The Sentra is offered in six models in all: 2.0, 2.0 S, 2.0 SR and 2.0 SL versions, all for the economically minded but with equipped with progressively more standard equipment. For those who want a compact sedan with more sporty character, there's also the Sentra SE-R and SE-R Spec V. With any of the 2.0 models, a 140-horsepower, 2.0L 4-cylinder engine, paired with either a 6-speed manual gearbox or Xtronic continuously variable automatic transmission comes standard. The SE-R gets an upgrade to a 177-hp, 2.5L four and the CVT, while the SE-R Spec V comes only with a 200-hp version of the larger engine plus a 6-speed manual gearbox.
All Sentra models have a strut-type front suspension and rear torsion beam setup with integral stabilizer bar; altogether it brings decent ride quality with good body control in cornering. Ride quality is quite good thanks to a front subframe and rear isolators.
SE-R models get paddle-shifters to help add some driver control to the CVT, as well as an upgraded look and sportier trim throughout. But the Spec V is the true performance package, with its close-ratio 6-speed gearbox, available helical limited-slip differential, stiffer suspension, and 4-wheel disc brakes. Tires on the Spec V are also upgraded to V-rated 17-inchers, and in addition to the suspension upgrades a trunk-mounted V-brace helps make the body more rigid for better cornering control. The Spec V's engine is tuned for high-performance situations, with stouter connecting rods, a different cam profile and a raised 7,000-rpm redline.
The Sentra is a compact car, but there's enough space for four adults (or three across in back when needed) provided you don't have too many long-legged passengers. Leather upholstery is optional on the top 2.0 SL, while most Sentras get a durable-looking cloth upholstery. Trunk space is surprisingly good for a compact as well, and the 60/40-split folding seats on all the trims allow you to easily expand the space for long items.
Even the base Sentra includes power windows and locks and a 4-speaker sound system. The 2.0 S upgrades to a 6-speaker sound system, iPod connectivity, cruise control, a trip computer and keyless entry. The SR model is the sporty way to go, with 16-inch alloy wheels, fog lamps, a rear spoiler, and sportier exterior trim; and at the top of the line, the 2.0 SL brings an Intelligent Key entry and start system, Bluetooth hands-free, XM satellite radio, a color screen, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel.
Options on the Sentra are grouped into just a few packages. A Leather Package adds leather seats and heated front seats to the SL, while a Special Value Package upgrades to a moonroof, Rockford Fosgate audio system, and navigation system with rear-view monitor. On the sportier-looking SR, you can get much of the SL's equipment through the recently introduced Special Edition package.
The Sentra changes very little for 2012 other than the addition of a new Technology Package option for the Sentra 2.0 S model. A Special Edition package, introduced later in the 2011 model year, carries over to 2012 and combines all the upgrades included in the Moonroof Package, Technology Package, and Convenience Package, at a big discount over adding those packages separately.
Otherwise, there's one new exterior hue offered for the 2012 Sentra: Red Alert, which replaces Lava Red.