2021 Nissan Sentra Pros vs Cons. Should You Buy?
The 2021 Nissan Sentra is a small sedan geared for buyers shopping on a restricted budget. Once upon a time, that meant Sentra buyers got a vehicle that had a lackluster performance and an inferior build quality. These days? Not so much. Since it was redesigned for the 2020 model year, the Nissan Sentra has become stiff competition for vehicles like the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, and Mazda 3. It gained a new base engine with much more power, a more aerodynamic exterior, and a more upscale interior design - all the things the Sentra needed to compete. And nothing changes for 2021 because, well, it didn't need to. Read on and see what we mean.
What's New for 2021?
Only minor changes have been made to the 2021 Nissan Sentra. This model year, the base trim level gains standard smartphone app integration via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. These features were unavailable on previous model years, so this is a pretty big leap for Nissan. Also, the SR trim level now can be equipped with WiFi hot-spot, Nissan Connect Services, and a two-tone paint combination that matches a black roof with Electric Blue metallic paint.
Top 10 Reasons to Buy a 2021 Nissan Sentra – The Pros
1. A Cozy Ride Quality
The 2021 Nissan Sentra's ride quality is top notch. Any type of road imperfection is quickly smoothed out by the well refined chassis. While this softness does make the Sentra feel a bit floaty at highway speeds, it feels perfectly comfortable going around town. Also, the cabin remains quiet with minimal noise intrusion. Whatever does manage to seep in is nothing that your sound system will not cover up.
2. High-quality Cabin Materials
It used to be that the Nissan Sentra's interior materials were cheap and tacky, falling short of what you would have seen a few years ago in rivals like the Honda Civic. But, since its overhaul last year, Nissan has been equipping the Sentra with some stunning interior materials. The design itself is quite chic and logical.
3. Easy-to-use Controls
Everything inside of the 2021 Nissan Sentra's cabin is straightforward so that users can easily manage the controls. Everything is placed within the driver's grasp, including controls for the cruise control and audio system being mounted on top of the steering wheel. Labels are pretty obvious, and everything functions as it should. There is no guesswork to be had as to which button does what inside of the Sentra. Even the touchscreen system - albeit a bit dated - is simple enough to navigate.
4. A Spacious Interior
Space isn't something small sedans are notorious for having, but the Sentra has a respectable amount of space in the front and rear of the cabin. In fact, the rear seat is one of the most generous in terms of leg space in this entire segment. Taller passengers will not be cramming their legs in, and front seat occupants will not have to slide their seats up to make room for longer-legged rear seat occupants.
5. A Highly Adjustable Driver's Seat
Each Sentra driver gets treated to a seat that is easy to adjust. Upgrading to the SV trim level gets you a power adjustable driver seat, although the manually adjustable seat on the lower trims is functional too. Since the SV is probably the trim level that will attract the most buyers, we think that this power adjustable driver's seat is going to offer the most configurations and comfort for the best price. Drivers of any size can easily find a good sitting position and get cozy behind the wheel.
6. Plenty of Safety Features
Looking for something with a lot of standard safety features? Then you should be pleasantly surprised by what the 2021 Nissan Sentra has to offer. Nissan equips its vehicles with Nissan Safety Shield 360, which is standard on every Sentra trim level. This means any trim you get will come with Automatic Emergency Braking with a feature that detects pedestrians you might not otherwise be able to see, a blind spot monitoring system with a rear cross traffic alert, Automatic High Beam Assist, a warning for when you start to drift over your lane, and automatic braking for the rear. Most of these features work well enough and are not intrusive.
7. More Infotainment Features Than Ever Before
The 2020 overhaul brought with it a plethora of additional infotainment features. On the base trim, you can get a 7-inch touchscreen infotainment display with a 4-speaker sound system. An 8-inch touchscreen comes on the SV, which also adds smartphone app integration via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. A 6-speaker sound system and additional USB port get included on that trim level as well. If you upgrade to the line-topping SR trim level with the Premium Package equipped, you ca enjoy listening to music on the eight-speaker Bose premium sound system.
8. Generous Cargo Space
With 14.3 cubic feet of cargo space available, the 2021 Nissan Sentra does a bit better than most of its competitors in terms of space. You can fold the 60/40-split folding rear seats down in order to accommodate bulkier items, although the only release for that is located in the rear seat. You will at least have enough space to fit your week's worth of groceries in or pack up the golf clubs and head out for a day on the course.
9. Plenty of Small Item Storage Areas
Stashing your small devices is not a hassle in the Sentra. There are plenty of small items storage spaces inside of the cabin. There are also enough bottle and cup holders to go around. The center bin has enough space to fit a small tablet or a couple of cell phones. The center console itself makes it easy for you to organize your spare change, cards, pens, and other loose items you might need to grab in a jiffy.
Affordability is what really attracts buyers to the Nissan Sentra. It is more than just a budget vehicle these days though. It offers buyers a well-built, classy-looking sedan for a more reasonable price than what competitors price theirs at. Even though Nissan hiked each trim level up by about a $100 MSRP this model year, this is still incredibly affordable compared to top rivals like the Honda Civic and Mazda 3.
Reasons Not to Buy a 2021 Nissan Sentra – The Cons
1. Loses Steam As You Gain Speed
The biggest downfall to owning the 2021 Nissan Sentra is its weak engine. The 2.0-L 4-cylinder engine only generates 149 hp and 146 lb-ft of torque and is paired with a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). This powertrain feels sluggish and only gets the Sentra from 0 to 60 mph in 8.8 seconds, which puts it closer to the back of the pack with the Corolla and the Kia Forte. As you gain speed, the engine loses steam, which is frustrating as you are trying to get up to speed on the highway.
2. Substandard Emergency Braking
Making a panic stop in the Sentra can be iffy. While the brake pedal itself is nice and smooth to modulate, the stopping distance from 60 down to 0 mph is 131 feet. Industry average is about 123 feet. Hitting the brakes hard for a panic stop doesn't feel as secure as it should, and if there were to be a vehicle in front of you, things could be truly dangerous. This is the one thing about the Sentra that has us worried, although we would still say it isn't a deal-breaker.
3. Limited Rear Visibility
Just looking forward, you get a clear view. But trying to look out the rear is difficult. The thick, chunky roof pillars obstruct your view, and the sloping roofline cuts down even more on side and rear visibility. It might make the vehicle look cooler, but we'd take safety and practicality over style any day.
4. A Dated Infotainment System and No Onboard Navigation
Unfortunately, as cool as the 2021 Nissan Sentra's infotainment system looks from the onset, it comes across as dated the more you use it. Plus you don't even get an onboard navigation system on any of the trim levels. The infotainment system itself is somewhat slow to respond to your input, and the graphics look like they might have several years ago; they definitely are not current-gen.
How It Stacks Up to the Competition:
2021 Nissan Sentra vs. 2021 Honda Civic
It is hard to compare anything against the 2021 Honda Civic. The Civic is a tough rival, year after year, and this year is no different. The 2021 line-up offers superb fuel economy and an exciting driving performance from its standard turbocharged engine. The ride quality also strikes the right balance between being nimble and cozy. On top of that, the spacious cabin is jammed with standard infotainment and safety features that, for the most part, work pretty well and are up-to-date. The drawbacks? Adaptive cruise control can be a bit laggy, and forward collision warning is a little too vigilant in trying to detect potential crashes.
2021 Nissan Sentra vs. 2021 Toyota Corolla
The 2021 Toyota Corolla is a rather formidable opponent this model year and prices similarly to the Sentra. It, too, has a ton of standard infotainment and safety features. Also, the Corolla puts out some strong fuel economy numbers while still giving you a refined ride quality. Unfortunately, the Corolla is also like the Sentra in that its engine is underpowered, making it less fun to drive than the Civic. Also, head room in the rear gets cut down by a sloping roofline that echoes what you see on the Sentra.
There are a few things holding the 2021 Nissan Sentra back from bumping elbows with the Civic and Mazda 3, but last year's overhaul brought it much closer to the top of the pack than it had been. The interior is infinitely more refined, and there are more features available now. A few tech upgrades are still needed, and a turbo engine option could do wonders for the Sentra, but for now, this budget-friendly sedan is spacious and practical enough.
• Why buy a 2020 Nissan Sentra? w/ pros vs cons