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Big Revisions for the 2021 Nissan Sentra

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This time last year, we were preparing to drive the next-generation Nissan Sentra at a North American launch in California. For the occasion, the Japanese manufacturer presented us with a fairly transformed model.

Overall, our driving experience was very positive, but we left the event feeling that despite the progress made with the model, Nissan had missed some great opportunities when it came to the equipment.

Specifically, two decisions had left us bitterly disappointed. First, only the base version was equipped with a manual transmission, a move that obviously served to allow the carmaker to promote an asking price under $20,000. Perhaps worse was that version didn't offer heated front seats or the Apple CarPlay and Android Auto applications.

That was a first misstep.

Second, as we looked up the trim range, we were told that the SR version was sportier, sleeker and so on. However, this version was only available with a continuously variable transmission. The response from the assembled media, including your truly, was unanimous: no way was this sportier.

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2021 Nissan Sentra, three-quarters rear
Photo: Nissan
2021 Nissan Sentra, three-quarters rear

Followed an at-length discussion with Nissan's product planning manager, Scott Pak. We felt he was listening, really, but we didn't expect any changes, at least not in the short term.

It was a nice surprise to learn, then, that for 2021, Nissan is bringing two important changes to the Sentra, which by the way are reserved for Canadian consumers: heated front seats and Apple and Google applications with the basic manual transmission version. Oh, and the addition of a manual gearbox for the SR variant.

Accessibility to Nissan Connect services has also been expanded across the lineup. To help it compete against a Toyota Corolla that is still relevant and a redesigned Honda Civic set to show up in the spring, Nissan is giving itself all the tools to fight on equal terms.

As critical as we’d been of Nissan’s decision-making last year, now we give the company its due. It listened and it reacted.

2021 Nissan Sentra, interior
Photo: Nissan
2021 Nissan Sentra, interior

And as for the SR version with manual gearbox, you'll soon find out what it's made of, because we'll be testing it over the holidays.

The Sentra is powered by a 2.0L 4-cylinder engine making 149 hp and 146 lb-ft of torque, and each version comes with the Nissan Safety Shield 360 safety suite. This includes intelligent emergency braking system with pedestrian detection, blind spot and rear cross traffic alert, lane departure warning, automatic low beam, and emergency reverse braking. Rear door warning is also included with each variant.

For the price range, see the list below. Two interesting notes: the base version is still available at $19,198 even with the additions for 2021, and the SR variant with manual transmission is under $23,000.

Sentra S 6-speed manual                                     $19,198 CAD
Sentra S with Xtronic transmission                        $20,798 CAD
Sentra SV with Xtronic transmission                      $22,198 CAD
Sentra SV with Xtronic transmission and sunroof    $22,998 CAD
Sentra SR 6-speed manual                                   $22,898 CAD
Sentra SR with Xtronic transmission                      $24,198 CAD
Sentra SR Premium with Xtronic transmission        $26,198 CAD

2021 Nissan Sentra, three-quarters front
Photo: Nissan
2021 Nissan Sentra, three-quarters front
2021 Nissan Sentra, front
Photo: Nissan
2021 Nissan Sentra, front
2021 Nissan Sentra, from above
Photo: Nissan
2021 Nissan Sentra, from above
2021 Nissan Sentra, second-row seats
Photo: Nissan
2021 Nissan Sentra, second-row seats