While a solid and reliable compact car, the 2012 Nissan Sentra soldiers on little changed from when this generation was first introduced for the 2007 model year. When it came out, it brought in a departure from the outgoing model’s staid looks and replaced them with tall, upright styling that looked awkward. The 2012 model is no different with the exception that it’s now six years behind the competition.
Coming six different trim levels, the Sentra has a standard 140-horsepower 2.0-liter inline four with 147 lb-ft of torque in the standard models. Those looking for more power can choose between two different models with Nissan’s more powerful 2.5-liter engine: Sentra SE-R and SE-R Spec V models. The SE-R features a 177-horsepower engine with 172 lb-ft of torque and comes exclusively with a continuously variable automatic transmission. The Spec V’s engine is rated at 200 horsepower and 180 lb-ft of torque and a six-speed manual.
However, with dated styling, interior materials better suited for last decade, and fuel economy that falls well below the class leaders, the Sentra is in need of a redesign. It’s a spritely little car, but today’s compact sedans have well surpassed the Nissan Sentra.
Body style: Four-door sedan
Engines: 2.0-liter inline-4 (Sentra); 2.5-liter inline-4 (SE-R and SE-R Spec V)
Transmissions: six-speed manual (Sentra, Sentra SE-R Spec V); continuously variable transmission (Sentra, Sentra SE-R)
Models: Nissan Sentra (2.0, 2.0S, 2.0SR, 2.0SL), Nissan Sentra SE-R, Nissan Sentra SE-R Spec V
Newly available on 2.0S models is the technology package that, at $650, is an excellent value. It consists of Nissan’s navigation system, XM satellite radio, XM Traffic, and a USB port for MP3 players. The 2.0SR has an available technology package, moonroof package, and special edition package that combines the two with the convenience package (which comes with Nissan Intelligent Key, remote trunk release, Bluetooth phone connectivity, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, and a cargo net with hooks) at a substantial savings versus all of the packages separately. The color Red Alert replaces Lava Red as an option.
Either cute and chipper or slab-sided and dull, the Sentra has an upright appearance that's also designed to maximize interior space, looking almost like an Altima that got stuck between a rock and a hard place. All but the base model get an SE-R-style rear spoiler that helps break up the monotony. The standard 15-inch steel wheels with hubcaps look too small for the wheel wells, but the 16- and 17-inch wheels do a better job of balancing out the car’s proportions.
With 97.7 cubic feet of interior space, the Sentra is on the large side of the compact class and able to comfortably seat five people. Featuring a 13.1 cubic-foot trunk, the Sentra has ample cargo capacity for a compact, but it can expand with ease by way of a pass-through in the rear seat and a 60/40-split folding rear bench. Interior plastics are brittle and cheap-feeling.
Performance & Handling
With light and accurate electric power steering, the Sentra is easy to drive. But it’s when you step up to the performance-oriented SE-R and Spec V that confidence begins to erode. Despite the performance-tuned suspension and more powerful engine, the SE-R's handling becomes a little unsettled when you hit corners in the road. The Spec V comes standard with a limited-slip differential that helps put power to the pavement, but it still struggles to maintain confidence with such a high center of gravity.
Every Sentra is equipped with front, front-side, and side curtain airbags. Moreover, all Sentras get front-seat active head restraints, while the 2.0 SL, SE-R, and SE-R Spec V receive stability and traction control. LATCH child seat anchors, traction control, stability control, and tire pressure monitoring also come standard.
EPA Fuel Economy
Sentra: 24 mpg city/31 mpg highway (2.0 manual); 27 mpg city/34 mpg highway (2.0, 2.0S, 2.0SR, 2.0SL CVT automatic)
Sentra SE-R: 24 mpg city/30 mpg highway (CVT automatic)
Sentra SE-R Spec V: 21 mpg city/28 mpg highway (manual)
- Peppy 2.5-liter engine
- Budget price
You Won't Like
- Cheap interior materials
- Dated styling
- Rear torsion beam
- Buzzy 2.0-liter engine
Reliable transportation in serious need of a replacement
If You Like This Vehicle
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