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When you’re researching cheap new cars to buy, the Nissan Sentra probably comes up quite a few times. You can still get a brand-new version of this sedan for just over $20,000 right now. Is this car actually worth anything, or are you better off saving your money for another vehicle?

The 2023 Nissan Sentra S can be ordered at the low price of $20,200. If its equipment selection is too modest, you can upgrade to the Sentra SV for $21,420. The Sentra SR is advertised as the most athletic trim and costs a minimum of $23,090. This model is also available as a blacked-out Midnight Edition that costs $23,785. 

Even by compact car standards, the Nissan Sentra is very affordable. An SV Midnight Edition is still cheaper than a Honda Civic without all the bells and whistles. Given the Sentra’s estimated gas mileage of 33 mpg combined city/highway, you also won’t spend a lot of money at the pump. However, all of the Sentra’s other minor annoyances may prevent you from enjoying the car at all.

Here’s what $20,000 actually gets you

The Nissan Sentra has such a great fuel economy rating thanks to its 149-hp four-cylinder engine and attached continuously variable automatic transmission. However, Edmunds says that the Sentra’s weakest area is its performance. For starters, it takes nearly nine seconds to push the car up to 60 mph. The Nissan Sentra’s emergency braking performance is also several seconds slower than other cars in this weight class. To the Sentra’s credit, its handling and CVT response proved inoffensive to test drivers.

The Nissan Sentra comes with five cloth-upholstered seats, which are reportedly very comfortable. You also get a 7.0-inch infotainment touchscreen that lets you access smartphone integration. However, test drivers thought that the interface’s response times were too slow. The Nissan Sentra’s standard safety features, particularly the forward-collision warning function and backup camera, are also prone to random malfunctions. These glitches were discovered while test-driving the 2023 Sentra but could still be present since the 2024 Sentra uses the same interface. 

The 2024 Nissan Sentra definitely isn’t for everyone


The 2023 Nissan Sentra Goofed by Not Changing Anything This Year

While the Nissan Sentra isn’t the worst car you could buy, there’s nothing about it that makes it particularly worth the spend. Its technology offerings, storage capacity, and even its warranty options are all just average. You could argue that it’s worth buying for fuel efficiency alone, but its real-world estimate could be several points below what was advertised. During one point in Edmunds testing, the Nissan Sentra was only getting 28.7 mpg combined. 

A little extra money gets you a much more exciting vehicle in this segment, such as the zippy Mazda3. This one comes equipped with a 191-hp four-cylinder engine, yet it’s only slightly less efficient than the Sentra. The Mazda3 also offers a sportier driving experience, whether you purchase the sedan or hatchback model. The base sedan starts at $24,170.

If you’re trying to stay closer to the $20,000 mark, the Hyundai Elantra is another satisfying alternative. An Elantra SE costs just under $21,000 and has a base engine rated for 37 mpg combined. The SEL models can be optioned with both navigation and cyclist/pedestrian warning for the FCW system. Neither feature is available for the Nissan Sentra. 

According to Edmunds, the 2024 Nissan Sentra will be released at the end of this year. Its starting MSRP is expected to be about $21,000 and it will have a new transmission. The Sentra SV now has a few extra features and each Sentra trim has also undergone some exterior styling modifications. However, the site still notes that its opinion of the Nissan Sentra is still the same regardless of those changes. Unless you’re just after the best price available, we’d recommend buying another small car.