The 2018 Nissan Sentra lives within the margins. It’s roomy for up to four, fuel-efficient by most car standards, and equipped with just enough gear to make the daily commute and home again.
It’s the kind of car that millions of people use every day. Our rating of 5.7 is a reflection of its average abilities and above-average safety systems, which is new for 2018. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Those safety improvements include standard automatic emergency braking on all models equipped with a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). The Sentra is offered in S, SV, SR, SL, SR Turbo, and Nismo trim levels.
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That automatic emergency braking helps to bring the Sentra up to speed with its rivals that offer the same standard equipment: Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, Mazda 3.
Unlike some of those competitors, the Nissan is pretty clear about its intentions: it’s a commuter-special. The tall, upright look is a boon to outward vision and head room, but it’s a little Poindexter, by our book.
That doesn’t bode well for the SR Turbo and Nismo variants that were introduced last year. Nissan offers an uprated turbo-4 that improves horsepower over the base Sentra powertrain—188 horsepower to 124 hp—but it’s not as dramatic as the numbers would indicate. The SR Turbo and Nismo versions aren’t as fun as the Sentra’s old high-po edition, the SE-R.
A 6-speed manual is available on base S and turbo trim levels, but it’s not worth the effort, we say. It’s a little ropy and not too precise.
The CVT helps push the Sentra into low-30-mpg combined country, but only without turbochargers. Those versions require premium unleaded and aren’t especially thrifty.
Base Sentras are relatively well-equipped for their low $17,885 price. They get 16-inch wheels with wheel covers, automatic headlights, cloth upholstery, a 5.0-inch audio display with Bluetooth connectivity and a rearview camera.
The trim levels run the gamut all the way to leather-upholstered Sentra SL versions, but we say the best value is on lower-priced versions.