2013-2019 Nissan Sentra: engines, gas mileage, years to avoid, photos

March 21, 2020
The Nissan Sentra is a front-wheel drive compact; it competes with the likes of Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, Hyundai Elantra, Ford Focus and Chevrolet Cruze.
2013 Nissan Sentra 2013 Nissan Sentra.
The Sentra offers a good engine and a stylish roomy interior. The visibility is great thanks to the upright seating position. Tall drivers will find plenty of headroom (in models without a sunroof) 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. USB and Bluetooth are standard on all models from 2015.
The only automatic transmission choice is a continuously variable transmission, or CVT. The CVT transmission is more suitable for city driving, as it offers good city gas mileage and smooth "shifting."
2013 Nissan Sentra interior 2013 Nissan Sentra interior.
A used Nissan Sentra is widely available and is priced lower than the class leaders, the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla.

Model years to avoid: At the time we were working on this article in March 2020, most complaints on the NHTSA website were about CVT transmission, although the number of complaints was relatively small. The 2013 and 2014 Sentra received more complaints than the later years. Some owners describe a "shudder" that happens when accelerating from a stop or while coasting, others mention jerking and loss of power when the transmission overheats after driving on the highway.
2013 Nissan Sentra trunk 2013 Nissan Sentra.
The replacement of the CVT is expensive (up to $4,500-$5,000). We checked the trade-in value for the 2013 Sentra. Not surprisingly, it was much lower than that of the Honda Civic or Toyota Corolla. Consumer Reports also rated the 2013 and 2014 Sentra poorly under 'Transmission Major.' J.D. Power also rated the 2013 Sentra pretty low, at #19 among other compact cars. Considering this, the 2013 and 2014 Sentra with a CVT should be avoided altogether.

What Nissan Sentra owners like: Reasonable price, good gas mileage, style, roomy quiet cabin, rear seat space, refined dash, visibility, ride comfort, value for the money.

Dislikes: Slow acceleration, lack of power when merging, engine noise, CVT transmission glitches, small center console storage.

Overall: Other than CVT concerns, the Sentra is a stylish, roomy, fuel efficient and well equipped car.
2013 Nissan Sentra interior 2013 Nissan Sentra interior.
As of March 2020, the 2015 and newer model years are rated better. Does this mean that Nissan has improved the CVT? It's too early to tell, but if you want to buy a Nissan Sentra with a CVT, research recent owner reviews and check for complaints at the NHTSA website, CarComplaints.com and ConsumerReports.org first. Given the potential repair costs, an extended powertrain warranty that will fully cover CVT transmission repairs is a must.
In general, many problems with any automatic transmission including the CVT are caused by overheating. This means that the Sentra with a CVT is more suitable for fuel-efficient city driving and is not the best car for a long daily highway commute or sporty driving, especially if you live in Florida or Texas. Nissan recommends inspecting CVT fluid deterioration regularly and changing it if necessary. It's best to have it done at a Nissan dealer, as the wrong fluid can damage the CVT transmission. If you are buying a used Nissan Sentra, it's also a good idea to check with a Nissan dealer if all the recalls and CVT computer software updates have been done. The Sentra with a manual transmission will less likely to need such expensive repairs.

Fuel Economy: The EPA rates the 2014-2019 Nissan Sentra with a 1.8L engine and CVT transmission at 29/37 mpg city/highway or 32 mpg combined with a range of 422 miles on a tank. The 2017-2019 Sentra 1.6L turbo, auto gets 27 mpg city, 33 mpg highway.

Engine: The base engine is a 130-hp 1.8L 4-cylinder DOHC, model MRA8DE.
2013 Nissan Sentra 1.8L engine 2013 Nissan Sentra 1.8L engine.
It's a fairly simple naturally aspirated (non-turbo) engine with a conventional fuel injection. There haven't been too many complaints about this engine. For 2017, SR Turbo and Nismo trim levels were added to the lineup. They are equipped with a 188-hp 1.6L direct-injected turbocharged 4-cylinder MR16DDT engine.

Timing belt or timing chain?: Both the 1.8L MRA8DE and the 1.6L MR16DDT engines have a timing chain; there is no timing belt.

Engine oil capacity:
1.8L MRA8DE (with oil filter change): 4-1/4 qt. (4.0 liters)
1.6L MR16DDT (with oil filter change): 4-3/4 qt. (4.5 liters).