In the compact car segment of the automotive market, it’s very often the rivalry between the big Japanese automakers that make things the most interesting.
Two top-selling compact sedans and contenders for affordable executive or family sedan models are the Nissan Sentra and the Honda Civic. Both popular and pleasing in their different ways, some people have trouble determining which one is best for them. This guide will shed light on the important similarities and differences to consider.
Note: For clarity, we are talking about the Honda Civic sedan version in today’s comparison and not the Civic hatchback version.
The all-new Honda Civic is far more fun to drive and has small wins over the Nissan Sentra in fuel economy and practicality. However, the Nissan Sentra offers a compellingly low price, which might sway some buyers away from America’s best-selling compact car.
The 2022 Nissan Sentra starts at just $19,510, which is always a big advantage in the car market. Any sedan priced under $20,000 is going to have a competitive edge with those buyers who are on a strict budget. It comes in 4 trim levels, with the base-level Sentra S at the starting MSRP, the Sentra SV starting at $20,570, the Sentra SR starting at $22,100, and the Sentra SR Midnight Edition starting at $22,795.
The 2022 Honda Civic starts at a higher price, with a starting MSRP of $22,350. That places the base-level Civic LX model at even more than the high-level SR trim for the Sentra. The Honda Civic also comes in 4 trims, the first being the aforementioned LX, and the others being the Civic Sport (from $23,750), the Civic EX (from $25,350), and the Civic Touring (from $28,950).
Besides similar body dimensions, one area of similarity between both the Sentra and the Civic seems to be their combination of executive and sporty features in the sedan build. Slick and stylish headlight signatures, alloy wheels, striking body lines, and a rear sloping coupe-like roof are some of the many prominent features that they have in common.
The Nissan Sentra does have a more pronounced front grille design, however, with a larger, more adventurous shape trimmed in chrome, and with more angular designs around the air intakes. The Honda Civic’s front end is a little more understated.
The two compact cars are quite well matched on the interior score, with the Nissan Sentra arguably offering something a bit more plush at the higher end, but the Honda offering something more chic and dynamic.
The Sentra’s sense of budget-friendly opulence is comfortable with available Prima-Tex upholstery, multi-zone climate control, and the Zero Gravity seat design concept. The Honda Civic feels sportier, more athletic, and contemporary, especially in the edgier dash and cockpit design.
In both cases, it’s necessary to climb the trim ladder in order to get the best styling options for both interior and exterior. That gives the Nissan Sentra an advantage there with the starting MSRP being much lower, even for the high-end trims when compared to the Civic.
The Sentra is powered by a 2.0L 4-cylinder engine outputting up to 149-hp, and that’s paired with a CVT transmission and a front wheel drive drivetrain. The CVT has been made to mimic gear changes, but most tests have found the CVT to be slow and cumbersome in the Sentra. On top of that, the steering is somewhat lackluster and if you choose the larger 18-inch wheel options, then you will hear just about every noise emanating from the road.
The Honda Civic is powered by a 2.0L 4-cylinder unit as standard with an output of 158-hp. Drivers have the option, however, of upgrading to a 1.5L 4-cylinder turbocharged unit. Those who have always liked the manual transmission concept in their Honda Civic were disappointed to learn that the sedan version has dropped the option for 2022, leaving only the CVT.
The Honda Civic’s powertrain and drivetrain are far superior to those of the Sentra. The car has communicative steering, balanced handling and is much more fun to drive than the somewhat cumbersome Sentra. If performance is a big factor for you, then the Civic wins this one, hands down.
Practicality and Passenger Space
In terms of cargo capacity, the Sentra offers 14.3 cubic feet of standard cargo space, compared to a very similar 14.8 cubic feet as standard on the Honda Civic. No big winners on that front, but these numbers are about par for the course for sedan cars. Obviously, opting for the Civic hatchback nets you the most cargo volume at a substantially higher 24.5 cubic feet.
Both cars can seat up to five people, but the Honda Civic is slightly roomier than the Nissan Sentra. The Sentra’s 96 cubic feet of passenger volume is bested by the Civic’s 99 cubic feet.
With its 2.0-liter I-4 engine, the Nissan Sentra can get up to 29-mpg in the city and 39-mpg on the highway. These figures drop by around 1-2 mpg in each case if you go for the top SR trim, but still quite decent and matching many competitors in the sedan segment.
The Honda does better, however, achieving up to 33-mpg in the city and 42-mpg on the highway.
Technology & Interior Features
Both models offer large and easy-to-use infotainment screens with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration. Both include a pleasing mixture of touchscreen and physical buttons, which helps with key features while driving like adjusting the volume. Speaking of volume, both also give you the option of adding a very fancy Bose Premium sound system.
Highlights of the Civic include the One-Touch power moonroof, walk-away auto-lock, paddle shifters, heated front seats, front and rear USB ports, Bluetooth streaming, and more. The Honda Civic also has a dedicated HondaLink app for your phone, which lets you check your fuel level and receive vehicle notifications (among other things) remotely. Unfortunately, only the Honda Civic Touring trim gets full access to HondaLink.
Only the Sentra has a heated steering wheel and Wi-Fi hotspot available. Other highlights include remote engine start, push-button ignition, and rear door alert that reminds you to check on or bring with you important things that you’ve put on the back seat. Most of these are available on the Honda Civic as well, so you should really see which interior features gel with your needs by checking the respective cars out at your dealership.
Nissan is famously quite generous with its ADAS and safety features, and the Sentra is no exception. The standard package Safety Shield 360 includes automatic emergency braking, rear automatic braking, blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert, lane departure warning, and high beam assist. Optional extras include intelligent cruise control, smart forward collision warning, and a 360-degree monitor to make parking easier than ever.
The Honda Civic comes with collision mitigation braking system, road departure mitigation system, a rearview camera and adaptive cruise control with “Low-Speed Follow” as its standard offering in the LX model. C
Climb the ladder, however, and you can add in blind spot monitoring and parking sensors. It’s clear that Honda isn’t as generous as Nissan with these features, but the Honda Sensing package does offer a great deal when you buy a higher trim.
It should be noted that while Nissan does offer more features for less cash, both the Sentra and Civic are among the IIHS Top Safety Pick models.
The most obvious rival to both cars is the Toyota Corolla, which is always seen competing with the Civic for the number one spot in sales of compact sedans.
Related: Toyota Corolla vs Nissan Sentra
Looking beyond Japanese cars, the German Volkswagen Jetta and Korean Hyundai Elantra and Kia Forte are two other highly rated compacts that are often pitted against the Honda Civic and Nissan Sentra.
So which one should you choose? The Nissan Sentra speaks to the more practical side of life. As a family car where safety features are paramount, you clearly get a lot more for your money when you buy the Nissan Sentra. However, for those who want a car with more edge, better on-road performance, and a car that’s fun to drive, sporty and contemporary in design, the Civic is a better choice.
|2022 Nissan Sentra||2022 Honda Civic Sedan|
|Engine||2.0L Inline-4 Gas||2.0L Inline-4 Gas|
|Horsepower||149 hp @ 6400 rpm||158 hp @ 6500 rpm|
|Torque||146 lb-ft @ 4400 rpm||138 lb-ft @ 4200 rpm|
|Transmission||Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)||Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)|
|Drivetrain||Front-Wheel Drive||Front-Wheel Drive|
|Rear Wheel Size||P205/60HR16||P215/55HR16|
|Front Wheel Size||P205/60HR16||P215/55HR16|
|Turning Diameter (ft.)||38.1||36.1|
|MPG/MPGe - Hwy||39||40|
|MPG/MPGe - City||29||31|
|MPG/MPGe - Combined||33||35|
|Gas Tank Size (gallons)||12.4||12.4|
|Cruising Range - Hwy (miles)||483.6||496.0|
|Size and Weight|
|Max Width (in.)||71.5||70.9|
|Trunk Volume (cu. ft.)||14.3||14.8|
|Front Seat Leg Room (in.)||44.0||42.3|
|Front Seat Head Room (in.)||38.9||39.3|
|Front Seat Hip Room (in.)||53.5||54.3|
|Front Seat Shoulder Room (in.)||56.4||57.0|
|Rear Seat Leg room (in.)||34.7||37.4|
|Rear Seat Head Room (in.)||36.7||37.1|
|Rear Seat Hip Room (in.)||53.3||48.9|
|Rear Seat Shoulder Room (in.)||54.5||56.0|
|HD Radio||Not Available||Not Available|
|WiFi Hotspot||Not Available||Not Available|
|Satellite Radio||Not Available||Not Available|
|Entertainment System||Not Available||Not Available|
|Premium Sound System||Not Available||Not Available|
|Auxiliary Audio Input||Standard||Standard|
|Smart Device Integration||Standard||Not Available|
|Hard Disk Drive Media Storage||Not Available||Not Available|
|Vinyl Seats||Not Available||Standard|
|Leather Seats||Not Available||Standard|
|Premium Synthetic Seats||Not Available||Standard|
|Sun/Moonroof||Not Available||Not Available|
|Leather Steering Wheel||Not Available||Not Available|
|Woodgrain Interior Trim||Not Available||Not Available|
|Rear A/C||Not Available||Not Available|
|Telematics||Not Available||Not Available|
|Seat Memory||Not Available||Not Available|
|Seat-Massage||Not Available||Not Available|
|Multi-Zone A/C||Not Available||Not Available|
|Power Liftgate||Not Available||Not Available|
|Climate Control||Not Available||Standard|
|Head-Up Display||Not Available||Not Available|
|Automatic Parking||Not Available||Not Available|
|Navigation System||Not Available||Not Available|
|Power Driver Seat||Not Available||Not Available|
|Cooled Rear Seat(s)||Not Available||Not Available|
|Hands-Free Liftgate||Not Available||Not Available|
|Heated Rear Seat(s)||Not Available||Not Available|
|Remote Engine Start||Not Available||Not Available|
|Cooled Front Seat(s)||Not Available||Not Available|
|Heated Front Seat(s)||Not Available||Not Available|
|Power Passenger Seat||Not Available||Not Available|
|Remote Trunk Release||Standard||Not Available|
|Heated Steering Wheel||Not Available||Not Available|
|Adaptive Cruise Control||Not Available||Standard|
|Navigation from Telematics||Not Available||Not Available|
|Universal Garage Door Opener||Not Available||Not Available|
|Steering Wheel Audio Controls||Standard||Standard|
|Night Vision||Not Available||Not Available|
|Rear Parking Aid||Standard||Not Available|
|Blind Spot Monitor||Standard||Not Available|
|Cross-Traffic Alert||Not Available||Not Available|
|Lane Keeping Assist||Not Available||Standard|
|Tire Pressure Monitor||Standard||Standard|
|Lane Departure Warning||Standard||Standard|
|Knee Air Bag||Standard||Standard|
|Driver Air Bag||Standard||Standard|
|Seatbelt Air Bag||Not Available||Not Available|
|Passenger Air Bag||Standard||Standard|
|Rear Head Air Bag||Standard||Standard|
|Rear Side Air Bag||Standard||Standard|
|Front Head Air Bag||Standard||Standard|
|Front Side Air Bag||Standard||Standard|
|Basic||3 Years / 36,000 Miles||3 Years / 36,000 Miles|
|Corrosion||5 Years / Unlimited Miles||5 Years / Unlimited Miles|
|Drivetrain||5 Years / 60,000 Miles||5 Years / 60,000 Miles|
|Roadside Assistance||3 Years / 36,000 Miles||3 Years / 36,000 Miles|