Eventually, Nissan will stop letting me drive their Sentra model. I know that day is coming soon, and truthfully I’ll be sad about it despite my reactions to the compact sedan. It seems that over the years I’ve been unnaturally harsh to the model, and that trend will continue here, I’m afraid.
I’m not totally against the Sentra, nor do I hate it. In fact, I think it’s quite a good car and anyone in the market for a comfortable, reliable and easy-to-drive sedan with plenty of interior space will be pleasantly surprised by everything the Sentra has to offer for not a lot of coin. However, I feel it’s just missing… something.
Then again, I’m not the ideal buyer for the 2015 Nissan Sentra, and I know this. While the Sentra offers gobs of functional, practical, city-dwelling capabilities, it lacks driving dynamics, enthusiasm, and performance. I need my vehicles to have some oomph, and the Sentra just doesn’t have that -- and it hasn’t had that since they cut the SE-R Spec-V in 2006.
These aren’t bad things though, nor are they negative points against the 2015 Nissan Sentra because it’s precisely what it’s supposed to be in today’s market, and it excels on being the kind of car you’d stack up against the likes of the Mazda3, Toyota Corolla, and Honda Civic. And against that stiff competition, I actually think it does quite well.
What the Nissan Sentra does well
It’s designed to please. Over the years, the Sentra has matured nicely. It went from cute and bubbly to shrunken Altima to finally standing on its one four wheels and really coming into its own. Looking at the Sentra, you’d not expect it to sport the low price tag that it does, and that’s a good thing.
Step inside and the same feeling resides. Soft-touch materials abound and design touches like available faux-wood trim and brushed chrome accents make the 2015 Nissan Sentra seem much more upscale than its segment would suggest. And all of this in a car with a top base price under $25k. Not too shabby.
I was supremely impressed with the interior space in the 2015 Nissan Sentra. Truly. The backseat space is cavernous, offering up 950mm of legroom (which is at least 30mm more than the Mazda3 and Honda Civic), and ample amounts of headroom. The trunk is also large with 428 litres to stuff with, well, stuff. My son’s large baby seat fit with ease, and even with the front passenger seat at a neutral position, he couldn’t kick the back (bonus, nothing to clean up at the end of the week!).
What the Nissan Sentra does all right
Now, when it comes to the drive, the 2015 Nissan Sentra is OK. It’s not amazing. It’s not horrible, but it is OK. Granted, my tester added a slight bit of excitement by offering up a 6-speed manual transmission. Every other Sentra I’d driven up to that point had either been equipped with an automatic or CVT – snooze fest. However, the manual added a little je ne sais quoi to the equation, and I actually really enjoyed it. While not the most robust in terms of return on power or performance, it was at least more engaging than a two-pedal drive.
The standard (and only) 1.8L 4-cylinder is efficient and offers up 130 horsepower and 128 lb-ft of torque. Power is sent to the front wheels only, and an Xtronic CVT is optional. It’s not the most powerful or exciting, but with the CVT will return an impressive (and money-saving) 6.1L/100km on the highway. That’s enough to have some heading straight to the Nissan showroom to pick one up.
It’s not really enough for me. If I had to buy a Sentra, I’d opt for the 6-speed manual at least, and that would mean my fuel numbers would change a bit to 6.6L/100km on the highway and 8.9L/100km in the city. Still good.
What the Sentra does poorly
Excite. Here’s where the Sentra always falls flat for me; in its lack of soul. It’s odd that the Micra is packed with so much personality and flair, while the Sentra just kind of sits there toeing the ground, looking meek and ho-hum. There’s nothing enticing about the Sentra, nothing that grabs your attention.
By comparison, the Mazda3 has uber sharp looks and a cool, modern interior. The Honda Civic is, well, a Honda, and the Corolla wins on brand awareness and popularity through generations of purchases.
The 2015 Nissan Sentra has its place in the compact car segment, which is why it continues to do well. It is an affordable pseudo-luxurious option that will return good gas mileage and carry lots of stuff. All positive points to consider -- just not the ones I’d have at the top of my own personal shopping list.