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2020 Nissan Sentra’s affordability, features are perfect for the times



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After 18 months in which Nissan’s finances cratered, its highest-profile executive became the world’s most famous white-collar fugitive and its alliance with Renault began to crumble, the Japanese automaker may finally have caught a break.

Nissan’s new 2020 Sentra compact sedan may be the perfect car for our uncertain times: affordable, with plenty of advanced safety features and styling borrowed from Nissan’s posh Maxima sporty sedan.

Prices start at $19,090. I tested a top of the line Sentra SR Premium with two-tone paint, Bose audio and a host of advanced driver assistance features.

It stickered for $24,400, a solid value in a world where everything from Friday’s paycheck to your next breath seems contingent on something unknown. All prices exclude destination charges.

The 2020 Sentra is in dealerships now.

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Driving impressions

The Sentra’s low roof, wide stance — and particularly my tester’s vibrant orange body paint, gloss black roof and 10-spoke wheels — look exotic, but its specifications are as bleeding edge as a well-done Salisbury steak.

Power comes from a 149 hp 2.0L engine linked to Nissan’s proven continuously variable transmission. The suspension is tuned for comfort around town, not adventurous drives in the country.

The Sentra has plenty of power for jaunts around town and cruising on the highway — even fast-flowing COVID-emptied interstates — but Nissan’s in no mood for frivolous antics, and assumes the same of Sentra drivers. The sedan won’t embarrass you on the highway, and its EPA fuel economy ratings of 28 mpg in the city, 37 highway and 32 combined are wince-proof at the pump, essentially on par with bread and butter models of the Honda Civic, Hyundai Elantra, Mazda 3, Toyota Corolla and VW Jetta.

Road and wind noise were quite noticeable at highway speeds, but they didn’t interfere with hands-free phone calls.

Advanced driver assistance systems on my test car included blind spot alert, automatic rear braking adaptive cruise control, automatic high beams and automatic front braking with pedestrian detection.

The systems intervene subtly and effectively, a credit to Nissan’s programming and sensors.

Standard equipment on the SR I drove included:

  • 18-inch alloy wheels
  • LED fog lights and daytime running lights
  • Black painted heated exterior mirrors with turn signal indicators
  • Leather shift knob

Room and comfort

The Sentra’s interior has a roomy front seat, with cubbies for cups and smart phones and an accommodating bin under the arm rest. Rear legroom is good, but headroom will be an issue for rear occupants 6-foot tall or taller.

The deep trunk has a large opening to accept bulky cargo.

The controls are easy to use, with a standard 7-inch touch screen on the base model and 8-inch screen on the SV and above. The screen’s touch points could be bigger, and response quicker, for easy use in a moving car. Dials make volume, tuning, temperature and fan speed easy to control.

The SR’s seats are wrapped in convincing faux leather. More soft materials cover the dash and door panel inserts, with attractive orange accent stitching on my car.

If value is king in the economic recovery we all hope follows this long, cold shut-in season, the Sentra could be the right car for the time.

Options on my test vehicle:

  • 8-speaker Bose audio
  • Power sunroof
  • Heated steering wheel
  • Heated front seats
  • Leatherette seats
  • Power driver seat
  • Surround view
  • Auto dimming mirror
  • Two-tone paint: Monarch Orange/Super Black
  • Floor mats

Contact Mark Phelan at 313-222-6731 or mmphelan@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @mark_phelan. Read more on autos and sign up for our autos newsletter.

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