In the early/mid-‘80s, among the terrific Skylines and the “wow-what-is-that” early SUV, the Sani, Nissan introduced the Sentra. Very much the youngest child in the large family, smaller, less flamboyant. Ag shame. Yet the Sentra was a very good basic car, not pretty, but handsome in a no-frills, boxy kind of way. A friend flew to Cape Town and rented one. A good drive, enough space, enough power, nice boot.
And so the Sentra stuck around, generation after generation. Gradually it got bigger, more powerful, rounder and with more features. But the three-box sedan was facing mounting market pressure, first from the hatchbacks, and then the SUV-craze went mad. Monster bakkies became more of a thing too, and in 2017 the Sentra exited stage left in the theatre of South African motoring.
So what happened to the Sentra? It flourished in other parts of the world under various names. In the US, the Sentra is still going strong, having morphed from a sub-compact to compact to mid-sized. Over there the Sentra is one of Nissan’s bestsellers for years.
The 2020 Sentra has just been released there. It is lower and wider and features the signature V-motion grille, slim LED headlamps and a floating roof. All models boast 360-degree camera and depending on the trim level, either a 7-inch or 8-inch touchscreen offering both the Apple and Android infotainment options. Wheels are 16” for the basic model and 18” for the top of the range.
Under the hood the new Sentra now has a 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine, replacing the previous 1.8-litre. This gives 111kW and 197Nm, significantly more than its predecessor. Power is transmitted through an Xtronic continuous transmission.
This Sentra offers a lot of safety features. It has automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, lane departure warning, high-beam assist and automatic rear braking.
The new Sentra is a nice-looking car, but given the competitive sedan market, it is unlikely to return to South Africa any time soon.
However, you can have a look at the great cars Nissan does offer in South Africa.