In a world where subcompacts are effectively dead, inflation is through the roof, subcompact crossovers are knocking on the door of $30,000, and people need reliable wheels to get around, the dream of new car ownership feels like it’s falling rapidly out of reach. Thankfully, we still have options. This is the 2024 Nissan Sentra and although Nissan hasn’t released pricing, don’t be surprised if the base model comes in at under $25,000.
Nissan has recently gone to town facelifting its Altima midsize and Versa subcompact sedans, so it’s not surprising to see the Sentra get the same treatment. Up front, we see a front grille wider and flatter than a chicken-fried steak flanked by revised headlamps. Chuck in simplified air curtains, reduced-width chrome trim, and a deletion of bumper lighting, and the 2024 Sentra’s front end looks much cleaner than the outgoing car’s.
A facelift typically also includes new wheel designs, so top-spec Sentras get complex new twisted-spoke alloy wheels that feature diamond-cut faces, as is the style of the time. Around back, plastic slab faux-diffuser makes way for fluted faux-grillework on the SR trim level, and character lines on the bumper cover have been reduced. The result? A better-looking Sentra.
Mechanically, the Sentra is largely carryover, but with one major exception — automatic stop-start cuts the engine at traffic lights to reduce idling. While many find this feature annoying in other applications, it makes a great deal of sense in an economy car. After all, cars achieve zero MPG when idling because they usually aren’t going anywhere. The outgoing car’s CVT couldn’t accommodate this fuel-saving measure, so the 2024 Sentra gets a new CVT. Otherwise, this compact sedan’s mechanically-unchanged.
So what does that mean? Well, the 2024 Sentra’s two-liter naturally-aspirated four-cylinder engine cranks out 149 horsepower and 146 lb.-ft. of torque, good enough to move a 3,036-pound sedan, if not with particular gusto. On the hopeful side, recent Nissan CVT tuning seems to prioritize riding the torque band and keeping NVH low, so fingers crossed the engineers kept that up with the facelifted car.
The base S trim doesn’t come with anything unexpected, but it still gets air conditioning, a seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, four speakers, two cupholders, power mirrors, power door locks, and power windows. That’s basically fully-loaded by mid-aughts standards. Oh, and every Sentra comes with a spare tire. A compact spare tire, but still. In an era of inflation kits, a proper spare is a valuable safety feature. Alright, so the S trim isn’t exactly the paragon of luxury, but what do you expect from a base model compact sedan?
Step up to the mid-range SV trim and Nissan will start throwing features at you left, right, and center. How about a damper on the glovebox door? Yeah, now that’s premium. In all seriousness, this midrange trim gets some nice toys, from proximity keys to an eight-inch infotainment system to three USB ports including two USB-C ports, and that’s before you delve into options. There’s an all-weather package on offer that bundles heated seats with a heated steering wheel, remote start, and dual-zone climate control, and seems worth whatever upcharge it may come with. Likely to be less popular is the SV Premium Package, which bundles 17-inch alloy wheels with leather seats, a sunroof, rear cupholders, a 360-degree camera system, and a Bose stereo. Somehow, I doubt most people are looking for luxury in mid-range Sentras.
As for the shiny blue Sentra used in these press pictures, that would be the sporty SR trim. Aside from 18-inch wheels with low-profile tires, it features precisely zero performance upgrades over the SV model, but it does get dashing trim. A spoiler here, a dash of orange there, a little more black trim, and presto: Sportiness in 2023’s compact car sector. Look, Kia’s doing the whole warm performance thing with the reasonably quick turbocharged Forte GT and nobody seems to care, so blame your fellow humans for Nissan not offering a Sentra SE-R or whatnot.
However, the Sentra SR does come with the rear cupholders, dual-zone climate control, and remote start from the SV Premium, so it’s properly-equipped for the range-topping trim. As expected, you can get an SR Premium Package with Bose audio, heated leatherette seats and a heated steering wheel, a 360-degree camera, a sunroof, in-car Wi-Fi, upgraded LED headlamps, and a partridge in a damn pear tree, just don’t go underwater if you want all the bells and whistles.
The outgoing Sentra took Nissan’s popular compact car from worst-in-class to competitive with one redesign, in some cases doing things better than segment leaders. It’s far more spacious than a Mazda 3, I like its steering better than that in the Toyota Corolla, it has faster infotainment than the Honda Civic, and the dashboard feels better-built than that in the Hyundai Elantra. Sure, Nissan cheaped out in a handful of areas like omitting a pull-down tab for the trunk and failing to illuminate most window controls, but cars in this segment need to be built cheaply in order to sell cheaply. While Nissan hasn’t yet released pricing for the 2024 Sentra, the current car starts at $21,145 including a $1,095 freight charge, so that gives us a ballpark.
The truth is, compact cars are the new midsizers, with the space and toys to match. The current Sentra is about the same length as a 1999 Altima, but it rides on a 3.5-inch longer wheelbase. Add in all the gadgets most drivers could realistically want, and the compact segment has never been better from a consumer standpoint. More importantly, it’s the last unwavering bastion of affordability. With such a cost of living squeeze going on, that’s something we can all get behind.
(Photo credits: Nissan)
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