Base Camp: 2020 Nissan Sentra S
Every week, wheels.ca selects a new vehicle on sale in Canada and takes a good look at its entry-level trim. If we find it worthy of your consideration, we'll let you know. If not, we'll recommend one that earns a passing grade.
It is true that more than a few car companies are getting out of the business of making, y’know, actual cars in favour of crossovers and SUVs; witness the dearth of sedans available from any of the traditional Detroit-based automakers.
Some others are viewing this new vacuum as an opportunity, choosing to re-up their game and plow fresh development dollars into small sedans for the masses. And some, as we’ll learn today, can even be had with a manual transmission.
For the 2020 model year, Nissan has decided to send its compact Sentra sedan to finishing school where it has learned a few new skills and – finally – grown into its looks. Under the hood is a 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine making a perfectly adequate 149 horsepower and roughly like amount of torque. A six-speed manual transmission is standard equipment and should be selected without a second thought. The CVT automatic is a $1,800 proposition but does bundle a couple of extra features such as heated seats.
Speaking of the interior, a 7-inch touchscreen handles infotainment duties and stands ready with Bluetooth capability and steering wheel mounted controls. Air conditioning is on board at this $18,798 price point, as are power windows, power locks and a steering wheel that adjusts for reach and rake. Thanks to economies of scale (Base Camp’s best friend), this entry level Sentra also gets remote keyless entry and push-button ignition. No more digging for keys. And, before you carp, we know the S trim interior shown here is equipped with an automatic.
Only three shades of paint are available on entry-level Sentra, with Fresh Powder and Super Black being zero dollar options. Sadly, all those snazzy colours shown in Sentra advertisements are the domain of more expensive trims. At least Charcoal cloth – the sole choice – lines the interior instead of a difficult-to-keep-clean beige or tan.
What We’d Choose
This is a slightly difficult call, since only the least expensive Sentra offers a desirable manual transmission and your author likes to save the manuals where he can. However, the $21,998 SV trim incorporates a much better infotainment systems that packs Apple CarPlay and satellite radio. The palette of colours is more interesting and remote start is part of the deal. Notably, the SV replaces the S trim’s rear drum brakes with discs.
The base Sentra is far from a penalty box, featuring a good level of standard kit plus safety features like lane departure warning and intelligent emergency braking. Making a $3200 price walk isn’t chump change, especially in the $20,000 price bracket; it will add about $20 to the biweekly payment on a seven-year note.
That amount will buy a lot of music in iTunes to make up for the lack of satellite radio.