This is now year two of generation eight, the best Sentra there’s ever been and a credible alternative to top players like the Toyota Corolla and Honda Civic. With the selection of affordable compact sedans shrinking, those companies still with metal in the game are raising the stakes significantly.
Buyers can now expect certain things to be standard equipment, like forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone integration. The 2021 Sentra supplies those and goes even further, adding blind-spot monitoring and driving features to enhance cornering ability.
Beyond that are exceptionally comfortable Zero Gravity front seats, plus a flat-bottomed steering wheel that brings a little bit of sportiness and makes it easier for drivers to slide their knees under.
All this is just some of the substance behind a style that has had a chance to mature, having already been applied to the larger Altima and Maxima sedans. There’s the signature V-element in the grille and sections of the rear pillars are blacked out to create the illusion of a floating roof.
On the face of it, pricing is average for the class, but some rivals have manual transmissions in their more basic versions. And a few use a cheaper rear suspension (torsion beam, as opposed to the Sentra’s more sophisticated independent multi-link setup). So the 2021 Sentra looks even more competitive when delving into the details.
What’s New for 2021?
Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone integration is fitted as standard throughout the lineup. The top SR trim becomes eligible for Nissan Connect (a system that brings various apps under control of the infotainment system) and Wi-fi. And a new two-tone exterior color scheme of Electric Blue Metallic with a black roof is also offered for the SR model. See the 2021 Nissan Sentra models for sale near you
What We Like
- High level of standard safety technology
- Upscale interior
- Affordable pricing
What We Don’t
- Not crazy about the continuously variable transmission
$20,335 – $22,675
Every 2021 Sentra is propelled by a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine making 149 horsepower and 146 lb-ft of torque. This all goes to the front wheels through an automatic continuously variable transmission (CVT)
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) puts fuel consumption for the S and SV trims at 29 miles per gallon in the city, 39 mpg on the highway, and 33 mpg in combined driving. Most rivals with a 2.0-liter engine and CVT also average around 33 mpg. The SR achieves 28 mpg city/37 mpg highway/32 mpg combined.
Standard Features and Options
The 2021 Nissan Sentra comes in S, SV and SR trim levels. Vehicle prices include a $925 destination charge.
The S ($20,335) has 16-in steel wheels with plastic covers, Easy Fill Tire Alert, automatic on/off halogen headlights, keyless entry/ignition, power windows/locks/side mirrors, air conditioning, cloth upholstery, 6-way manually adjustable driver’s seat, 4-way manually adjustable front passenger seat, 60/40 split/folding rear seats, cruise control, 12-volt outlet, 10 airbags, Rear Door Alert, 7-in color infotainment touchscreen, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone integration, Bluetooth connectivity, auxiliary audio input, AM/FM radio, USB port, hands-free text messaging assistance, Siri Eyes Free voice recognition, and a 4-speaker audio system with speed-sensitive volume control.
The S also comes with Nissan’s Safety Shield 360 safety features includes forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking and pedestrian detection, blind-spot warning with rear cross-traffic alert, automatic rear braking, lane departure warning (with a haptic steering wheel), and automatic high beams.
The SV ($21,395) adds 16-in alloy wheels, heated side mirrors, upgraded cloth upholstery, dual-zone automatic climate control, leather-wrapped steering wheel, adaptive cruise control, remote engine start, 8-in infotainment touchscreen, satellite radio, two additional USB ports, and a 6-speaker audio system.
An SV Premium Package brings 17-in alloy wheels, a powered moonroof, quilted leather seating surfaces, 6-way power-adjustable driver’s seat with two-way lumbar support, heated front seats, and a leather-wrapped shift knob.
The SR ($22,675) has 18-in alloy wheels, reflector LED headlights/daytime running lights/fog lights, black-painted side mirrors with integrated LED turn signals, rear spoiler, leather-wrapped shift knob, and SR cloth upholstery with orange stitching.
An SR Premium Package adds projector LED headlights, powered moonroof, heated steering wheel/front seats, simulated leather upholstery, 6-way power-adjustable driver’s seat with two-way lumbar support, self-dimming rearview mirror, sun visors with illuminated mirrors, 360-degree Nissan Around View camera system, Nissan Connect, Wi-Fi, and an 8-speaker Bose audio system.
The 2021 Sentra has all the usual safety equipment, such as stability control, traction control, anti-lock brakes, etc. One little gripe is that the entry-level S model has drum brakes at the rear, which seems like cost-cutting in the wrong places. The other two models have discs at each wheel. Every Sentra also comes with 10 airbags and the Safety Shield 360 driver assistance features.
In crash tests carried out by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), this new generation of Sentra took a maximum 5-star overall score. This was repeated in most categories, except for a 3-star rating for front impacts on the passenger side, leading to an overall front-impact score of four stars.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gave the Sentra top scores of Good in most major crashworthiness categories.
Behind the Wheel
The 2021 Sentra doesn’t feel like a reasonably priced new car. The cabin materials are classy, with plenty of soft-touch surfaces. Even though this is a compact sedan, hip and shoulder room is plentiful. But the Sentra doesn’t have as much rear legroom as the Toyota Corolla or Honda Civic.
The standard Zero Gravity front seats are supremely comfortable, perhaps the best seats in the class. Drivers can spend many hours in them without feeling too tired.
The cabin is also pretty quiet while cruising. There’s an overall civility that gives the car a mini-Altima vibe. Some road noise is noticeable for rear passengers, but normal conversation is possible up front without having to raise voices. It’s only when accelerating hard that any engine noise and transmission drone start to become irritating.
Not that anyone expects a 149-hp compact sedan to blast from point to point, but a little more muscle would be welcome. Especially for passing maneuvers on highways. Around town, though, it’s fine.
A CVT is the sole transmission. These things have never been known to excite an enthusiast, but Nissan has made it more than tolerable by keeping drone to a minimum and adding simulated shift points to give the impression of a conventional automatic.
There’s better news in two standard features, both of which work subtly behind the scenes to improve ride quality and cornering ability. Active Ride Control applies imperceptible braking to selected wheels to counteract any up/down pitching movement when driving over rough surfaces. And Intelligent Trace Control brakes whichever wheel is necessary to make the Sentra track around corners with precision. Factor in decent steering feel and, although the 2021 Sentra is not a proper sport sedan, there’s a tangible sportiness when driven with some zeal.
The handling is pleasantly athletic, yet not at the expense of ride comfort. This setup is certainly as good as many rivals’ base models. The SR has a stiffer ride because of its bigger wheels and lower-profile tires, so pay attention to this aspect if test-driving a new Sentra.
Trunk capacity is a useful 14.3 cu ft. Folding down the rear seats adds more cargo-carrying versatility.
Other Cars to Consider
2021 Honda Civic — As the arguable class leader, the Civic has a superb combination of space, fuel economy, performance, quality, and features. Available in sedan and hatchback body styles.
2021 Mazda3 — This highly stylish compact comes as a sedan or a hatchback. It’s a blast to drive, delivers terrific fuel economy, and has a comfortable cabin. It also offers the option of all-wheel drive.
2021 Kia Forte — A close relative to the Elantra with a similar features-per-Franklins formula and the same long warranty.
2021 Toyota Corolla — All new for last year, the Corolla sedan has many advanced safety features as standard. A manual transmission is also available.
Used Nissan Altima — For more space and power, a used Altima midsize sedan is a good place to start. It has agreeable styling, comfortable seats, and plenty of safety technology.
Go for the SV. The amount of extra standard equipment over the base S for $1,060 is too good to ignore and will appeal to most buyers. The SR’s main attraction might be its Premium package. Find a Nissan Sentra for sale