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The most popular segment in Canada is growing all the time. Not really in terms of cars available, but the actual sizes of cars labelled “compact”. The Nissan Sentra is no exception, tagged as a compact vehicle it is anything but compact these days. Where it once was the smallest car in Nissan’s line up, it is now the third-smallest car ahead of the Versa and Micra.

My Sentra tester is an SV model which is the volume seller and middle of the range Sentra above the base model S. For a little added excitement my tester is equipped with the standard six-speed manual transmission but is available with a CVT transmission for an additional $1,300.

The pricing of the Sentra has stayed fairly consistent as the size has grown which is a positive for those looking for size as value. The Sentra starts at just $15,598 and the SV model which adds: 16-inch aluminum alloy wheels, heated front seats, rearview monitor, intelligent key with push button start and keyless entry and NissanControl Bluetooth system for an additional $3,100.

When I first opened the door to this vehicle I was actually surprised, the last Sentra I drove I was not very fond of (though it was a CVT and had some stalling issues) and it seems as though Nissan has stepped up it’s game to compete with the best selling Honda Civic.

Pricing: 2015 Nissan Sentra SV
Base Price: $18,698
Freight: $1,600
A/C Tax: $100
Price as Tested: $20,398

Chevrolet Cruze
Dodge Dart
Ford Focus
Toyota Corolla
Honda Civic
Mitsubishi Lancer
Kia Forte
Volkswagen Jetta
Hyundai Elantra
Subaru Impreza

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As I mentioned yesterday I was surprised when I first opened the door to the Sentra and stepped in. Knowing that this car was at the $18,000 mark, the Sentra looks a little more upscale than you might expect – although the content is fairly basic when you consider what is available technology wise today.

The seats particularly look high-end, from the outside I actually thought they may be leather because of the stitching but they are not. The interior materials are what you expect in this price range, some hard plastics, some medium-soft ones and and some softer. The door arm rests are super spongy material and provide some of the best elbow padding in any car, period.

The rear seats are really the hero in this compact car, adults easily and comfortably sit in the back with lots of headroom and enough leg room they can actually spread out. That said the seats are a little on the firm side and although they 60/40 split/fold they do not fold flat, leaving a large hump from the trunk to the backseat. It’s odd because the previous generation seats had the bottom flip up and the tops flip down for more space, while this one does not.

Up front the seats are adjustable for height, recline and fore-aft. But again they are not the most comfortable seats around, at least not for my back. They are relatively supportive and on par for the class of car in terms of lateral support — but of course everyone is different in terms of what they feel is comfortable for them.

The steering wheel does tilt and telescope and with the height-adjustable seat, most drivers should find a driving position they like. Tall drivers will do well in this car as well with lots of headroom and seat cushions that do extend a little extra for thigh support.

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For a basic car that is less than $20,000 the addition of a back-up camera is always nice and the Nissan Bluetooth equipped system can pair with your Android of iPhone and provide apps on the 5-inch screen with the NissanConnect app.

The spoiled journalist that I am though I really despise the manual climate control settings, not so much how these operate but manual climate control in general. I’m pretty sure at this point the cost and technology for automatic climate control is so inexpensive it could be included even at this price range. It offers not only convenience to the passengers but it also reduces fuel consumption as the system will cycle rather than being on all the type in manual mode.

But hey this vehicle has another manual control and that is the transmission. A standard six-speed manual transmission is mated to the 1.8L engine that powers the Sentra through the front wheels. For those looking for a little fun the manual certainly wins over the CVT transmission, but this particular application is more about cost savings, or avoiding the CVT than it is about fun. I’m rowing gears but it isn’t exciting me much as the 1.8L wheezes up to speed.

The manual also has a distinct disadvantage on the highway as the engine turns around 3,000 rpm at normal cruising. That being said the Sentra is extremely quiet (except for a little engine noise at the speeds grow). Tire and wind noise are exceptionally controlled and the Sentra is near whisper-quiet on the highway, allowing for comfortable conversations.

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It isn’t exciting but it isn’t meant to be. The Sentra is basic personal transportation and it seems to do it well. Especially surprising is the amount of space available to rear occupants and the quiet highway cruising – even with the high gearing that has the engine turning over at close to 3,000 rpm.

Fuel Economy
Exterior Styling

All this and fuel economy to boot, you really cannot argue with the facts. I averaged 6.2 L/100 km. That is better than any of the competition which all averaged around 6.5-6.7 L/100 km over their test runs.

I didn’t find the seats the most comfortable, but that was my only true complaint about the Sentra. It offers good value in the market and typically can be had for less than the sticker, at the time of this writing Nissan is advertising the S model at just $12,698 — it’s a lot of car for the money.

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