What to look for when buying a used Nissan Sentra

Overall rating:4 Star Rating
August 21, 2017
2013 Nissan Sentra
2013 Nissan Sentra.
Click for larger photo.

Nissan Sentra competes with the likes of Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, Hyundai Elantra, Ford Focus and Chevrolet Cruze. The city fuel economy is where the Sentra stands out. The EPA rates the 2013 Sentra with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) at 30 mpg city. A very few sedans can match that.

Another plus is the stylish roomy interior. In terms of the size, the Sentra is closer to a mid-size sedan. A used Nissan Sentra is widely available. It's also priced below the class leaders Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla. Is the Nissan Sentra reliable in the long run? What are the common problems? Let's find out.

2013 Nissan Sentra Interior
Nissan Sentra interior. Click for larger photo
Nissan Sentra trunk
Nissan Sentra cargo space
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Engine: The Sentra comes with a 130-hp DOHC 1.8L engine. It's a bit underpowered, but overall, it's a good simple engine. It has a timing chain instead of a timing belt.

Interior: The Sentra interior is nicely styled and finished. All-around visibility is great thanks to upright seating position. Tall drivers will find plenty of headroom and legroom in the front. The rear legroom is the second best in the segment. The trunk is large, with sizeable opening. Rear seats fold down if you need more space. The USB and Bluetooth are standard on all models from 2015.

Fuel Economy: The EPA rates the 2013 Nissan Sentra with a CVT automatic transmission at 30 mpg city, 39 mpg highway and 34 mpg combined. With 55% city, 45% highway, you can drive the Sentra for 404 miles (650 km) on a 13.2-gallon (50L) tank. For comparison, the 2013 Mazda 3 2.0L auto gets 28/40 mpg. The 2013 Honda Civic automatic is rated at 28/39 mpg. The advantage of a CVT transmission is obvious if you look at the manual transmission numbers: The 2013 Sentra manual returns 27 mpg city and 36 mpg highway (8.7/6.5 L/100 km).

Handling and ride: The Sentra handles well, but not sporty. The ride is more on the firm side, but comfortable and well-insulated from road imperfections.

Safety: Rear brakes are drums. Disc rear brakes are available on top trims. Antilock brakes and Stability Control are standard. The Sentra has six standard airbags: front, side and side curtain. In the NHTSA crash tests, the 2013-2017 Sentra scored four stars out of five overall. Frontal crash and rollover are rated with four stars. The side protection received five stars.

Pros: Reasonable price, city fuel economy, extended warranty for the CVT transmission, style, roomy quiet cabin, rear seat space, refined dash, visibility, ride comfort, perks for the money.

Cons: Slow pickup, lack of power when merging, engine noise on acceleration, finicky CVT transmission, small center console storage.

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Read about common problems, competitors, CVT transmission and what to look for in a used Nissan Sentra on the next page.