Still for the most part lounging close to home, our 2020 Nissan Sentra—which is here for a year long test—has logged just shy of an additional 2,000 miles since the ill-fated road trip we covered in its last update. During its workaday routine of school drop-offs and pickups and trips to the grocery store, the Sentra logged a best-tank mpg of 27.9 and a worst of 24.3, coming in at an average of 26 mpg. For real-world driving, that’s not too far off the EPA’s estimate of 29 mpg in city driving.
A few months back, our Sentra got a break from the daily slog for a trip to the track where our testing team put it through its paces. Not surprisingly, given the car’s modest 149-horsepower inline-four engine, the Nissan won’t be setting the streets on fire with its blazing acceleration anytime soon. Our long-termer logged a leisurely 8.6-second 0-60-mph time. That’s even slower than the Hyundai Elantra’s 8.4 seconds and Toyota Corolla’s 8.2 seconds and places the Nissan well behind the 2020 Honda Civic’s 7.3 seconds. Associate road test editor Erick Ayapana commented that he achieved the best acceleration times in the Sentra using a brake torque launch. Also known as a pedal overlap launch, the driver keeps the car in place by putting a foot on the brake while using the other foot to rev the engine against the torque converter. It’s doubtful that anyone in the market for a budget family sedan would use this drag race launch technique—or even know of it. The Sentra completed the quarter mile in 16.6 seconds at a speed of 85.1 mph.
On the skidpad, our long-term Sentra performed as expected in the figure-eight test, completing the run in 27.5 seconds at 0.61 average g. Those results put it squarely in the same ballpark as the Mazda 3, Corolla, and Elantra, which turned in times of 28.1, 27.8, and 27.0 seconds at 0.58, 0.59, and 0.63 average g, respectively. “There’s nothing particularly good or bad about the Sentra on the figure eight,” road test editor Chris Walton said. “It tends to understeer but is fairly neutral if it isn’t pushed to the limit.” One thing Walton did call the Sentra out on was that the brakes started to fade after a couple of laps, causing him to overshoot the skidpad.
Ayapana seconded that opinion. During the Sentra’s 60-0-mph braking tests, he noticed some “pretty dramatic distance creep.” On the first test, the Nissan stopped from 60 mph in 122 feet. In three subsequent runs the distances crept their way up to 128, 128, then 131 feet. Although Ayapana thought the brake pedal had decent feel, he also noticed that the brakes “never really got good bite.” Again, though, most Sentra drivers will never have to worry about such dramatic braking, and the car’s best braking distance of 122 feet puts it on par with its competitors in this respect.
Back home from the rigors of the track, the Sentra has proved to be a reliable if not terribly exciting daily driver. It had settled into a groove of going about its work quietly and proficiently until one day, for no apparent reason, the driver-side door refused to unlock after a drive. After some experimentation and an amusing (to the neighbors, at least) crawl over the center console to exit on the passenger side, we took the Sentra in to the dealership to have the issue addressed and the first scheduled service performed. More on those topics in the next update.