Altima is not available with a manual transmission at all, and that’s par for the course in this segment with few exceptions.
We’d be remiss if we didn’t shine some light on the newly available VC-Turbo engine in the Altima. This is an industry-first, variable-compression, turbocharged engine that’s actually able to change its compression ratio on the fly based on the driver’s inputs. When you demand more performance, the engine lowers its compression ratio. When you’re just cruising on the highway and want the best fuel economy, the compression ratio goes up. This is a very clever trick that results in a nice blend of good performance and good fuel economy.
The new Altima is also available with AWD which is uncommon in this segment. AWD drive is very nice to have in snowy climates when you need that extra traction. However, AWD is only available with the base engine and it’s impossible to get an Altima with the VC-Turbo engine and AWD. However, it isn’t that much of a compromise since the base engine in the Altima delivers more than adequate performance and impressive fuel economy.
Nissan gave the Sentra a much-needed technological update for 2019 that includes a standard 7-in infotainment system with Bluetooth connectivity and a backup camera. This generously sized screen has a user-friendly interface, and for the first time in the Sentra’s history, it’s available with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. The Sentra has some nice optional safety tech, including blind-spot assistance, adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking and rear cross-traffic alert.
The new Altima comes standard with an 8-in infotainment system that incorporates Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. It’s a tablet-style system that’s mounted to the dash, and it’s one of the more user-friendly systems out there. The Altima comes standard with a backup camera, automatic emergency braking and forward-collision warning. Optional tech includes a 360-degree camera, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, pedestrian detection, and traffic sign recognition. The Altima is also available with Nissan’s ProPilot Assist system, which is awesome to have in stop-and-go traffic. It uses adaptive cruise control in conjunction with lane-keeping assist to give you a semi-autonomous driving experience that makes it easier to drive in heavy traffic.
Since the Sentra is in a smaller segment than the Altima, it’s also more affordable. The 2019 Sentra has a starting MSRP of $17,890, and the Altima starts at $24,000. The higher-end models of the Sentra get into the mid-$20k range, while the nicer Altimas can go into the mid-$30k range. One of our favorite things about the Altima is that AWD is available on every trim, which means that the most affordable AWD Altima starts at just $25,350 — making it one of the most affordable AWD midsize sedans on the market.
The Nissan Sentra is having a hard time staying competitive with more modern compact cars, like the recently redesigned Mazda3 and Toyota Corolla, but the Altima is at the top of its game. We applaud Nissan for its technological updates to the Sentra for 2019, but they’re a bit too-little, too-late.
The Nissan Altima, on the other hand, offers some impressive perks that are uncommon in this segment, like AWD and the class-exclusive VC-Turbo engine. The Sentra is competitive on price, and it’s a good value proposition for a sub-$20k car, but we think the Altima is a better value considering its new look, great engines, more modern technology, reasonable pricing and better fuel economy, despite the fact that it’s a bigger car. Find a Nissan Altima for sale or Find a Nissan Sentra for sale