Behind the Wheel

2020 Nissan Sentra Review: It's easy to not expect much, but the Sentra impresses

The Nissan Sentra was completely redesigned for the 2020 model year.

Photo courtesy of Nissan Motor America

It's easy to not expect too much from the Nissan Sentra. In a world of Camrys and Accords, the slightly smaller compact car market is easily brushed off as cheap. That being said, your expectations don't have to be high for the redesigned 2020 Nissan Sentra to impress you. That isn't a drinking-the-Kool Aid scenario. The Sentra punches above its weight besting many other much higher priced cars.

So, let's start at the price. The Sentra starts just under $20,000 and the highest grade starts near $22,000. That's about the same price range as the Nissan Kicks. The Sentra tops out about the same as a similarly equipped Toyota Corolla and Honda Civic.

2020 Nissan Sentra The car is different from the bottom up, taking on design characteristics of the Nissan Altima, Maxima, and Versa.Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

As tested, the top-tier Sentra SR comes with most of the features and appointments you'd expect of a mass market sedan. The car rides on 18-inch alloy wheels and is available in a variety of two-tone paint jobs as well as a good roster of solid colors.

The Sentra looks good. It doesn't vary too much from the Maxima, Altima, and Versa mold.

Under the hood is a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that does the job sufficiently. Its horsepower and pound-feet of torque numbers sound low (149 and 146, respectively), but the car is a capable commuter. The engine is paired with a continuously variable transmission that won't bother most drivers with its capabilities. It's fairly fuel efficient too, getting 32-33 mpg combined depending on the Sentra trim level.

On top of that it's comfortable to sit in and easy to drive. Don't expect sporty Volkswagen GTI-level engagement or enough headroom for your 6'5" best friend in the rear seat (it is a compact car, after all) and you won't be disappointed.

2020 Nissan Sentra The materials on the interior of the car are fitting of its price point.Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

Nissan does not sell the model with all-wheel drive.

Where Sentra wins big points is its interior. The car is the right mix of appointments for its price point, as tested, and even better than the cabin in the Subaru Impreza, Civic, and Volkswagen Jetta. Its 8-inch infotainment screen is easier to see and operate than that in the Mazda Mazda3's.

Though some may knock it, the Sentra's climate controls allow users to set the temperature the control the fan speed separately. This setup is common in many luxury cars. Most users would probably rather set it and forget it rather than deal with the two controls, but there's nothing particularly cumbersome about the design.

Though the infotainment system doesn't have the most intuitive functionality, most Sentras come with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, making it easy on users to just plug and play.

2020 Nissan Sentra Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are the answer to the woes of the Nissan infotainment system.Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

The interior of the model is outfitted in standard charcoal cloth upholstery. Charcoal leatherette upholstery is available for a $2,170 upcharge as part of the Premium Package. Other elements of the package include surround view monitor, LED headlights, LED daytime running lights, moonroof with tilt feature, sun visors with illuminated vanity mirrors, auto-dimming rearview mirror, six-way power-adjustable driver's seat, heated front seats, and a heated steering wheel.

Like most new Nissans, it comes with the company's standard suite of six safety and driver assist features (high beam assist, lane departure warning, blind spot warning, rear cross traffic alert, rear automatic braking, and forward automatic braking with pedestrian detection).

That puts you all in for around $25,000. That's not bad. And, it's a much better car than the base Altima (though it has a smaller back seat and trunk), which hovers around the same price point.

Where the real comparison lies is with the crossover market, which is flush with a number of models priced similarly to the Sentra. For $25,000, there's nothing in the Nissan lineup that makes as compelling an argument for your money as the Sentra. Nothing from Ford, Toyota, or Honda either. Kia and Hyundai may be closest but their SUVs are still pricier compared to the Sentra.

2020 Nissan Sentra The car comes with device charging capability, phone storage space, numerous cup holders, and push-button start. Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

The Sentra's biggest sedan competition comes in the form of the 2021 Hyundai Elantra and 2020 Kia Forte.

It's legitimate to question if the Nissan lineup needs to have the Sentra with the Versa and Altima pulling such good duty. However, the Sentra makes a compelling case for drivers to see the lower priced offering, consider how much back seat space they truly need, and take it for a test drive.

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Nuts & Bolts

 
 

The Subaru Crosstrek has been refreshed for the 2021 model year.

Photo courtesy of Subaru of America, Inc.

Long beloved for its zippy drivability and spacious cargo area, the Subaru Crosstrek is also just underpowered enough for some drivers to make it a non-starter. The automaker is now offering a 2.5-liter four-cylinder option for the 2021 Subaru Crosstrek.

Buyers can choose the standard 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that delivers 152 horsepower and 145 pound-feet of torque or the 2.5-liter that is shared with the Forester and gets 182 horsepower and 176 pound-feet of torque.

2021 Subaru Crosstrek The car is mostly unchanged at the rear compared to the 2020 model and still just as capable. Photo courtesy of Subaru of America, Inc.

Both engines are paired with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) in most trim levels. The standard six-speed manual transmission in the Base and Premium grades is paired with the smaller engine. Models equipped with the CVT get Intelligent and Sport drive modes.

The larger engine gets 27 mpg in the city, 34 mpg on the highway, and 29 mpg combined. The smaller engine, mated with the CVT, achieves 28 mpg in the city, 33 mpg on the highway, and 30 mpg combined. With the manual, the Crosstrek gets just 22/29/25 mpg city/highway/combined.

All models will continue to be sold with standard all-wheel drive with active torque vectoring technology. Base models get a Low Shift Mode for descending hills.

Models with the CVT come standard with a suite of Subaru EyeSight Driver Assist Technology. That suite now includes adaptive cruise control with lane centering (debuted on the 2020 Outback) in addition to automatic pre-collision braking, pre-collision throttle management, lane departure prevention, lead vehicle start alert, automatic start-stop, rear seat reminder, and SI-Drive.

2021 Subaru Crosstrek The Crosstrek Sport features blacked out interior and exterior elements. The Crosstrek Limited is the most refined model. Photo courtesy of Subaru of America, Inc.

The 2021 Subaru Crosstrek will start at $22,245, just a $100 increase over the price of the 2020 model.

Subaru is adding a Sport grade ($26,495) to the Crosstrek lineup for 2021. It, along with the Limited trim level ($27,995), comes standard with the larger engine. The Crosstrek Sport gets dual-function X-Mode, which also debuted on the Outback, and includes hill descent control with snow/dirt and deep snow/mud selectable settings.

The 2021 Subaru Crosstrek will make its way to a dealership near you this summer.

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The Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross takes its name from the beloved cars.

Photo courtesy of Mitsubishi Motors

I wasn't a big car guy growing up. Some kids can tell you the horsepower and engine and endless stats about every car on the road. Or they'll notice the difference in taillights between individual model years, or any of a million other nips and tucks that carmakers do to differentiate their cars.

These days, it's my job to know that stuff, but when I was in high school, I didn't know much — but I knew what a Mitsubishi Eclipse was. As I got ready to write this review, I went back and watched perhaps the most famous 90's-era Mitsubishi Eclipse you could find: Paul Walker's bright green ride in "Fast and the Furious".

2020 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross The car is more traditional up front than it is in the back.Photo courtesy of Mitsubishi Motors

The second-generation Eclipse, built from 1995 to 1999, was the best-known (and best-looking) of all the cars, and became a vehicular icon for my generation in no small part to the role it played in "Fast and the Furious". Though I remember the car, I'd forgotten how terrible this movie is. The dialogue is cringeworthy, the cars are absurd (how many gears does that thing have?), and the story is outlandish. But it's still a hoot, and I may end up rewatching the whole series.

But then in 2011, Mitsubishi ended the Eclipse line for good. Or so we thought. Now we have a new one, only the sporty looks and movie-star glamour is long gone. It's called the Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross and it's... a compact crossover SUV of no particular importance.

That might be a little harsh. It's actually quite an interesting looking vehicle, which is more than can be said for most crossovers. Though the front isn't particularly exciting, the rear has more going for it. There's a dual-window design on the rear tailgate, with a light bar running across the middle. It's very much a love-it-or-hate-it design, but at least it's not boring.

There's a crease running up the doors to the back as well, which looks particularly sharp on the Red Diamond review unit that Mitsubishi sent me for a week. It stickered for $32,720 on the SEL trim, though you can likely negotiate a nice chunk of change off of that at your local Mitsubishi dealer.

2020 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross The touch screen is okay but the trackpad that is used to navigate it is detrimental.Photo courtesy of Mitsubishi Motors

Feature-wise, the Eclipse Cross is well-equipped, with a tiny 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that makes 148 horsepower. That's not a ton of power, but for a family crossover it's plentiful and turns in a combined 25 miles per gallon.

Mine had the $2,100 Touring Package, which kicks in a lovely panoramic sunroof, the ever-important adaptive cruise control and pedestrian detection and auto-braking, a heated steering wheel and heated rear seats, and some other minor additions.

If you look at the feature list, the Eclipse Cross is a solid vehicle. The interior design is a little rougher, with hard plastic everywhere and not-so-luxurious touch points. The trackpad to control the screen is terrible, as are the up/down buttons to control the dual-zone climate control (though the heated seats work excellently).

The infotainment screen could be bigger, and the dash screen needs some polish. The engine gets the job done, but it's not exactly quiet. It's a middle-of-the-road crossover. It does what it's supposed to do. You can get it for a good price and it's well-equipped.

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