It’s easy to appreciate an improved new-car design like the 2020 Nissan Sentra, but that beauty is only skin deep. Eventually, you’ll need to actually step inside, use the controls, and drive the car. With Nissan‘s new compact sedan, interior updates transform the Sentra from a car that felt years behind the competition to one that’s far more current. After extensive testing with a Sentra SR, here are some key takeaways.
So This Is Considered a Compact?
The 2020 Sentra is spacious. Fitting four people inside is no problem, thanks to a comfortable rear seat with soft front seatbacks. The drivetrain hump is small, which increases the impression of space. But as with any compact sedan, it won’t be your first choice if you have a full car’s worth of people to shuttle around.
One cool advantage: Every 2020 Sentra has a type-A USB port for rear-seat passengers. The base S also gets a type-A USB port in the front, and the SV and SR add a type-C USB port up front.
Materials Quality Verdict
The Sentra also earns points for improved interior materials. As we noted in our First Drive review, even SV models with cloth seats have soft-touch surfaces on the door panels and on the dash topper. More recently, our $25,325 2020 Sentra SR tester easily earned its price tag with those soft-touch materials as well as just the right amount of orange accents for the sport-oriented trim.
We wouldn’t mind more side bolstering in the SR’s seats, however. Then again, the inner bolster on our pre-production tester occasionally rubbed up against the center console—you may not notice this issue on full production-spec models.
One constant annoyance during our time with the Sentra SR was its cupholders, which lack any grippy material to hold taller water bottles (like the ones you might take to the gym) in place. In the Civic, this isn’t as much of a problem thanks to a slidable panel you can wedge against a deep cupholder.
Impressive Screen Space
Although the base Sentra S has a 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment display, we’d recommend upgrading to a base SV model if you can. The SV is the sweet spot of the Sentra’s lineup, and it’s also where Nissan upgrades its screens. The infotainment system adds Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality on an 8.0-inch screen, and there’s a 7.0-inch color display in the center of the clean instrument cluster. None of this is revolutionary stuff for the compact class, but it’s admirable for a car with an MSRP under $22,000.
Knobs and a Missing Trunk Handle
One plus: Nissan’s silver HVAC knobs are big, making it easier to use without looking.
The minus? An inside-the-trunk handle would make closing the trunk more convenient—no one wants to touch a dirty car to close a trunk. Oh, and the trunk’s 14.3-cubic-foot capacity is good for the class. You’ll find more space with the Honda Civic and Kia Forte, about the same in the Volkswagen Jetta and Hyundai Elantra, and a bit less in the Toyota Corolla.
A Glassy Curiosity
Taller drivers may be occasionally distracted by a section of the front windshield just under the rearview mirror that distorts the outside world. It’s not directly in the line of sight, and only taller drivers are likely to see it.
The Upscale Models: Pros…
Value remains a key reason to buy a Sentra. With the 2020 model, Nissan reaches higher than it has before, with an SV Premium package that adds—in the words of our First Drive—”gorgeous-looking quilted leather seats with contrasting stitching.”
One awesome interior feature we used all the time on our SR tester was the surround-view camera system (Around View Monitor in Nissan-speak). Displaying on an 8.0-inch screen mounted at the top of the dash, the system works excellently. A split screen prioritizes the front camera (if, say, you’re pulling into a parking space), with the smaller portion of the screen defaulting to a bird’s-eye view stitching together what each camera shows. In other words, you no longer have any excuse for crooked parking jobs.
The best part? The “camera” button to activate the system is an easy-to-find physical button. You’ll only find this feature on SRs with the SR-specific Premium package, which by the way, comes in at just under $25,000 if you forgo a two-tone paint option like the orange-and-black car we recently tested.
Don’t get us wrong: The Nissan excels with value. There’s still room for improvement, however. Higher-end Corollas and Civics both offer eight-way power driver’s seats compared to the six-way power adjustable seat available in the Sentra.
Also, replacing the foot-operated parking brake with an electric parking brake like the one offered on the Civic and Corolla would be a minor convenience owners appreciate on a regular basis.
How to Make Sentra of This Interior
The 2020 Sentra interior is much improved. It has retained its spaciousness and added more soft-touch surfaces and—on most trims—useful tech. It may not be perfect, but there’s more to like for the price than we’ve seen in years with Nissan’s compact sedan.