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2021 Nissan Sentra vs. 2021 Subaru Impreza: Which Is Better?

With buyers increasingly choosing crossovers, it’s imperative for automakers to give buyers reasons to buy compact sedans, and the 2021 Nissan Sentra and 2021 Subaru Impreza both prove versatile and practical. But which is better?

Quick Facts

  • Subaru Impreza comes standard with all-wheel drive.
  • Subaru Impreza is offered as either a sedan or hatchback.
  • Sentra’s zero-gravity seats provide hours of comfort.

2021 Nissan Sentra

2021 Nissan SentraBase price: $20,335 / Read our 2021 Nissan Sentra review

What we like: Steering, great seats; sharp styling; lots of tech and safety features.

What we would change: Only one engine choice; poor rear visibility; no hybrid; poor resale values.

Overview: Completely redesigned for 2020, the Nissan Sentra now resembles its bigger sedan family members, with chiseled looks and a distinctive V grille. There’s only one engine and transmission choice, but it provides enough zip for a compact sedan. Combine that with a new chassis and suspension and communicative steering, and the 2021 Sentra handles itself well. Starting just above $20K, the Sentra is very well equipped, with a standard 7-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality, plus all Nissans gets Nissan’s Safety Shield 360 suite, which includes blind-spot warning, lane-departure warning, and rear cross-traffic alerts. This is good because the sloping roofline and thick C-pillars hamper rear visibility somewhat.

What’s new for 2021: 2020 brought a full redesign, so changes to the Sentra for 2021 are sparse. Formerly only available on the upper trims, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration are now standard across the board, and Nissan Connect with a Wi-fi hotspot is now available on the SR trim. Aesthetically, there’s a new two-tone paint combination available for the SR trim: Electric Blue metallic with a black roof.

Features and technology: Available in three trim levels, the 2021 Nissan Sentra includes a single engine choice, a 2.0-liter four-cylinder powering the front wheels via a continuously variable transmission. The base S trim is handsomely equipped, with push-button start, a 7-inch touchscreen, and a 4.2-inch digital display. Included are Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. All 2021 Sentras get Nissan’s Safety Shield 360 suite, which includes a blind-spot warning, lane-departure warning, rear cross-traffic alerts, and automatic braking with pedestrian detection. The Suspension includes Active Ride Control and Intelligent Trace Control.

The SV trim includes an 8-inch touchscreen, dual-zone climate control, a six-speaker audio system, and intelligent cruise control, while the top SR trim adds 18-inch wheels, LED lights and foglights, a rear spoiler, a sportier interior, and heated exterior mirrors. Options include an upgrade Bose audio system and leather heated front seats.

What does the future hold: For the 2020 redesign, Nissan limited the Sentra to a single engine and got rid of the hybrid. We would like to see an upgrade engine, possibly a turbo, to match the Sentra’s sporty intentions. Find a 2021 Nissan Sentra for sale

2021 Subaru Impreza

2021 Subaru ImprezaBase price: $19,720 / Read our 2021 Subaru Impreza review 

What we like: Sedan or hatchback option; standard all-wheel drive; solid resale values.

What we would change: Add a stronger engine option; improve the CVT; offer EyeSight with either transmission.

Overview: Available as either a sedan or a hatchback, the 2021 Subaru Impreza is a versatile compact, with room for five. A four-cylinder engine sends power to all four wheels through either a manual transmission or a CVT, all-wheel drive giving it sure-footedness in foul weather and capable handling. We don’t particularly like the droning of the CVT at full throttle, but Subaru’s excellent EyeSight drive assist feature is only available with the CVT option. The Subaru comes well equipped, with a 6.5-inch touchscreen and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, and higher trim levels offer more features. The Subaru Impreza has a reputation for both reliability and good resale values.

What’s new for 2021: Changes to the Subaru Impreza are relatively modest for 2021. Most significantly, the Premium trim gets Subaru’s SI-Drive, which allows the driver to select different engine modes. Other than that, the Sport Trim’s rear spoiler is now black with Crystal Black Silica end panels.

Features and technology: Ranging from about $19K to about $26,800 for the top Limited, the 2021 Subaru Impreza is offered in four trim levels. Hatchback variants cost about $500 more than the sedan. The base model comes with a 6.5-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality, 6-way manually adjustable driver seat, split-folding rear seats, and keyless entry. As mentioned above, the base transmission is a manual, with Subaru’s EyeSight system only available on cars equipped with the CVT.

The Premium trim comes with the CVT standard, alloy wheels, an upgraded 6-speaker audio system with a CD player, dual rear USB ports, a 4.2-inch LCD instrument display, and foglights, among other things. Premium trim also includes SI-Drive, and the upper-level Sport model offers a short-throw manual shifter. Sport trims also include active torque vectoring, a sport-tuned suspension, an upgraded infotainment system with an 8-inch touchscreen, and red stitching on the seats. Other options include leather upholstery in the Limited trim, and an optional moonroof, a navigation system, and an 8-speaker Harman Kardon audio system.

What does the future hold: As our biggest gripe with the Impreza involves its CVT, we hope for an improvement. We would also like a bit more power in the base engine, and for EyeSight to be offered standard, regardless of transmission. Find a 2021 Subaru Impreza for sale 

Sentra vs. Impreza: Strengths comparison

Sentra Benefits: Smoother transmission; better driving manners; much better fuel economy; cargo space.

Impreza Benefits: Excellent reliability; choice of body styles; optional manual transmission; all-wheel drive; high resale values.

2021 Sentra vs. 2021 Impreza: Which is better?

With a choice of either a sedan or capacious hatchback and full-time all-wheel drive, the 2021 Subaru Impreza is unquestionably a good choice for those who require hatchback versatility and all-weather sure-footedness. But when it comes to the needs of the typical compact sedan buyer, the 2021 Nissan Sentra is a smoother driver and offers a great suite of safety features standard, significantly better fuel economy, and at least in sedan form, a bigger trunk. We choose the Nissan. Find a 2021 Nissan Sentra for sale or Find a 2021 Subaru Impreza for sale

2021 Nissan Sentra 2021 Subaru Impreza
Popular Powertrains
Engine 2.0-liter I4 2.0-liter flat-4
Horsepower 149 hp @ 6,400 rpm 152 hp @ 6,000 rpm
Torque 146 lb-ft @ 4,400 rpm 145 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm
Transmission Continuously variable 5-speed manual
Fuel Economy 33 mpg (29 city/39 highway) 27 mpg (23 city/31 highway)
Also Available n/a CVT
Basic warranty 3 years/36,000 miles 3 years/36,000 miles
Powertrain Warranty 5 years/60,000 miles 5 years/60,000 miles
NHTSA Overall Safety Rating 5 Stars 5 Stars
Max Seating Capacity 5 5
Wheelbase 106.8 inches 105.1 inches
Overall Length 182.7 inches 182.7 inches
Width 71.5 inches 70.0 inches
Height 56.9 inches 57.3 inches
Turning Diameter 38.1 feet 35.4 feet
Headroom, Front 38.9 inches 39.8 inches
Headroom, Rear 36.7 inches 37.2 inches
Legroom, Front 44.0 inches 43.1 inches
Legroom, Rear 37.4 inches 36.5 inches
Shoulder Room, Front 56.4 inches 56.7 inches
Shoulder Room, Rear 54.5 inches 55.6 inches
EPA Passenger Volume 96.0 cubic feet 99.8 cubic feet
EPA Cargo Volume 14.3 cubic feet 12.3 cubic feet

Doug Lloyd
Doug Lloyd
Doug Lloyd is an author specializing in comparison tests. A veteran of the automotive press world, Doug started at Sports Car International and Vintage Motorsport magazines and has worked at both Porsche Panorama magazine and Doug is also a jazz piano player and a composer for television.

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