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Comparison: 2021 Nissan Sentra versus 2021 Volkswagen Jetta

How does the Nissan Sentra compare to the Volkswagen Jetta?

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2021 Nissan Sentra 

Starting Manufacturer’s Suggested retail Price: $19,198 CAD

Pros

  • Under-$20k starting price
  • Roomy front cabin and trunk
  • Excellent fuel economy with CVT

Cons

  •  SR version sporty in looks only
  •  Tight rear passenger room
  •  No engine upgrades

 

2021 Nissan Sentra – Highlights

The 2021 Sentra compact sedan, now in the second year of its 8th-generation, holds its own in the highly-competitive compact car class. Over those generations, this car has been one of Nissan’s top sellers. And the latest offers smart designs inside and out and a refined ride. Even the base $19,198 Sentra S (all Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Prices  are in Canadian dollars) comes with standard gear such as smartphone integration and a comprehensive array of driver assistance features. A 6-speed manual transmission is also standard, while a continually variable automatic transmission (CVT) can be had for as little as $20,898 with the S Plus trim.

All 2021 Sentras are front-wheel-drive (FWD) and powered by a 2.0-litre 4-cyinder engine making 149 horsepower and 146 pound-feet of torque. That engine also powers the sportiest Sentra, the SR, either with the manual gearbox ($23,198) or CVT ($24,498,). The SR features 18-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights, and some cosmetic additions. The CVT-only topline $26,598 SR Premium trim adds a 360-degree camera, 8-speaker Bose audio system, simulated leather upholstery, and a 6-way adjustable driver’s seat.

Nissan makes a big deal of the 5-passenger Sentra sedan’s Zero Gravity front seats as they are extremely comfortable. Interior space is good for front passengers, and there are 60/40 split/folding rear seats for some cargo flexibility over the trunk’s 404.9 litres of cargo space.

In the big picture, 149 horsepower is not a massive amount of muscle, but fuel economy is excellent: as low as 7.1 litres per 100 kilometres (L/100 km) city and highway combined when equipped with the CVT. The steering is equally agreeable, with a well-judged weight and feel. Even more impressive, this newest Sentra has an independent multi-link rear suspension, which is a more sophisticated and higher-end setup than the torsion beam in the non-GLI Jetta.

 

2021 Volkswagen Jetta 

Starting Manufacturer’s Suggested retail Price: $21,595 CAD

Pros

  • Generous rear cabin space
  • Sporty Jetta GLI is a sedan version of the Golf GTI
  • 4-year/100,000-kilometre warranty

Cons

  • Base 1.4-litre works hard with a full load of passengers
  • Higher trims can get costly
  • Some interior parts feel cheap

 

2021 Volkswagen Jetta - Highlights

The 2021 Volkswagen Jetta compact sedan is basically unchanged for 2021. Because it was redesigned for 2019, the Jetta’s tech and safety features remain fresh. Similarly, the driving dynamics continue to be refined and athletic. Other strong points include excellent interior space for rear passengers, and good overall comfort.

Jetta pricing starts with the base $21,595 Comfortline trim with a 6-speed manual transmission. An 8-speed automatic transmission costs $22,995. The topline $28,995 Execline trims comes with the automatic only, and adds such niceties as a BeatsAudio 8-speaker system, digital driver instrumentation, wireless charging, ventilated leather from seats, and more. Power comes from a torque-rich turbocharged 1.4-litre 4-cyinder that makes 147 horsepower and 184 pound-feet. 

On the road, VW designed the front-wheel-drive Jetta for North Americans, but it has a European feel and sophistication. Cloth upholstery is standard. Higher trim levels get simulated leather while the top Execline gets the real thing. Rear legroom nearly matches that of the Toyota Camry, and the Jetta’s trunk is only slightly smaller than that of the Sentra. A rear seat that folds and splits 60/40 adds versatility. Plus, there is VW Canada’s long 4-year/100,000-km factory warranty.

While all the Jetta models have good driving manners, the $31,995 GLI sports sedan has excellent power and driver involvement. The GLI separates itself with exclusivities like a larger, 228 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque turbocharged 2.0-litre engine, with either a 6-speed manual or 7-speed dual clutch automatic to change gears. As well, the GLI gets the XDS electronic front differential (which comes from the Golf GTI and helps put the power down when the car is accelerating out of tight corners) and a sophisticated multilink rear suspension over the regular Jetta’s torsion beam setup. The GLI’s strong brakes come straight from the high-performance Golf R, which has been discontinued.

 

Final Recommendation

Both 2021 versions of the Nissan Sentra and Volkswagen Jetta illustrate how much value buyers can find in the compact car segment these days. Features that would costs thousands as options on more popular SUVs and trucks come standard, while still offering enough room and performance to make for comfortable daily drivers.

The 2021 Nissan Sentra’s under-$20k starting price, roomy and comfortable front cabin and trunk, and excellent fuel economy (especially when picking the CVT) make it an excellent choice.

However, we feel that the 2021 Volkswagen Jetta, with more room in back for passengers, the available GLI sports sedan and VW Canada’s luxury-brand-like warranty, make it the better overall choice.

Specs

2020 Nissan Sentra

2021 Volkswagen Jetta

Engine(s)

2.0-litre I4
 

1.4-litre Turbocharged I4
2.0-litre Turbocharged I4

Horsepower

149 hp @ 6,000 rpm
 

1.4T - 147 hp @ 5,000rpm

2.0T - 228 hp @ 5,000 rpm

Torque

146 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm

1.8T - 184 lb-ft @ 1,400 rpm

2.0T - 258 lb-ft @ 1,700 rpm

Transmission(s)

6-speed manual

Continuously variable automatic

6-speed manual

1.4T - 8-speed automatic

2.0T - 7-speed automatic

Fuel Economy

6M -  8.0 L/100 km (9.3 city, 6.3 hwy)
CVT -  7.1 L/100 km (8.0 city, 6.0 hwy)

SR 6M -  7.3 L/100 km (8.2 city, 6.2 hwy)
SR CVT -  8.1 L/100 km (9.4 city, 6.5 hwy)


 

1.4T/6M  – 6.9 L/100 km (7.9 city, 5.8 hwy)

1.4T/8A  – 7.1 L/100 km (8.0 city, 6.0 hwy)

2.0T/6M  – 8.5 L/100 km (9.7 city, 7.0 hwy)

2.0T/7A  – 8.4 L/100 km (9.7 city, 6.8 hwy)

 

Warranty

3 years/60,000 km

4-years/80,000 km

Max Seating Capacity

5

5

Wheelbase

2,711.5 mm

2,686 mm

Overall Length

4,640 mm

4,702 mm

Width

1,816 mm

1,799 mm

Height

1,448 mm

1,463 mm

Curb Weight

1,349-1,411 kg

1,314 kg

Headroom, Front

998.1 mm

979 mm

Headroom, Rear

933.1 mm

945 mm

Legroom, Front

1,116.5 mm

1,045 mm

Legroom, Rear

882.5mm

949 mm

Shoulder Room, Front

1,431.5 mm

1,420 mm

Shoulder Room, Rear

1.385.1 mm

1,372 mm

Cargo Volume

404.9 L

399 L

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