It may be a cliché that Japanese cars are reliable, but clichés generally become clichés because they're true. So, if you want a compact car and you intend to keep it for a long time past its original manufacturer warranty, it's a good idea to get something that's going to keep showing up for you for years to come. Two cars that fit the bill are the 2017 Nissan Sentra and the Toyota Corolla, so let's take a look at how they stack up against each other.
2017 Nissan Sentra vs Toyota Corolla
The 2017 Nissan Sentra is just a year out from a fairly substantial mid-cycle refresh, and it did give the Nissan a more upscale feel than it had previously. It now has the more dramatic V-shaped grille similar to the Altima and Maxima, a slightly resculpted hood and fenders, and a new front fascia and headlights. It's still not a head-turner, but it's a pleasant enough design for a vehicle that's so affordable.
As a car that's been around for decades and sold in almost unimaginable numbers over that time, the design of the Corolla is always going to be relatively conservative. The latest model looks a little like a greatest hits collection of bits and pieces from other compacts, but the overall look is quite pleasing. We'll give the nod to the newer, more cohesive design of the Nissan.
This year sees Nissan introducing a second engine option as well as the standard 130 horsepower 1.8-liter four-cylinder we're used to having in the Sentra. Driving this new powerplant means opting for the 2017 Nissan Sentra SR Turbo. The engine in question is the 188 horsepower 1.6-liter turbo-four from the Juke. It's loud when worked hard, but it's also a lot of fun.
The base engine in the Toyota is another 1.8-liter four cylinder unit that offers almost identical horsepower to the 1.8 in the Nissan. The optional engine for the Corolla is remarkably similar to the standard engine as it's another 1.8, but this one employs Toyota's own version of variable valve timing for more power and better fuel-efficiency in the LE Eco model. It's still only producing 140 horsepower though, so this section is an easy win for the Nissan.
If you're buying a compact you're probably looking for good fuel economy, and the Nissan Sentra is very respectable in this important area. The majority of Sentra models on lots will have the CVT transmission, which helps it to achieve 29 mpg in the city, 37 mpg on the highway and 32 mpg combined.
Unless you go for the Eco version of the Toyota Corolla, the best EPA ratings you can get are 28 mpg in the city, 36 mpg on the highway and 32 mpg combined. The Eco model is a little better on gas then the Sentra, but to get the better numbers means pressing a button that alters shift points, throttle response, and accessory operation. That means this is another win for the Nissan Sentra.
The lack of a standard rearview camera certainly doesn't help the 2017 Nissan Sentra's safety credentials. The IIHS has rated the Nissan as a Top Safety Pick, but the NHTSA's federal testers haven't been quite as kind as they've only given the Sentra a four star rating for overall safety.
Some of the active safety features from the Prius have been added to the Corolla this year, and the Toyota Safety Sense-P package is available on all trims. The 2017 model hasn't been rated by the NHTSA yet, but last year's model already had a five star rating without the new upgrades. The IIHS gives the Toyota its coveted Top Safety Pick+ rating, which gives this round firmly to the Corolla.
Learn More about the Nissan Sentra
The recent upgrades Nissan has made to the Sentra have raised its game, even while it continues to have a smaller price tag than the Corolla. Combine that with a cohesive design, impressive fuel economy, and some powerful engine options and you have an all-around winner in this head-to-head match up.
*Any MPG listed is based on model year EPA mileage ratings. Use for comparison purposes only. Your actual mileage will vary, depending on how you drive and maintain your vehicle, driving conditions, battery pack age/condition (hybrid only) and other factors. For additional information about EPA ratings, visit http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/label/learn-more-PHEV-label.shtml.
** Government 5-Star Safety Ratings are part of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA's) New Car Assessment Program. Model tested with standard side airbags (SABs). For additional information on the 5-Star Safety Ratings program, please visit www.safercar.gov.