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2021 Nissan Sentra vs. 2021 Toyota Corolla: Which Is Better?


The recently redesigned 2021 Nissan Sentra goes up against the best-selling 2021 Toyota Corolla. They both offer plenty of features at a great price, but which is better?

Quick Facts

  • Corolla hybrid earns 52 mpg.
  • Corolla is available as a hatchback or a sedan.
  • 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.

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 2021 Nissan Sentra 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 upgraded 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 upgraded engine, possibly a turbo, to match the Sentra’s sporty intentions. Find a 2021 Nissan Sentra for sale near you

2021 Toyota Corolla

2021 Toyota Corolla Apex
Base price: $20,780 / Read our 2021 Toyota Corolla review

What we like: Choice of engines, including a hybrid; loads of standard safety features; reliability and high resale values.

What we would change: Not terribly exciting; hybrid’s a bit underpowered; no all-wheel-drive option.

Overview: While it did not necessarily invent the compact sedan segment, the Toyota Corolla has been around for nearly 50 years and is consistently one of the best-selling cars on the market. Aside from Toyota’s well-deserved reputation for reliability, the 2021 Toyota Corolla stands out for its choice of engines (including a hybrid), both sedan and hatchback models, and plentiful standard features. While there is a limited-edition Corolla Apex model with an upgraded suspension and better handling, the 2021 Corolla distinguishes itself not with its sporty performance but with good driving manners, comfort, and confident steering.

What’s new for 2021: Changes to the Corolla tend to be incremental rather than radical, and the 2021 Corolla is no exception. Android Auto is added to the infotainment suite, rear cross-traffic alert becomes available as well as additional rear airbags, and engine start-stop also becomes standard. The newest addition to the lineup for 2021 is the Apex edition, a limited-edition option with a sporty demeanor, an upgraded suspension, and tighter handling.

Features and technology: The 2021 Toyota Corolla sedan comes with a choice of three engines and five trim levels, plus a hybrid. There is also a hatchback model but it is not reviewed here. The base L trim is well equipped, though, with LED headlights, 15-inch wheels, a 6-way adjustable driver seat, and a 7-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay, Amazon Alexa, and Android Auto compatibility. All trims also include the Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 suite of safety features. These include a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, lane-departure alert, automatic high beams, Road Sign Assist, radar cruise control, and Lane Tracing Assist.

The next level up is the LE, for $450 more. This includes an 8-inch touchscreen, 16-inch wheels, automatic climate control, remote keyless entry, and premium fabric. The rear-seat armrest also includes cupholders. The next step up is the SE, which includes the upgrade 2.0-liter engine, an optional manual transmission, and 18-inch wheels.

Next beyond that are the XLE and XSE, with such things as a power driver seat, a JBL premium audio system, heated front seats, and SofTex faux leather. They also add blind-spot monitoring.

What does the future hold: Slow and steady has been Toyota’s plan, keeping the Corolla fresh but not radically changed. Expect future editions to include more safety and tech features, and possibly improved fuel economy figures. Find a 2021 Toyota Corolla for sale near you

Sentra vs. Corolla: Strengths comparison

Sentra Benefits: Great seats; sharp looks; base engine makes more power but with the same fuel economy; more responsive steering.

Corolla Benefits: Reliability and resale; optional hybrid; choice of engines; hatchback or sedan.

2021 Nissan Sentra vs. 2021 Toyota Corolla: Which is better?

In the 2020 redesign, the Sentra really upped its game, and the 2021 Nissan Sentra is still a great little car, with sharp looks, great seats, good driving manners, and a ton of features at a very reasonable price. But it’s hard to unseat the king, and given its choice of engines and body styles, ranging from a hybrid to the limited-edition Apex, the 2021 Toyota Corolla still reigns. Combine that with its great build quality and top-notch resale values and it’s the all-around compact champ. Find a 2021 Toyota Corolla for sale or Find a 2021 Nissan Sentra for sale

2021 Nissan Sentra 2021 Toyota Corolla
Popular Powertrains
Engine 2.0-liter I4 1.8-liter I4
Horsepower 149 hp @ 6,400 rpm 139 hp @ 6,100 rpm
Torque 146 lb-ft @ 4,400rpm 126 lb-ft @ 3,900rpm
Transmission Continuously variable Continuously variable
Fuel Economy 33 mpg (29 city, 39hwy) 33 mpg (30 city, 38hwy)
Also Available n/a 2.0-liter I4, 1.8-liter I4 + 53 kW electric motor
Specs
Basic warranty 3 years or 36,000 miles 3 years or 36,000 miles
Powertrain Warranty 5 years or 60,000 miles 5 years or 60,000 miles
NHTSA Overall Safety Rating 5 Stars n/a
Max Seating Capacity 5 5
Wheelbase 106.8 inches 106.3 inches
Overall Length 182.7 inches 182.3 inches
Width 71.5 inches 70.1 inches
Height 56.9 inches 56.5 inches
Turning Diameter 38.1 feet 35.6 feet
Headroom, Front 38.9 inches 38.3 inches
Headroom, Rear 36.7 inches 37.1 inches
Legroom, Front 44.0 inches 42.0 inches
Legroom, Rear 37.4 inches 34.8 inches
Shoulder Room, Front 56.4 inches 54.0 inches
Shoulder Room, Rear 54.5 inches 51.7 inches
EPA Passenger Volume 96.0 cu. ft. n/a
EPA Cargo Volume 14.3 cu. ft. 13.1 cu. ft.

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 Edmunds.com. Doug is also a jazz piano player and a composer for television.

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