Nissan introduced the redesigned 2020 Sentra this week at the LA Auto Show. The Consumer Reports Cars team will be seeing this vehicle, and many others, in person to provide insights on notable upcoming models. The new car is desperately needed for the automaker, because the outgoing model significantly trails the compact sedan leaders—including the Subaru Impreza, Toyota Corolla, and Honda Civic—and ranks next to last in Consumer Reports’ ratings. 

The current Sentra was redesigned for the 2013 model year, and despite a number of updates remains an unimpressive car. Nissan expects the new Sentra to have improved fuel economy over the old car, a quieter cabin, and better ride comfort and handling capabilities. And it has made key advanced safety features standard.

2020 Nissan Sentra front

2020 Nissan Sentra

What it competes with: Honda Civic, Hyundai Elantra, Mazda3, Subaru Impreza, Toyota Corolla, Volkswagen Golf
What it looks like: A smaller version of the midsized Altima and large Maxima sedans.
Powertrains: 149-hp, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine; front-wheel drive
Expected price: $17,000 to $25,000 (estimated)
On-sale date: January 2020

CR’s Take

We expect the 2020 Nissan Sentra will address some of the old model’s deficiencies. In our tests we found the old Sentra has a narrow, uncomfortable cabin and a stiff ride, and offers a joyless driving experience. It also has the slowest acceleration times among compact sedans.

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The new car has a handsome interior, based on photos. While the front and rear seats look generous, we’ll have to spend time in them to determine if the cabin is roomier and more comfortable than before. Also, keep in mind that cars at auto shows and in press photos are often top-trim versions, in this case the SR trim. The lower S and SV trims won’t be as nicely appointed.

We hope Nissan improved the Sentra’s driving experience. Many of its competitors, including the Civic, Impreza, Corolla, and Volkswagen Jetta, have a good balance of ride comfort and handling agility.

We like that Nissan is making the Safety Shield 360 system standard, which comes with key advanced driver assistance and safety equipment, including automatic emergency braking (AEB) and blind spot warning (BSW).

2020 Nissan Sentra interior

Outside

The Sentra continues Nissan’s new-look styling, with a large V-shaped grille, slightly bulbous fenders, and optional LED headlights. It incorporates a black trim piece that flows from the top of the rear side windows down to the trunkline. This visual element, first introduced on the Murano SUV, gives the impression that the roof is “floating” at the back of the car. However, that styling includes a sloping rear roof that in Nissan’s other new models has made it a challenge to get in and out of the rear seats.

The SR-trim car in these photos has an aggressive look, with deep front-body panels that house fog lights, and side skirts that give the car a sporty look. This styling extends to the rear, where a small lip spoiler extends off the trunk lid, ostensibly to improve airflow. The SR is finished off with 18-inch wheels that nicely fill the wheel wells, further enhancing the Sentra’s sporty look.

Inside

The base Sentra comes with a 7.0-inch center-dash touch screen that includes Google Assistant and Siri Eyes Free voice recognition systems. A 4.2-inch digital display sits between the speedometer and tachometer gauges and presents driving information, such as fuel economy. It’s disappointing that Android Auto and Apple CarPlay aren’t available on the base car.

The SV and SR trims include standard Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity, a 7.0-inch display in between the gauges, and an 8.0-inch touch screen mounted high up on the dashboard.

Buyers who choose the SR trim get an attractive interior that looks far more luxurious and refined than the one in the Sentra SV we last tested. The new car has chrome details and contrasting stitching on the dash, seats, and door panels, and promises plenty of soft materials throughout. It remains to be seen how decontented the cabin is in S and SV trims.

We like that controlling key climate and infotainment features is done with large buttons and knobs rather than just relying on the touch screen. The climate controls sit mid-dash, below three large, round vents. These round vents are a significant departure from other Nissan interiors.

What Drives It

The 2020 Nissan Sentra gets a 149-hp, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, which replaces the 1.8-liter four-cylinder that powered the previous generation. Like before, this new powerplant is paired with a continuously variable transmission (CVT). Nissan says that fuel economy will improve. The old Sentra with the 1.8-liter engine and CVT had an EPA rating of 32 mpg combined. We measured 31 mpg overall in our tests, which is good for a compact sedan but not among the best in class.

Safety & Driver Assist Systems

Nissan includes a lot of standard advanced safety equipment. In addition to AEB and BSW, the Nissan Safety Shield 360 includes forward collision warning, pedestrian detection, rear cross traffic warning, and lane departure warning.

The Sentra also comes with a standard driver monitoring system to help prevent a driver from operating the car when drowsy, and rear door alert, which reminds the driver to check the rear seat before locking the car and walking away.

2020 Nissan Sentra rear