Despite the evangelizing efforts of environmentalists touting alternative forms of transportation such as public transit or car-sharing, what Americans continue to want is their own vehicles. Cars, SUVs, trucks and minivans maintain their magical grip on our imagination.
And you don't have to pay a king’s ransom to get a sedan that’s easy to drive and park. Might I suggest a 2022 Nissan Sentra? Having been redesigned for 2020, the Nissan Sentra comes in ascending S, SV and SR trim levels, with prices starting at $19,610. The top-of-the-line SR test car started at $22,200. If that still sounds like a lot, consider that the average new car costs $47,077, according to Kelley Blue Book. And there’s little relief if you’re opting for a used car. KBB said the average used car set back buyers $27,569.
The nicely loaded Sentra SR I drove last week cost $27,615, and it included the expected niceties such as power locks/windows/mirrors and driver’s seat with power lumbar, along with quite a few features you might not, such as heated front seats, heated steering wheel, Bose 8-speaker audio system, and fake leather seat trim.
Two new packages have been added for 2022. A new Midnight Edition Package includes black-painted grille, rear spoiler and rear diffuser, black exterior badging and black 18-inch aluminum-alloy wheels. Also available is a new All-Weather Package for the SV grade, with dual zone automatic climate control, heated front seats, heated steering wheel and remote engine start.
And it was dressed in very stylish threads, with a black and white paint scheme that made it seem like a Nissan Maxima that was inadvertently washed in hot water. It was accented by Nissan’s trademark V-Motion grille and stylish 18-inch black alloy wheels. This may be a small car, but you won’t be embarrassed pulling up while behind the wheel. Usually, cars in this class are dowdy and inconspicuous — just check out a 2016 Sentra. This new one is far more fetching, with a style that needs no apologies.
But it is a small car, and its infotainment screen is on the smaller end of acceptability at 8 inches, but it still works well enough, and includes Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, SiriusXM Radio and Bluetooth. The SR trim level also comes with a front USB-A and USB-C ports, as well as a rear USB-A port. However, a smaller 7-inch touchscreen is standard on the Sentra S, while SV and SR trims get the larger 8-inch touchscreen. It also comes with the NIssanConnect app that allows you to remotely lock or unlock your car, receive roadside assistance and remotely start your vehicle from your smartphone.
Regardless of which trim level you choose, you’ll get the same driveline: a double-overhead-cam 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine mated to a continuously variable automatic transmission generating 149 horsepower through the front wheels. And most buyers will appreciate the extensive list of standard safety equipment, including automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, forward collision warning, rear automatic braking, blind spot warning, rear cross traffic alert, lane departure warning, high beam assist and a rear-view monitor.
Once behind the wheel, you’ll find the Sentra to have nicely weighted steering that returns some road feel, with some body lean in corners, nimble handling and a comfortably compliant ride for daily driving drudgery thanks to its independent rear suspension. Braking is impressive as well. But even in sporty SR trim, you won’t find the joie de vie of a Honda Civic or Mazda 3. But it’s comparable to a Toyota Corolla, and some other small sedans and is still impressively satisfying to drive. Only hardline enthusiasts will feel disappointed and wish for more horsepower. Fuel economy was excellent at 32 mpg.
The interior is spacious, with upscale detailing such as stitching on the flat-bottom steering wheel, shifter cover, along the instrument panel seams, center console and seats. Soft-touch materials are a nice contrast to the hard plastic used elsewhere, offset by distinctive round air vents.
Seats are comfortable, but support is lacking over longer drives. And legroom is generous both front and rear. And let’s not forget the sizable trunk, which measures nearly 15 cubic feet, although the trunk lid’s gooseneck hinges intrude on overall space. Thankfully, the rear seats fold to expand the cargo space if needed.
In an age when headlines keep reminding consumers that cars are unaffordable, the 2022 Nissan Sentra proves to be the perfect antidote, a car that costs less than the average used car, and in most trims costs nearly less than half of the price of a new one.
2022 Nissan Sentra 2.0 SR
Base price: $22,200
Engine: 2.0-lter DOHC four-cylinder
EPA fuel economy (city/highway): 28/37 mpg
Length/Width/Height: 182.7/71.5/57 inches
Cargo capacity: 14.3 cubic feet