Even as both manufacturers invest more in crossover SUVs, Nissan and Toyota managed to deliver remarkable improvements with the latest iterations of their compact sedans: the Sentra and Corolla. These two are closely matched in nearly every metric, but a closer look reveals each car has notable strengths and weaknesses. Dive in and find out which car makes more sense for you.
2021 Toyota Corolla: Pros Over the Sentra
The Sentra offers one powertrain option, but the Corolla has three, including an exceptionally efficient hybrid. Comparing standard variants, the Corolla and Sentra are neck and neck in terms of fuel economy, but the gasoline-electric hybrid Toyota is in another league. The 2021 Corolla Hybrid is EPA-rated at 53/52 mpg city/highway.
This might be the biggest difference between these two sedans and the strongest argument for the Corolla. Our partners at IntelliChoice—who determine five-year ownership costs based on depreciation, insurance, fuel, maintenance, financing, state fees, and repairs—give the Corolla and Corolla Hybrid Good and Excellent ratings, respectively. The Sentra gets the lowest possible rating of Poor.
Sporty-Looking Apex Edition
If you’re shopping between these two sedans and hoping for something with a sportier look, stiffer suspension, and an available manual transmission, the Corolla Apex Edition is your best bet. Its bronze accents and lowered stance help it stand out from every other Corolla on the road. However, after our First Test, we found the ride too stiff and didn’t discover any performance benefits.
2021 Nissan Sentra: Pros Over the Corolla
Both cars offer remarkably large trunks considering their compact dimensions, but you’ll be able to carry more cargo in the Sentra. Cargo volume measures 14.3 cubic feet in the Sentra compared to 13.1 in the Corolla. Those hoping to haul more gear in a Corolla should look at the Corolla Hatchback.
We never expected to be this impressed by the cabin of a Sentra. Hop into a nicely optioned Sentra SV, though, and you’ll be greeted by one of the best compact sedan interiors on the market. The seats are upholstered with tan quilted leather that nicely contrasts with the black and tan upholstery on the doors and dash. Chrome accents add more visual appeal.
Better Base Engine
The Sentra only offers one engine, but that means you won’t be stuck with some entry-level asthmatic four-pot. Base Corollas employ an underpowered non-turbo four-cylinder that is “loud, laborious, and slow. ” Whereas a base Sentra reaches 60 mph in a respectable 8.0 seconds, the Corolla with its less powerful 1.8-liter I-4 needs a pathetic 10.2 seconds.
The base Sentra S offers the same driver-assist features, 7.0-inch touchscreen, and great fuel economy of the entry-level Corolla L—plus a superior engine—at a lower price. Sentra pricing starts at $20,335 compared to $21,020 for a Corolla L. Higher trims are less expensive, too: a top-spec Sentra SR starts at $22,675, whereas Corolla XSE pricing begins at $26,920.
This pair of compacts couldn’t be better matched. The Sentra and Corolla are neck and neck in terms of fuel economy, infotainment tech, interior space, driver-assist features, and performance. Our pick would be the Sentra for its elegant design and superior base engine, but the Corolla’s massive advantage in long-term value makes it hard to resist.
2021 Toyota Corolla Pros Over the Sentra
- Available hybrid
- Overall value
- Sporty-looking Apex Edition
2021 Nissan Sentra Pros Over the Corolla
- Cargo space
- Interior design
- Better base engine
- Features-per-dollar value
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