First Drive: 2020 Nissan Sentra Is a Quiet, Competent Compact Sedan

New Sentra gets lots of standard safety gear but little pizzazz

Update: Since this first drive was originally published in January 2020, we finished testing the Sentra.

See the complete Nissan Sentra road test.

The redesigned 2020 Nissan Sentra sedan has arrived, and it couldn’t have come at a better time—the outgoing model significantly trailed the leading compact sedan leaders for years.

Perhaps the biggest news is that Nissan’s Safety Shield 360 is standard on all Sentra trim lines. The suite of advanced safety and driver assistance technologies includes forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blind spot warning, rear cross traffic warning, lane departure warning, automatic high beams, and rear automatic braking.

The 2020 Sentra is built on a new platform. It’s now 2 inches lower and wider than the outgoing model. It also gets a better engine—a 149-hp, 2.0-liter four cylinder, mated to a continuously variable transmission (CVT)—the same powertrain as in the Rogue Sport.

The good news is that the new Sentra is much better, and it might just put up a fight as a viable competitor to the Subaru Impreza, Toyota Corolla, and Honda Civic.

We rented a top-shelf SR loaded with options from Nissan. We later bought a more mainstream SV model to test.

2020 Nissan Sentra front driving

If you’re a Consumer Reports member, our detailed test drive impressions below are available to you. If you're not a member, click below to join and access the full review and all of our exclusive ratings and reviews for each vehicle we buy and test. Membership also gives you full access to exclusive ratings for any of the other products our experts evaluate in several categories, including electronics and appliances.

Our impressions below are based on a Sentra we rented from Nissan. CR members have full access to the results of more than 50 tests that we put the Sentra through at the CR Auto Test Center, including those that evaluate acceleration, braking, fuel economy, handling, car-seat fit, and controls.

Sign up for CR's Cars email newsletter to be notified when we post our latest road-test results.

What we rented: 2020 Nissan Sentra SR
Powertrain: 149-hp, 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine; continuously variable transmission; front-wheel drive
MSRP: $21,430
Options: $2,170. Premium package (LED headlamps, moonroof, 8-way power driver seat, Bose audio system, Prima-Tex seats with orange stitching, heated front seats and steering wheel, surround-view monitor, auto-dimming rearview mirror, illuminated vanity mirrors)
Destination fee: $925
Total cost: $24,525

CR’s Take

Not only does this new Sentra drive much better than the last one but we also prefer the styling. We found that the new Sentra has a quieter cabin, better ride comfort, and nimbler handling capabilities than the old one. Buyers can also get a host of upscale amenities, including a power seat and heated steering wheel.

Mazda3 used to carry the torch as the most fun small car, but it’s looking like the new Sentra and Corolla are inching closer to that space.