2014 Nissan Sentra Review and Prices

Last Updated: Aug 9, 2013

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The 2014 Nissan Sentra is the best compact sedan for you if what’s going on under the hood is way under your car-buying radar. Sentra was fully redesigned for model-year 2013 and it’s basically a rerun for 2014. This front-wheel-drive four-door continues with some of the lowest prices and highest fuel economy in the class. It’s among the roomiest compacts, too. And it’s one of the slowest. That wouldn’t matter so much if it its modest power was delivered with any finesse.

Sentra’s 2013 redesign brought a slight but useful increase in size, along with all-new styling. The 2014 Sentra gets revisions to its suspension, steering, and its continuously variable transmission – all designed to improve drivability. It’s visually unchanged, and Nissan wouldn’t mind if you consider this a scaled-down version of its popular Altima midsize sedan. But the proportions that succeed on a larger car leave Sentra looking a little frumpy compared with rivals like the Ford Focus, Hyundai Elantra, and Kia Forte.

Sentra returns four models - base S, volume-selling SV, sporty SR, and top-line SL. Each has trendy LED lighting accents. And the S and SV are available as high-mileage FE editions, with low-rolling resistance tires and a rear spoiler. The SR has a rear spoiler, too, although rear disc brakes are its only mechanical edge over the other models. Along with the SL, it comes with 17-inch alloy wheels instead of the 16-inch steel wheels on the other models.

In many ways Sentra’s interior is its highlight. Materials are well-chosen, controls have a precision feel, and the dashboard is tidy and attractive.

This is the top-line SL version. It’s the only Sentra with automatic climate control, and thankfully the only one with this fake wood trim. But its pushbutton ignition is part of an option package for the SV and SR models. So is this surprisingly clear and easy-to-use navigation system. At around $650, it’s priced right and makes the most of its rather small 4.3-inch screen. Some rivals are more liberal with Bluetooth and USB linking, though. On the Sentra, they’re standard only on the SL model and optional on the SV and SR.

Nissan reserves the optional leather upholstery and heated front seats for the SL model. But every Sentra feels pretty spacious. The front seats are broad if a little flat.The back bench is nicely elevated, though -- providing a pleasant view forward and to the sides. And folding rear seatbacks are standard to go along with a 15.1-cubic-foot trunk – one of the very largest in any compact car.

Sentra’s been criticized for lazy handing and a hard ride.  But it’s fine on the road. The steering is nicely weighted.  It’s stable in corners and on the highway. Brake feel is especially pleasing.

The problem is the powertrain. The only engine is a small four-cylinder with just 130 horsepower – among the least in the class. A tiny percentage of S models have manual transmission. Every other Sentra uses a continuously variable automatic – a CVT. This one can be responsive in highway passing – if you’re already underway.

But taking off and getting up to speed mean slow progress – and lots of engine drone.

The compensation is outstanding fuel economy, with CVT models rating 30 miles per gallon city / highway combined, and FE versions hitting the magic 40-mpg mark on the highway. Pricing is good news, too. Sentras with the CVT start around $17,500. SV versions begin in the low-eighteens. And a fully equipped SL won’t set you back much more than $24,000. We don’t think the FE versions stretch fuel economy enough to justify their $400 premium.

Priced aggressively and packaged nicely, Sentra’s Way better than some critics make it out to be. but in powertrain behavior, it’s not nearly as good as it ought to be.

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