2021 Nissan Sentra vs 2021 Toyota Corolla

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  • 2021 Nissan Sentra

    A grey 2021 Nissan Sentra S is angled left.

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    2021 Toyota Corolla

    A grey 2021 Toyota Corolla LE is angled left.

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    14.3 Cargo Space (cu.ft)13.1
    149Base Horsepower (hp)139
    StandardRear Automatic BrakingNot Available

    The compact sedan segment still has a number of excellent choices available for buyers in need of comfortable transport for daily driving. If you're a commuter or just want a more fuel-efficient vehicle, comparing the 2021 Nissan Sentra vs 2021 Toyota Corolla will reveal the two vehicles both offer good mileage and an affordable price. No comparable automaker offers as many standard features as Nissan, but Toyota does offer similar features in its upper trim options. Then again, if you care about styling, Nissan takes the upper hand with its sporty exterior appeal. Comfort in the Sentra may also be an improvement over the Corolla with Nissan's "zero gravity" seats, but the only way to decide is to compare features and see which car finishes first.

    The Sentra comes in three trim levels that start with the entry-level S, and each trim is powered by a capable 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that is paired to a well-tuned continuously variable transmission. Critics often prefer transmissions with traditional gearing because the CVT tends to have a somewhat elastic feel, but Nissan has done an excellent job of designing a CVT that has a more natural driving demeanor. At entry-level, the 2021 Sentra comes with features like 16-inch wheels, a seven-inch infotainment screen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, keyless entry with push-button start, and the Nissan Safety Shield 360 suite of driver-assist features.

    The 2021 Corolla offers five trims starting with the entry-level L, with most trims equipping a smaller 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine paired to a CVT. For reference, though Toyota makes a fair effort to provide a smooth driving experience, the CVT in the Sentra delivers better performance with a more traditional gearing sensation. Like the 2021 Sentra, the Corolla is front-wheel drive only, and it also comes equipped with standard 16-inch wheels, a seven-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and the Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 suite of driver-assist safety features. At first glance, these compact sedans appear alike, but digging into the details will show differences that some buyers will want to know before deciding.

  • Exterior

    An orange 2021 Nissan Sentra is shown from the side in a driveway after winning a 2021 Nissan Sentra vs 2021 Toyota Corolla battle.

    Style is subjective, but if you park the 2021 Sentra next to the 2021 Corolla, the vehicle that will most likely catch your eye is the Sentra. Its exterior is sporty, with the new V Motion grille and floating roof giving it an edgy, youthful appeal. A sleek shaping to the body makes it appear as if it glides through the air, and the two-tone color scheme available for the SR trim really gives the Sentra an expensive look despite its low price. Nissan allows buyers to increase the sporty appeal with an optional spoiler for the deck lid, which takes the look of the Sentra into what feels like a truly exciting ride.

    Handling for the 2021 Sentra has been upgraded from previous years with an independent multi-link rear suspension that is far superior to the torsion beams found in many affordable sedans. Nissan takes a step farther with its Active Ride Control and Intelligent Trace Control systems, both of which assist with smoother handling on rough roads and when cornering. These systems assist with stability via automated braking that the driver will appreciate when rounding a curve in the road.

    Facing the Competition

    On the other side of the street, the 2021 Corolla does well with its large, aggressive grille and slim headlights to give it modern appeal, though it lacks personality in comparison to the 2021 Sentra. The Corolla simply doesn't have character, with few remarkable details other than the LED taillight design. Toyota builds long-lasting vehicles that do have a lot of value over time, but the styling for the Corolla just isn't fun or interesting like the Sentra. Ride quality in the Corolla is comfortable and quiet, though it doesn't deliver the same automated handling additions found in the Sentra, nor does the CVT offer the same smooth sensation when transitioning through gears.

  • Interior

    A close up show the black and silver shifter in a 2021 Nissan Sentra.

    Taking the comparison to the interior, Nissan has cornered the market on comfort with its standard "zero gravity" front seats that take their inspiration from space travel. If you want to stretch the idea of space travel into the driver's seat, one could certainly suggest there is a resemblance to a cockpit, but that might be taking it too far. Perhaps it's better to compare it to a modern aesthetic, as the 2021 Sentra gives off a youthful, spry vibe, especially in the upper trims that can come clad in available quilted leather with a sport-style steering wheel.

    Conveniences abound inside the Sentra, with powered accessories, a remote trunk release, tilting and telescoping steering wheel, and adjustable seats. The split-fold rear seat expands the already large trunk space that measures 14.3 cubic feet, which is nearly the size of an average midsize sedan. Opting for the mid-level trim will mean upgrading the driver's display to a larger size, halogen headlights being traded for LED, and gaining a leather-wrapped steering wheel as well as numerous tech upgrades. In the uppermost trim, the Sentra verges on posh with its simulated leather seats, powered moonroof, and heated seats and steering wheel.

    A Battle of Size and Style

    While the Corolla certainly has a solid set of features, many of which are equal to the Sentra, it lacks the character of the Sentra's interior. The entry-level trim of the 2021 Corolla has the same size driver instrument cluster as the 2021 Sentra, and the Corolla comes with powered accessories and a tilting and telescoping steering wheel. It lacks the trunk space of the Sentra, with a much smaller 13.1 cubic feet available for cargo, but it does have a split-fold rear seat to expand that space if needed. Like the Sentra, the Corolla upgrades the driver display to a larger size in upper trims, but to get more comfortable front seats requires buyers to pay for the more expensive trims. The two sedans are evenly matched in many respects, but the Sentra's seats are far more comfortable, and its styling is far more appealing.

  • Safety

    An orange 2021 Nissan Sentra is shown driving in a city at night with simulated sensor lines.

    Technology is a must in our world, and both Nissan and Toyota provide plenty of connectivity options for their compact sedans. Driver-assist safety features are also in abundance, particularly when considering some of the more desirable features that provide convenience as well as safety. For instance, the 2021 Sentra diligently equips drivers with common features like auto emergency braking with pedestrian detection and lane departure warning. Most vehicles worth their salt are making sure these are becoming the norm, but Nissan also goes above the bar with standard features like rear automatic braking and blind-spot warning with rear cross-traffic alert.

    Few manufacturers are willing to equip rear automatic braking as a standard feature, despite the fact that accidents resulting from blind spots when driving in reverse are common. A driver attention monitor is also standard for the 2021 Sentra, a feature that can save lives if drivers employ it while they drive for long trips or at night. Range into upper trims, and Nissan adds features like its 360-degree camera, adaptive cruise control, and connected services. In the 2021 Corolla, similar features like auto emergency braking with pedestrian detection and lane-departure alert are part of its safety suite, though it diverges from the Sentra with radar cruise control that can be convenient for taking long trips.

    Nissan Safety Shield 360 vs Toyota Safety Sense

    Road sign assist and lane tracing are two other safety features in the Corolla not found on the Sentra, though it may boil down to buyer preference in terms of which features are most useful in preventing accidents. Unfortunately, Toyota doesn't provide blind-spot monitoring or rear cross-traffic alert until upper trims, which does seem like a miss on Toyota's part. Although a feature that reads road signs may be helpful for keeping the speed limit, the more imminent danger of accidents is likely to come from accidentally cutting off a driver you can't see when changing lanes. And Toyota doesn't provide a rear automatic braking feature at all, which certainly seems like a missed opportunity. If you take into account the lower pricing of the 2021 Sentra, the more modern, sleek styling, and even the zero gravity seats, the Sentra has more character, comfort, and safety compared to the 2021 Corolla.

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