The 2022 Nissan Sentra is entirely competent, but it doesn’t stand out from its rivals in any meaningful way. Sure, the Sentra’s styling makes a statement, its interior is nicely trimmed and this car is a good value, but a few notable drawbacks detract from an otherwise pleasant experience.
The 2022 Sentra is now offered with a Midnight Edition Package. Available on the top-shelf SR grade, this options group blacks out the grille, exterior trim and 18-inch wheels for a more sinister look. Midrange SV models can now be had with an all-weather package, which includes dual-zone climate control, a heated steering wheel, butt-warming front seats and remote start. These changes are modest, but they still help the Sentra keep pace with other, more premium-feeling small sedans.
One area that needs no improvement is the exterior styling. This is a handsome car that resembles a three-quarter-scale Maxima. The suave Sentra is more interesting to look at than the Honda Civic and far less flash-in-the-pan than the diamond-faceted Hyundai Elantra. The example seen here is a bit difficult to photograph because of its black-and-white color scheme, so it doesn’t show as well as Sentras painted brighter hues. Four two-tone paint jobs are on the menu, along with eight single-color offerings.
While not as premium as the Civic’s interior, the Sentra’s cabin is still plenty nice. This SR model features lots of soft plastic on the upper dashboard and front door panels. Orange stitching and satin chrome accents add a splash of pizzazz to what would otherwise be quite a dark space. This example’s optional Prima-Tex artificial leather is soft to the touch, though in SR models, the Sentra’s standard D-shaped steering wheel and the shift knob are both wrapped in real cow hide. The circular air vents on the center stack feel premium, as do the climate controls, plus the heated steering wheel is probably the most effective I’ve ever experienced. It gets up to temp quickly and pumps out some serious BTUs. Really, the only obviously cheap parts of the Sentra’s interior are the cardboard-like headliner and the pedal-actuated parking brake, a curious anachronism in 2022.
As for tech, this sedan comes with a standard 4.2-inch instrument-cluster display and a 7-inch touchscreen with Bluetooth, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. SV and SR models feature an easy-to-cycle-through 7-inch gauge-mounted display and a bigger 8-inch touchscreen that supports the aforementioned smartphone-mirroring systems as well as satellite radio. The infotainment system that lives inside that larger display is basic, lacking embedded navigation, but the interface couldn’t be simpler to use and it’s extremely responsive. The Sentra’s cabin tech is OK, but it looks old fashioned compared to the two 10.3-inch screens you can get in an Elantra. Ensuring your mobile devices are always juiced, the two highest Sentra trims both come with a pair of USB ports at the base of the center stack, one type-A and a type-C.
The $2,470 SR Premium Package includes a range of amenities including a moonroof, LED headlights and an eight-speaker premium Bose audio setup. A 360-degree camera system is included, too, though it’s not great. The image that pops up on the screen is super low-resolution.
Nissan’s famed Zero Gravity seats are almost always some of the most comfortable in the business, though disappointingly, the Sentra’s miss the mark. In this car, they’re heated plus the driver’s chair power moves in six ways and has adjustable lumbar, though these buckets are merely adequate because the front edge of the bottom cushion doesn’t adjust high enough to provide much support for your thighs. This makes it feel like you’re sitting too close to the floor.
The Sentra’s back bench is spacious in all the right directions and comfortable enough for leggy adults. A fold-down center armrest is a nice touch, too, as are the ceiling-mounted reading lights. Passengers will, however, have to share the single USB type-A port that comes in SV and SR models. Increasing versatility, this Nissan’s 60/40 split rear backrest folds down, significantly expanding the 14.3-cubic-foot trunk. That total is a whisker less than what the Civic offers, but 0.1 cubes more than you get in an Elantra. When it comes to cargo space, it’s remarkable how similar these three cars are.
Unlike the potpourri of powerplants offered by the competition, just one engine is available in the Sentra: a 2.0-liter I4. Making its 149 horsepower and 146 pound-feet of torque the old-fashioned way without the help of any forced induction, this unit gets the job done well, if not enthusiastically. Matched exclusively to a continuously variable transmission, this small sedan accelerates with reasonable authority, though you’d never call it quick. The Sentra has no trouble merging onto the highway, but a little extra oomph would be nice... and so would some more insulation. The engine is smooth but sounds sick enough for the intensive-care unit, emitting a hoarse moan under load. That CVT maximizes performance and is mostly agreeable, but it exacerbates the droning.
At least this drivetrain combination is efficient. S and SV models sticker at 29 mpg city, 39 mpg highway and 33 mpg combined. Top-shelf SR variants are a whisker less economical, returning an estimated 28/37/32. In mixed use, I’m getting around 30.5 mpg, a skosh less than the advertised combined rating, but not by much.
Out and about, the 2022 Nissan Sentra’s steering is neutral to the point of being completely forgettable. Neither sports car crisp nor dump truck sloppy, the handling is fine for this kind of sedan, but it never begs you to go for a drive. The ride quality, however, is somewhat less agreeable. On the busy side, it feels cheap and a little coarse, with small vibrations and bumps percolating through the suspension. Further degrading the experience, at highway speeds wind noise is more conspicuous than I’d like.
Protecting you from mishaps, Nissan Safety Shield 360 comes standard in every Sentra. This suite of driver aids includes six potentially life-saving features: automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, lane-departure warning, automatic high beams and rear automatic braking. Class-exclusive (and ingenious) Intelligent Forward Collision Warning, which can see ahead of the vehicle driving in front of you, is standard, too.
In addition to all those goodies, SV and SR models come with adaptive cruise control, which works as advertised. What is not available, however, is Nissan’s excellent ProPilot Assist, a helpful amenity that also includes lane centering, something that greatly reduces driver fatigue on long trips.
Starting at less than $21,000 including $1,025 in destination fees, the entry-level Sentra S is a good value, especially when you consider all the safety features it comes with. The top-shelf SR model reviewed here is, naturally, a bit pricier, but even pretty much optioned to the max this thing still only checks out for $27,615. On both ends of the model range, this gives Nissan’s small sedan a modest pricing advantage over its primary rivals.
The 2022 Sentra is a good small car, but it falls short of segment leaders. Honda’s Civic feels nicer all around, the Mazda3 is far ritzier and Hyundai’s Elantra significantly more extroverted, both inside and out. But even though some competitors have an edge over this Nissan, there’s nothing to be ashamed of here.