Remember when everyone called Target, “Tar-Jay?”
It earned the nickname by offering well-designed products at affordable prices. So maybe we should start calling the 2021 Nissan Sentra SR, the Sen-traaaahhhh, for it offers the technology one might associate with a luxury car without a hefty price tag.
Better yet, Nissan’s compact sedan is a real eyeful, competing in a class brimming with worthy, and less stylish, competitors.
Redesigned for 2020, the Nissan Sentra returns in ascending S, SV and SR trim levels, and now comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration and Android Auto on all trim levels. Other changes come on the top-of-the-line SR model, which is available with NIssanConnect and a Wi-Fi hotspot and a new two-tone paint combination — Electric Blue Metallic with Black roof. Otherwise, the Sentra remains unchanged from its revision last year, offering the sort of technology once reserved for far pricier cars.
Walk around the 2021 Nissan Sentra and you’ll find its design is striking, especially when ordered with two-tone paint — a $595 option. It’s as if you left a Nissan Altima and Maxima in the dryer too long. Usually, cars in this class are dowdy and inconspicuous — just check out a 2016 Sentra. But the current model makes a strong case for being among the most stylish in its class, a reminder that good design doesn’t have to cost more.
Certainly luxury is an overused word, but you could be excused for thinking you climbed into a compact luxury sedan when you climb into the Sentra SR, particularly when equipped with the $2,270 SR Premium Package.
This adds all the yummy stuff your inner-hedonist craves: thin LED headlights, power glass moon roof, pleather seat trim, 6-way power driver’s seat, heated front seats, a heated steering wheel, 8-speaker Bose premium audio system, an around view monitor and NissanConnect with Wi-Fi hotspot. There’s no navigation system, but most folks use their smartphones for that anyway.
The cabin is roomy, and it’s detailing looks upscale, with stitching on the flat-bottom steering wheel, shifter cover, along the instrument panel seams, center console and seats. Soft-touch materials offset the hard plastic used elsewhere, while round air vents add a distinctive design touch.
Seats proved comfortable, but support proves lacking over longer drives. There was a surprising amount of legroom both front and rear. While the trunk at nearly 15 cubic feet, provides plenty of schlepping space.
This front-wheel-drive sedan comes with one driveline: a double-overhead cam 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine mated to a continuously variable automatic transmission. It produces 149 horsepower, 20% more than the engine in the 2019 Sentra.
Safety and Technology
The Sentra’s list of standard safety equipment is extensive, including automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, forward-collision warning, rear automatic braking, blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert, lane-departure warning, high-beam assist and a rear-view monitor.
Technology is equally impressive with an 8-inch color touchscreen with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, SiriusXM Radio and Bluetooth. The SR trim level also comes with a front USB-A and USB-C ports, as well as a rear USB-A port.
Best of all, the Bose 8-speaker audio system provides impressive sound quality. A 7-inch touchscreen is standard on the Sentra S, while SV and SR trims get the 8-inch touchscreen. Its new operating system is a revelation, far easier to use than the cumbersome system used on its siblings. NIssanConnect’s app allows you to remotely lock or unlock your car, receive roadside assistance, or remotely start your vehicle from your smartphone.
Don’t expect the driving fun you might experience behind the wheel of a Mazda3 or a Honda Civic, this is no sports sedan. Still, it’s a satisfying small sedan to drive thanks to its nicely weighted steering that returns some road feel.
Yes, there’s some body lean in corners, but body motions are very well controlled. The new independent rear suspension does a decent job of absorbing most bumps, although the worst shocks do pound through. The cabin is astonishingly quiet, more so than cars at twice the price. Only the engine gets vocal when pushed.
2021 Nissan Sentra SR Specifications:
|Dimension||L: 182.7 inches/W: 71.5 inches/H: 57 inches/Wheelbase: 106.6 inches|
|Powertrain||2.0-liter DOHC 4-cylinder engine; CVT and front-wheel drive|
|Fuel Economy||28 mpg city/37 mpg highway/32 mpg combined|
|Performance Specs||149 horsepower and 146 pound-feet of torque|
|Price||Base price: $21,750; As tested: $25,910 including $925 destination and delivery charge|
|On-Sale Date||Available now|
Considering the average price in April was $40,768, according to the analysts at Kelley Blue Book. The 2021 Nissan Sentra is a compelling value. It offers so much at half the cost. Stylish and solid, the car’s value proposition is strong, as long as you’re not expecting anything remotely sporty. So it begs the question: is luxury dead, or is it merely being democratized?