Small, compact cars have grown up.
The 2020 Nissan Sentra is a sporty little car that handles nicely and drives like a more expensive midsize sedan. At $19,090 it’s quite affordable compared to something like an Audi A4, and yet after testing the Sentra for highway driving, around an urban area, and even a long trip in the country, I can say this is a major step up in quality and driving mechanics.
If you have seen the commercials showing the car zipping around, you will also notice it’s packed with new sensor technology that was only available in luxury cars just a few years ago. Besides the new driving mechanics and the sensors, there was one other surprise. These are my top three favorite new features that impressed me during a longer-than-usual test.
1. Driving mechanics
There’s a highway near my house that has quite a nice curve around a lake, and fortunately, it’s not posted with any reduction in normal highway speeds. (Someday the locals might figure out that they probably should do something about that.) At 60 miles-per-hour, the Sentra took the corner in stride and I didn’t feel any of the typical pull and tension from a small budget car.
I had to look this up to make sure and honestly did a bit of a double-take (my wife drives a Toyota so the shock and awe had to sink in a little): The Sentra has an actual independent rear multi-link suspension. I tested it over and over again and felt like a magic carpet had intervened and made the pull on the car much less noticeable. I’ll even say this one feature makes the Sentra worth considering, especially if you enjoy spirited driving as much as I do.
2. Automated braking
I’ve been testing cars for 10 years now and I can’t remember ever having to rely on automated braking, thank goodness. Knowing the Sentra has this feature (both for backing up into a parking spot and at intersections where the car will stop for pedestrians) is reassuring.
Apart from this new sensor technology for automated braking, it’s also nice to know the Sentra will alert you about lane departures, cars pulling up into your blind spot, and cross-traffic alerts (where a car senses traffic running perpendicular to you). I love these features and not because I am not ever vigilant but because distraction can hit you at any time unannounced.
3. Around view monitor
Here we go, this is the feature that impressed me the most. I’ve seen around-view monitoring before in higher-end cars but not at this price point before. It means you can see above the car. How is this possible? Cameras stitch together a virtual overhead view and can help you squeeze into parking spots easily and avoid little dings from tree branches. I used it constantly during my test, partly because I wanted to show passengers how it worked. They were amazed not so much that the technology can do that but that it was a Sentra offering those angles.
Overall, this is one of my favorite drives in recent memories because of the tech, the suspension, and most of all the price. Sure, luxury cars for twice as much offer the same features but the fact that they are now affordable is the biggest win.