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2020 Nissan Sentra and the future of the compact car

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David Franklin, Analyst
Americas Vehicle Forecasts
Special To The Auto Channel
From LMC Automotive

First entering the US market 37 years ago, the Nissan Sentra is Nissan’s all-time bestselling vehicle in the US, averaging 140k units sold per year over the past 20 years. Nissan started production of the 8th generation of the Sentra this past December, rounding out a quartet of redesigns of their main sedan lineup in the US that also included the Altima, Maxima and Versa. Considering many OEMs have been reducing or eliminating their sedan offerings, Nissan has held firm in their belief in this body type and maintained a balanced portfolio as evidenced by making sure to keep their sedans fresh and competitive.

Nissan unveiled the 2020 Sentra back in November and recently invited us to test drive the all-new version before it starts sales in the US later this month.

The exterior of the new Sentra is sleek and far sportier looking than the previous generation. This generation is two inches shorter and wider than the previous, offering a sharper shape, and it is noticeable. I’m 6 feet and 2 inches tall, which can make being comfortable in a Compact sedan challenging as they often suffer from the same ailments as budget airlines when it comes to legroom – and despite the reduction in length – that wasn’t the case here and I found the seating to be comfortable. The drive was smooth, easy and relaxing. Equipped with a new 2.0-litre 4-cylinder engine that offers 20% more horsepower and 17% more torque than the previous powertrain. You won’t be winning any drag races in the new Sentra, but it will get you to where you need to be comfortably. Apart from some gripes about the shape of the window controls and the infotainment system, I enjoyed driving it. The most impressive thing to me though was the price tag, starting at US $19,090.

This vehicle represents why, despite the influx and popularity growth of Compact SUVs, Compact sedans will always have a place in the market. It’s the value that the segment has to offer. A bargain combination of cost, content and performance.

The Compact sedan segment is forecast to be the fourth largest segment in the US for 2020, behind Compact and Midsize SUVs and large Pickups. While fourth place falls just short of a podium position, the segment is expected to encompass nearly 1.9 million vehicles in the US for 2020, or a little more than 11% of the market, compared to Compact SUV’s first place, 20% market share.

Although SUVs are expected to make up more than 51% of sales in the US in 2020, Compact sedans will continue to maintain a healthy share of the market for as long as they continue to offer the best value out there for the budget conscious consumer.