Just because you might be on a budget, doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy things in life. Sure, going to Del Frisco’s or Nobu in midtown Manhattan is a nice experience, and certainly an expensive one, but that doesn’t mean if you don’t have a thousand dollars to drop on a meal that you shouldn’t go out to eat. Some of us can still treat ourselves to a nice steak at Outback or Longhorn Steakhouse and feel like we still treated ourselves. The same can be said for new cars. Sure, buying a new Bentley or Jaguar F-Type SVR would be amazing, but the truth is that those cars are out of 99% of buyers price ranges. But does that mean you shouldn’t like the car you buy just because you’re on a budget? Heck no, and the 2020 Nissan Sentra SR is proof.
Taking a page out of Toyota’s recent design philosophy, Nissan has made the Sentra essentially just a smaller looking Maxima and Altima just like the Corolla is to the Camry. This strategy is two fold: first it makes parts easier to build because everything is similar so costs are down. Second, the visual cues of the higher end model like the Camry, make customers feel like they are actually driving a higher valued car than the sticker price may indicate.
New for 2020, the Sentra SR replaces its antiquated rear Torsion bar rear suspension for a much improved multi-link rear. The new platform allows the car itself to sit a full two inches lower than the outgoing model, which helps its looks considerably. Power comes from a somewhat lackluster 2.0-liter DOHC inline-4 that makes a decent 149-horsepower and 146 lb-ft of torque. That power is then routed through a polarizing continuously variable transmission (CVT) that does a respectable job of delivering power off the line but does tend to feel a little unsure about its selections higher up the RPM band. Those ponies are sent to the front wheels for thrust, and though by the numbers, the Sentra SR isn’t fast by any standards, the new electric power steering rack makes it feel much quicker than it is thanks to much better feedback.
Now, like we said, this car won’t be confused with a McLauren on the racetrack any time soon, but that isn’t its purpose in life. Weighing in at 3,104 pounds, the Sentra SR gets from 0-60 mph in 8.0 seconds flat and through the quarter mile in 16.2 seconds at 87.8 mph thanks to a subpart power-to-weight ratio. But surprisingly, the 60-0 mph stop in only 114 feet is best in its class, so weight isn’t necessarily to blame for everything. Around the skidpad, the Sentra SR puts up a very respectable 0.89 g, and even more impressive is it’s 28/37/32 city/highway/combined mpg.
Inside, the new Sentra benefits from an upgraded interior. Front seats are comfortable and user friendly for extended road tripping. In back, the oft-ignored rear passengers get grown up seats and improved leg room, and even a USB outlet all their own. The ride itself is much better than in just about any Sentra since its inception back to the Regan administration. Body control is superb, and the ride feels much better than expected for a case with a base price of $22,355.
So if you’re in the market for a sporty yet economical car, because that NSX or R8 is still a little out of your grasp, the 2020 Sentra SR might just be the car for you. And with all that extra money you’ll be saving, maybe you could even treat yourself to a nice dinner a little closer to midtown.