2020 Nissan Sentra SR. Photo: Nissan

I drove the 2020 Nissan Sentra SR, a car that actually made me do a double-take.

My thought bubble: The Sentra is the kind of value-priced econobox you'd rent in Omaha — or so I thought — until a sporty-looking orange-and-black number showed up in my driveway. That's a Sentra?

  • It looks like a miniature Nissan Maxima, with an athletic stance and tastefully appealing interior.

The big picture: It's hard to compete with the Honda Civic, which has long dominated the compact sedan market and is due to be updated next year. Even the Toyota Corolla, also redesigned for 2020, has struggled to keep up.

  • Nissan upped its game with the 2020 Sentra and it shows.

Details: The Sentra's attractive makeover is attributed to a new platform that allows better proportions; it's about two inches lower and two inches wider than its predecessor.

  • It gets a new 149-hp 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine, and a new independent rear suspension, which gives the Sentra a smoother ride.

Driver assistance features are standard, a trend that is becoming more common in lower priced cars.

  • Nissan's technologies are packaged together in what it calls Safety Shield 360.
  • It includes both forward and reverse automatic braking, rear cross traffic alert, blind spot warning, lane departure warning and automatic high beams.
  • It doesn't help steer; it just warns you if you're drifting out of the lane.
  • Higher-priced version like the SV and SR trims add adaptive cruise control, which helps you maintain a safe distance from the car in front.

The value is hard to beat: Starting at $19,090, the Sentra is cheaper than the Civic. The SR I drove, with an extra premium package, topped out at $25,825.

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