2020 Nissan Sentra SV: Smart affordable choice
I've owned several small vehicles in my life, but none have been simple economy cars. I've always wanted something more, so I've bought and sold sports cars, hot hatches, turbo- and V6-powered compacts, one of Subaru's first all-wheel-drive station wagons and even a Mazda R100, the company's first rotary car sold in the US, which I hot-rodded for more power.
And when I've tested subcompact and compact cars for the Portland Tribune, they've always been top-of-the-line versions with extra features like leather interiors, the most powerful motors and even sport tuned suspensions.
So I was intrigued when Nissan gave me a nearly base compact 2020 Sentra SV to test. It only had a few more features than the base S version, like 16-inch alloy wheels and a 8-inch display screen instead of a 7-inch one. But it lacked the sporty touches of the SR version, like side body extensions, a rear spoiler and optional leather seats.
Finally, I thought, a chance to see what buyers sacrifice when they buy a basic economy car. But after a week of test driving, I decided that owning a 2020 Nissan Sentra SV requires very little sacrifice. It is stylish, roomy, comfortable and surprisingly fun to drive, thanks to a supple suspension and standard 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that is peppy off the line and more than adequate for freeway passing.
This is not you're grandfather's — or even your father's — economy car. They were frequently unsophisticated and even lacking in basic features. And many of them didn't even get that great gas mileage because the engines were so underpowered.
But we scored around 35 miles per gallon in a week of mixed city and freeways driving, while enjoying a great stereo system and a standard Safety Shield 360 safety system that included both forward and reverse automatic braking, blind spot warning, lane departure warning and automatic high beams. The reverse automatic braking feature is especially impressive, since no other manufacturer offers it as a standard feature.
The 2002 Sentra features the styling cues of the corporate line, which includes sharp exterior lines and a clean interior design. The Electric Blue paint on our test model highlighted the crisp exterior styling, while the interior design was refreshingly simply and easy to understand and use. The fabric in our cloth seats seemed very durable, and they were also comfortable enough for long trips.
All Sentra's are only available with one powertrain, a 2.0-liter inline four that produces 149 horsepower and 146 foot-pounds of torque. Although less powerful than smaller turbocharged engines offered in some other compacts, the combination nevertheless proved more than adequate during a week of test driving. A Sport mode activated by a button on the gear shift also increased performance slightly.
Nissan keeps the Sentra selection simple with just three trim levels. The base Sentra S starts at $19,090, followed by the SV at $20,270 and the SR at $21,430. The Sentra S comes with a 7-inch touchscreen, but both the SV and SR get the 8-inch version that includes Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity. Upper time levels can be ordered with a Premium package that includes leather seats, an 8-speaker Bose stereo, and other upgrades.
Everyone knows Nissan is facing issues related to the ouster of its former boss, most likely related to an internal management struggle with partner Renault. That's unfortunate, but not as serious as when Chrysler and General Motors declared bankruptcy. The company's vehicles are still well made, competitive in all classes, and well worth checking out.
The 2020 Nissan Sentra SV is not the flashiest or most sophisticated affordable compact on the market. But neither is it a sacrifice to own and drive. In fact, we like the styling, handling, standard tech and economy. If your looking for a relatively inexpensive car that is easy to live with and can carry four adults comfort, you don't need to look any further.
2020 Nissan Sentra SV
Base price: $20,270
Price as tested: $21,400
Type: Compact sedan
Engine: 2.0-liter inline 4 (149 hp, 146 lbs-ft)
Transmission: Continuously Variable Transmission
EPA estimated mileage: 29/39
Overall length: 183.1 inches
Curb weight: 3047 pounds
Final assembly: Smyrna, Tennessee
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