Thursday, February 9, 2023
Reviews 2021 Nissan Sentra Review: Good, But Not a Top Contender

2021 Nissan Sentra Review: Good, But Not a Top Contender

The new Nissan Sentra might be the best of its kind but it’s not the best compact car

  • Base price in Canada for the 2021 Nissan Sentra is $19,198 in Canada, $19,460 in the US.

  • The Sentra was once a pilar among compact cars.

  • The current-generation Sentra was introduced for the 2020 model year.

If you’re between the ages of 25 and 50, it’s a safe bet that there was once, at least once, a compact car in your life. No matter the make, a compact car served many purposes and was the go-to mode of transportation for countless Canadian families. Not that long ago, the Nissan Sentra was one such go-to car, but its path wasn’t always without hiccups.

2021 Nissan Sentra SR | Photo: Olivier Delorme

Excluding its Datsun predecessors, the Nissan Sentra arrived in 1982 and by the end of the century, it had elevated itself to the level of a true competitor, both in quality and volume, among the likes of the Chevrolet Cavalier, Toyota Corolla, Ford Escort, and Honda Civic. The 5th-generation Sentra is the one that elevates the car to prominence. For many of us, it’s the Sentra we remember. The follow-up 6th-generation lost the previous car’s momentum and it’s not regained its footing since.

With competitors like the Hyundai Elantra, Toyota Corolla, and all-powerful Honda Civic, there’s no hope the Sentra will ever overtake any members in this Top Three however that doesn’t mean the new compact Nissan isn’t up to the task.

Sharp looking but…

2021 Nissan Sentra SR | Photo: Olivier Delorme

Physically, the 8th Sentra has all other generations looking timid and weak. With Nissan’s “V” motion grille proudly displayed on the front fascia, the Sentra appears far more premium than any before it. In fact, from a distance, the Sentra is almost indistinguishable from the pricier Altima and Maxima.

Furthermore, the tested SR unit happened to be painted Electric Blue with the Super Black two-tone colour combination which highlights the car’s sharp lines. Despite my harsh words, the Sentra is still attractive. The SR trim also includes black 18-inch wheels, a rear spoiler, LED lights, and a few other touches.

Spacious well-put-together cabin

2021 Nissan Sentra SR | Photo: Olivier Delorme

The 2021 Sentra’s cabin has moved up in class much like the exterior. The dashboard has more going on with its standard 7-inch touchscreen, 4.2-inch IP display, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and more. Fit and finish are very good – never does the Sentra give the impression that it is a lesser car.

This is especially true when it comes to space. The rear bench is large enough for three normal adults and they’ll have a surprising amount of legroom. Up front, the same can be said about overall volume where there’s plenty of room. The tested SR featured a few unique touches including sport cloth seats, a heated steering wheel, accent stitching, an 8-inch touchscreen, and a 7-inch digital IP. Bottom line, the Sentra’s cabin is a good place to be.

Fair driver

2021 Nissan Sentra SR | Photo: Olivier Delorme

From the driver’s seat, the Sentra is as adequate as one can expect from a compact car. That is unless you drive a new 2022 Honda Civic. Ride quality is better than decent even with the 18-inch wheels and tires on the tester. Handling is satisfying as is steering response.

All new 2021 Nissan Sentras are powered by a naturally-aspirated 2.0-litre engine that produces 149 horsepower and 146 lb.-ft. of torque. These numbers are up slightly from the 1.8-litre mill it replaces however the current Sentra weighs in at somewhere between 100 and 200lbs more than the previous. This means gains in performance are negligible.

2021 Nissan Sentra SR | Photo: Olivier Delorme

What isn’t to be brushed over is the fact that Nissan Canada has done all manual transmission enthusiasts a solid by making it available with the Sentra. Although it’s not the sharpest of its kind, it works quite well. The clutch’s high friction point requires a moment or two to get used to but after that, it’s smooth sailing.

Interestingly, average fuel consumption numbers for both the CVT and the 6-speed manual transmission are on par at 8L/100km, give or take a tenth. If there was one more reason to work three pedals, this is it, not to mention that the CVT is $1,300 extra.

In other words, it’s average

2021 Nissan Sentra SR | Photo: Olivier Delorme

And average is a good thing. The Sentra is another Nissan product that addresses all wants and needs without excelling or thoroughly disappointing. It sets the average in the segment for design, content, value, and driveability.

Although this is good enough for thousands of new compact car buyers, the current Top Three, the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, and Hyundai Elantra, have nothing to fear. In my opinion, the first two are untouchable and the ones to buy.

2021 Nissan Sentra SR | Photo: Olivier Delorme

2021 Nissan Sentra SR | Photo: Olivier Delorme

2021 Nissan Sentra SR | Photo: Olivier Delorme

2021 Nissan Sentra SR | Photo: Olivier Delorme

2021 Nissan Sentra SR | Photo: Olivier Delorme

2021 Nissan Sentra SR | Photo: Olivier Delorme

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Matt St-Pierre
Trained as an Automotive Technician, Matt has two decades of automotive journalism under his belt. He’s done TV, radio, print and this thing called the internet. He’s an avid collector of many 4-wheeled things, all of them under 1,500 kg, holds a recently expired racing license and is a father of two. Life is beautiful. Send Matt an emai


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