By Shari Prymak

Nissan has done a commendable job of bolstering their SUV lineup with a well-designed range of value-packed crossovers. Although its SUVs have proven to be popular with consumers, Nissan’s sedan lineup has struggled to garnish the same level of attention. The Nissan Sentra aims to change that by offering a far more competitive and compelling alternative to the segment stalwarts such as the Mazda3, Toyota Corolla, and Honda Civic.

In terms of design, the eighth generation Sentra is a huge leap forward from its predecessor. The sharp body creases, eye-catching lighting, and Nissan’s signature V-motion grill are put to excellent use here. Same goes for the available two-tone paint which works well with the floating roof design. It’s sleek and attractive, but falls just short of standing out.

The interior is a well-designed space with reasonably nice materials, fit and finish. Nissan’s memory foam-filled “Zero Gravity” front seats are incredibly comfortable and excellent for long commutes. The 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system is easy to use and comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity on all but the base S and S Plus models. The steering wheel and climate controls are equally straightforward and simple to master. Overall space is quite good for the class with just enough room for adults to sit comfortably in the back seats.

Under the hood sits a naturally-aspirated 2.0L 4-cylinder engine matched to a continuously variable transmission powering the front wheels. Rated for only 149 horsepower and 145 lb-ft of torque, the engine performance is a bit tepid, but it gets the job done while forgoing complicated turbocharging technology which some will appreciate. The driving experience won’t blow away rivals or win over enthusiasts, but for those who prefer a comfortable, easy-going driving experience, the Sentra’s laid-back demeanor should be ideal.

Value for money is the one area where the Sentra holds a meaningful advantage over its rivals. Pricing starts at $18,798 for the manual transmission S model or $20,598 for the CVT-equipped S Plus. The standard features list is lengthy and includes several active safety technologies such as front and rear automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane departure warning, and blind spot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert. The $21,998 SV model is the sweet spot in the range, adding desirable features such as a remote engine starter, intelligent keyless entry, adaptive cruise control, and a larger 8 inch touchscreen. For $25,998, the top-trim SR Premium adds several luxuries such as leatherette upholstery, surround view camera, and a premium Bose sound system.

The latest Sentra is without a doubt the best version to date. Although not exactly a segment standout, it offers an attractive blend of design, features, and value for money that’s hard to ignore. It more or less matches segment leading rivals such as the Mazda3, Toyota Corolla, and Honda Civic in the areas that matter most, while simultaneously undercutting them on price. Throw in Nissan’s regular use of sales incentives to further sweeten the deal, and you’ll have one of the best value-packed options in the compact segment.