2018 Nissan Sentra – In Depth Review

If you are looking for a no-nonsense compact car, the 2018 Nissan Sentra will impress you. Nissan Engineers simply engineered the most spacious car they could at the lowest cost possible. The result is a compact car more spacious and having more boot capacity than some mid-size sedan with a starting price of $16,990.

Accompanying that is a cockpit that’s laid out intuitively and a tall upright stance that provides excellent outward visibility. Even the base 130 hp 1.8L naturally aspirated engine is engineered for just satisfying simple transportation needs. While the available 188 hp 1.6L turbocharged I4 promises more, it feels incomplete against similarly priced rivals like the Fiesta ST.

A 6-speed manual is available but it’s unrefined so we recommend sticking to the CVT and enjoying its 32 mpg combined fuel economy. That said, if you can do away with available space and are willing to spend little more, rivals like the Honda Civic offer plenty of features, upscale interiors, more exciting drive and excellent fuel economy as well.

Things we like

  • Expansive Interiors
  • Capacious Boot
  • Decently equipped base trim
  • Excellent Bang for the Buck

Things we don’t like

  • Boring performance
  • Interior not as nice as rivals
  • Plenty of cost-cutting measures

What’s new for 2018 Nissan Sentra

  • All automatic transmission equipped 2018 Sentra get Automatic Emergency Braking
  • Rearview Monitor is standard
  • Sentra SV gets 16-inch wheels and standard dual-zone climate control

2018 Nissan Sentra Pricing and Options

Starting at just $16,990 for the base Sentra S, the 2018 Nissan Sentra is one of the cheapest compact cars on the market. It gets the base 1.8L naturally aspirated I4 mated to 6-speed manual. However, we strongly recommended upgrading it with optional CVT that takes the price to $18,275.

Trims S SV SR SR Turbo SL NISMO
MSRP $16,990 $19,085 $20,500 $22490 $23,440 $25,790
Features 1.8-liter DOHC 16-valve 4-cylinder engine

Bluetooth streaming audio

Automatic Emergency Braking

RearView Monitor

Advanced Drive-Assist Display with 5″ color display

Includes S features plus:

Xtronic CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission)

Nissan Intelligent Key with Push Button Ignition

Dual Zone Automatic Temperature Control (ATC) with in-cabin microfilter

Premium Cloth Seats and Door Trim

Includes SV features plus:

17″ aluminum-alloy wheels

LED low-beam projector headlights with LED accents

Premium Sport cloth seat trim

Heated front seats

Intelligent Cruise Control (ICC)

Includes SR features plus:

1.6-liter Direct Injection Gasoline (DIG) Turbocharged Engine

Tuned suspension and steering

11.7″ front ventilated disc brakes

Power sliding glass moonroof with tilt feature

Includes SV features plus:

Leather-appointed seats

Intelligent Cruise Control

Power sliding glass moonroof with tilt feature

Fog lights

Bose Premium Audio System with eight speakers

Includes SR Turbo features plus:

NISMO-tuned suspension and steering

18″ NISMO wheels

NISMO Aerodynamic body kit

NISMO interior with signature red trim

The 188 hp 1.6L turbocharged I4 bangs in with SR Turbo priced at $22,490. The Sentra SL retailing at $23,440 is the most well equipped Sentra. However, the pricing takes away the value proposition of the Sentra. The Sentra Nismo with a price tag of $25,790 brings all the racy elements from the Nismo stable.

Too many to choose from? We help you find the best trim

Nissan Sentra is a value for money purchase and we recommend sticking with lower trims. Optioning the CVT is a must but a CVT equipped base Sentra S is just marginally cheaper than the Sentra SV equipped with Dual-zone automatic climate control, premium cloth upholstery and push-button start. Hence, all this puzzle solving leads us to the Sentra SV priced at $19,085 – we recommend going for it.

2018 Nissan Sentra Driving and Performance

2018 Nissan Sentra Engine
2018 Nissan Sentra Engine

Keeping with the Sentra’s mission of providing fuss-free transportation, a smooth but unexciting 1.8L engine does the job of hauling the large cabin. It’s effortless in city and highway but it feels stressed on steep grades or when you ask for more acceleration. Steering and suspension follow the same philosophy – they are perfectly satisfactory for safe comfortable transportation but not exciting.

“Power is sufficient, but a drive in the mountains with a few on board will make you wish for more.” – Kelley Blue Book

Powertrain

The Nissan Sentra gets a standard 1.8L naturally aspirated Inline-4 developing 130 hp and 128 lb-ft torque. This engine develops power smoothly but lacks any hint of excitement. It’s mated to a 6-speed manual as standard in base Sentra S. However, the manual transmission is too crude and we recommend upgrading to the CVT. The CVT suits the Sentra’s laid-back character.

“Base Sentras can be equipped with a 6-speed manual that makes the driver—if not the engine—busier on base versions. The manual is too ropy and loose to be fun, we say.” – Carconnection

Models Nissan Sentra Honda Civic Toyota  Corolla Chevrolet Cruze
MSRP $16,990 $18,840 $21,715 $17,850
Engine 1.8-Liter DOHC 16-valve 4-cylinder engine 2.0-Liter

4-cylinder

engine

1.8-Liter 4-Cylinder DOHC

engine

1.4-Liter ECOTEC DOHC turbocharged 4-cylinder

engine

Transmission 6 speed manual 6 speed manual 6 speed manual 6 speed manual
Power 130 hp @ 6000 rpm 158 hp @ 6500 rpm 132 hp @ 6000 rpm 153 hp @ 5600 rpm
Torque 128 lbs-ft. @ 3600 rpm 138 lbs-ft. @ 4200 rpm 128 lb.-ft. @ 4400 rpm 177 lbs-ft. @ 2000 rpm

It uses the available power much more efficiently and effortlessly. An added bonus is the excellent fuel economy. The Sentra SR turbo and Sentra Nismo gets the much more powerful turbocharged 1.6L Inline-4 developing 188 hp and 177 lb-ft of torque. However, if you need sportiness at this price range, rivals like the Ford Focus ST are more complete option with more power, better chassis, and livelier steering.

Acceleration

Acceleration figures are the last thing Nissan engineers will like to talk about Sentra equipped with base 1.8L engine. It’s among slowest compact cars with 0-60 mph time of 9.5 seconds. The Sentra equipped with 188 hp 1.6L turbo 4 is much quicker with 0-60 time of 7.0 seconds.

“The base 1.8-liter engine offers poor acceleration whether from a standstill or when passing” – Edmunds

Models Nissan Sentra Honda Civic Toyota Corolla Chevrolet Cruze
0-60 MPH 9.5 sec 8.6 sec 9.5 sec 8.1 sec
Quarter mile 17.4 sec @ 81 mph 16.7 @ 86.1 mph 17.4 sec @ 83 mph 16.2 @ 86 mph
Engine 1.8L 2.0L 1.8L 1.4L
Emission

(Tons/yr of CO2 Emissions @ 15K mi/year)

5.9 5.5 5.9 5.5

Ride and Handling

The Sentra is not a car that will intoxicate you barreling down a twisty mountain road. Rather, it offers a safe, confident steering that provides excellent highway stability and still manages to be light in the city. Nissan stiffened the spring rates in 2016 to keep body rolls in check but while the competitors sport fully-independent rear suspension, Sentra has old-school torsion beam rear suspension.

“The Sentra thankfully lacks the heavy at low speeds, light at high speeds steering effort of some other Nissan products. Effort is appropriate for easy commuting and maneuvering around parking lots. There’s sufficient feedback, but class leaders do better.” – Edmunds

Braking

The Sentra gets 11.0-inch brake rotors in front wheels and 9.0-inch brake rotors at the back. The Nissan Sentra has a bit too sensitive brake pedal that can be particularly annoying in stop and go traffic. However, Sentra posts one of the best panic braking performance among competitors and it can stop from 70 mph in 122 feet.

“The Sentra’s overall performance inspires confidence, although the brakes require a light foot in traffic, where inputs can be sensitive. In our simulated-panic stop from 60 mph, the Sentra posted average performance for the class.” – Edmunds

Model Nissan Sentra Honda Civic Toyota Corolla Chevrolet Cruze
Brake Front (in) 11.0 11.1 10.8 10.8
Brake Rear (in) 9.0 10.2 10.2 10.5
Curb Weight (lbs) 2866 2790 2860 2932
60-0 MPH (ft.) 122 127 130 121

2018 Nissan Sentra Fuel Efficiency

The base Nissan Sentra equipped with the 1.8L I4 and 6-speed manual delivers 27 mpg in city and 30 mpg on highway. However, equipping the must-have CVT ups the MPG ratings. The CVT equipped Sentra with 1.8L engine delivers 29 mpg in city and 37 mpg on the highway. The powerful 1.6L Turbo-I4 equipped Sentra produce an acceptable 27 mpg in city and 33 mpg on highway.

“Fuel economy estimates for SV, SL and SR models with the CVT are very good, at 29 mpg city/37 mpg hwy. The S with the 6-speed manual returns a slightly lower 27 mpg city/35 mpg hwy. In the turbo models, the 6-speed manual earns 26 mpg city/32 mpg hwy, while the CVT ups those figures to 27 mpg city/33 mpg hwy.” – Autotrader

Model Nissan Sentra Honda Civic Toyota Corolla Chevrolet Cruze
MPG (city) 27 28 27 28
MPG (highway) 35 40 35 39
MPG (combined) 30 32 30 32

2018 Nissan Sentra Exterior

The Nissan Sentra received a major facelift in 2016 to bring it in-line with the new Nissan V motion design language. The design is not overly busy but does give this compact sedan some road presence. It does feel noticeably taller than the competitors because it is.

2018 Nissan Sentra Nismo Rear Quarter
2018 Nissan Sentra Nismo Rear Quarter

You can equip even the base Sentra S with a Deck-lid spoiler but if you are looking for racy highlights, why not go completely bonkers and get the Midnight trims. These dark Sentras possess black wheels, black spoiler, black mirrors and plenty of other mean highlights and they cost just over a thousand dollar over the comparable trim.

“the 2018 Sentra is well proportioned and attractive. Its design closely mimics the shape of Nissan’s larger Altima sedan with athletic curves and a subtle flare of its wheel wells.” – Kelley Blue Book

Dimension and Weight

The 2018 Nissan Sentra weighs average among the competition and its overall length, width and wheelbase is nothing different compared to other compact cars implying it’s as suited to tight parking spaces as other compact cars. However, its tallest compact car and its higher driving position afford you better outside visibility – a boon in city traffic.

Model Nissan Sentra Honda Civic Toyota Corolla Chevrolet Cruze
curb weight(lbs) 2866 2790 2860 2932
Length(in) 182.1 182.3 183.1 183.7
Width(in) 69.3 70.8 69.9 70.5
Height(in) 58.9 55.7 57.3 57.4
Ground clearance(in) 6.4 5.9 6.7 6.4
Wheel base(in) 106.3 106.3 106.3 106.3
Track width(in) F/R 60.2/60.2 60.9/61.5 59.8/59.9 60.7/61.3

Wheels

The base Nissan Sentra S gets 16-inch steel wheels but if you desire alloys, the Sentra S Midnight Style gets dark 16-inch alloys. The next significant upgrade is the Sentra SR with 17-inch alloys but if you like them dark, the Sentra SR Midnight Edition gets them. The range-topping Sentra Nismo gets the gorgeous looking, larger and wider 10-spoke 18-inch Nismo wheels.

Model Nissan Sentra Honda Civic Toyota Corolla Chevrolet Cruze
Size F/R (in.) 16*6.5/16*6.5 16*7/16*7 17*7/17*7 15*tbd/15*tbd
Quality Steel Aluminum Aluminum Aluminum
Wheel type w/o alloy Alloy Alloy Alloy

2018 Nissan Sentra Interior

2018 Nissan Sentra Interior
2018 Nissan Sentra Interior

The Sentra offers one of the most spacious interiors among compact cars and the trunk is equally generous. The 60/40 split seat provides added flexibility. High driving position offers excellent visibility and the acoustic glass keeps outside noise outside. However, competitors have more upscale interior quality.

“The Sentra is straightforward and user-friendly, with controls that don’t require navigating any high-tech interface. Visibility is also quite good, and the trunk is large. It’s one of the more sensible compact cars.” – Edmunds

Seating and Comfort

If spaciousness means comfort to you, the Nissan Sentra interior will impress you. The front seats offer good legroom and shoulder room and even with the moon-roof, the tall boxy design offers excellent headroom. The tall design and the high driver’s seat also combine to offer an excellent driving position with effortless outward visibility.

Model Nissan Sentra Honda Civic Toyota Corolla Chevrolet Cruze
Passenger capacity 5 5 5 5
Passenger Volume(ft cube) 95.9 97.8 97.5 93.5
Front (Head/Shoulder/Leg)

(In.)

 

39.4/54.7/42.5 39.3/57/42.3 38.0/54.8/42.3 38.9/54.9/42.0
Second (Head/Shoulder/Leg)

(In.)

 

36.7/53.9/37.4 37.1/55/37.4 37.1/54.8/41.4 37.3/53.2/36.1

The rear seats are equally expansive and even an adult passenger will find it easy to get comfortable in the rear middle seat. However, the cabin quality leaves you asking for more if you drive a competitor like the Honda Civic back to back.

“Inside, the 2018 Sentra offers one of the largest interiors in its class. In fact, according to the EPA’s classification system, there’s so much room inside the Sentra it’s actually a midsize.” – Kelley Blue Book

Cargo Capacity

2018 Nissan Sentra Trunk
2018 Nissan Sentra Trunk

At 15.1 cubic feet, the Nissan Sentra offers one of the most cavernous trunk in the compact car class. The 60/40 split rear seat and wide pass-through ensures added flexibility when carrying longer items and three passengers.

“The 15.1-cubic-foot trunk is large for the class the class, and the Sentra’s 60/40-split-folding seat adds some versatility.” – Edmunds

Model Nissan Sentra Honda Civic Toyota Corolla Chevrolet Cruze
Trunk volume (ft.cube) 15.1 15.1 13.0 14.8

Infotainment System

The base Sentra S gets a 5.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system while you can opt for a larger 5.8-inch touchscreen infotainment on higher trims. The Sentra SL gets the 5.8-inch touchscreen as standard. Audiophiles are catered to with the available eight-speaker Bose audio system. However, Nissan does not offer Android Auto and Apple CarPlay in Sentra.

“The infotainment system is easy to use, but Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are missing.” – Edmunds

2018 Nissan Sentra Safety Ratings and Reliability

Impressively, all the CVT equipped 2018 Nissan Sentra now gets automatic emergency braking as standard. A rearview camera is standard as well as it’s now a regulatory requirement. Along with these, the optional Blind-spot monitoring, rear-cross traffic alert, and adaptive cruise control complete the available active safety features and driver assistance systems list.

2018 Nissan Sentra gets following safety features:

VSA Electronic Stability Control (ESC)
ABS And Driveline Traction Control
Side Impact Beams
Dual Stage Driver And Passenger Seat-Mounted Side Airbags
Low Tire Pressure Warning
Dual Stage Driver And Passenger Front Airbags
Curtain 1st And 2nd Row Airbags
Airbag Occupancy Sensor
Rear Child Safety Locks
Outboard Front Lap And Shoulder Safety Belts -inc: Rear Center 3 Point, Height Adjusters and Pretensioners

The 2018 Nissan Sentra has performed well in IIHS crash test.

Small overlap front driver side Good
Small overlap front passenger side N/A
Moderate overlap front Good
Side Good
Roof strength Good
Head restraints & seats Good

However, IIHS has rated the Nissan Sentra headlights as “poor”.

Front crash prevention Superior
Headlights Poor

While all the competitors here have got 5-star crash test rating from NHTSA, the 2018 Nissan Sentra has received 4-star crash rating from NHTSA which is not bad but not up-to the competitors either.

Overall Rating
Overall Frontal Barrier Crash Rating
Frontal Barrier Crash Rating Driver
Frontal Barrier Crash Rating Passenger
Overall Side Crash Rating
Side Barrier Rating overall
Side Barrier Rating Driver
Side Barrier Rating Passenger Rear Seat
Side Pole Rating Driver Front Seat
Combined Side Rating Front Seat
Combined Side Rating Rear Seat
Rollover Rating

2018 Nissan Sentra Competition Check

Honda Civic

The Honda Civic is frequently called the best available compact car and for good reasons. It magically blends terrific fuel economy with enthusiastic engine. It rides comfortably and offers corner craving dynamics as well. Its interior is attractive and feature loaded and it’s priced competently too. However, the Sentra is more spacious and is priced more competently as well.

Toyota Corolla

The Corolla is the car that defines compact-car segment and has the distinction of best-selling car in the world. The reason is simple – immense practicality, bulletproof reliability, sofa-like rear seats with unbelievable legroom for a compact car and excellent value for money. It’s a perfect point A to B tool. But so is the Sentra at a lower price. However, the Sentra lacks the Corolla’s upscale interior.

Chevy Cruze

The Chevy Cruze is one of the cushiest and most refined compact car available. It also gets plenty of upscale features as standard and there is even a turbodiesel engine on offer – at a cost. However, the Sentra is considerably roomier inside and is priced much more competently. Still, if you need a comfortable and feature loaded compact car, the Cruze is an excellent choice.

2018 Nissan Sentra Final Verdict

If you are looking for a decently comfortable and spacious urban runabout at a budget, the 2018 Nissan Sentra should rank high on your lists. It’s one of few compact cars that can carry five passengers in comfort.

The smooth ride and excellent high-speed stability combine with quiet interiors and spacious boot to make this compact car viable for long road trips with family. Plus, the Sentras are known to be reliable and fetch good value in used car market. However, the interior feels it’s built at a cost and the powertrain is not remotely exciting. Fuel efficiency could be better as well.

There is nothing wrong with the Sentra but if you can spend a little more, you can bring such complete cars as the applauded Honda Civic and Mazda 3 in your garage. That said, the Sentra makes a decent case for itself if you find cabin quality and trendy features to be capitalism focused and simply desire a spacious daily driver at a budget.

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