An orange 2022 Nissan Sentra is shown from the side parked in a modern gallery.

The Perfect Commuter Vehicle Exists, and No, It’s Not an SUV

Imagine you’re at a cocktail party. You’re engaged in a discussion about sports cars. Buzz words like horsepower trigger lively debates, and everyone’s entertained until one guy interjects with a story about his recent purchase–a 2022 Nissan Sentra. A compact sedan? Does that even belong in a discussion about performance? Thanks to Nissan, the answer is a resounding yes.

The most recent iteration of Nissan’s popular compact sedan puts performance at the forefront. Outfitted with a 2.0-liter 149-horsepower engine and selectable drive modes, the 2022 Sentra is surprisingly driver-centric, and with fuel economy ratings hovering in the low 30s, its suitability for commuters is virtually unmatched, unless you opt for a hybrid or an EV. In short, the concept of a high-performance commuter is still pretty oxymoronic, but the 2022 Sentra gets us closer.

Add a long list of available premium cabin enhancements like connected infotainment, a Bose audio system, and heated seats and wheel, and a new Sentra becomes even more intriguing. Still, with the explosion of EVs and a parade of popular SUVs and crossovers competing for your business, is a sedan worthy of your investment? Only you can decide, but the sedan’s best years might still be ahead of it.

Sedans and the SUV Invasion

It’s unusual for a trend to turn into something more permanent, but that’s exactly what happened in the 30 or so years since the first SUVs found their way to dealer showrooms. Iconic nameplates like Jeep paved the way, with wartime utility vehicles morphing into suburban family wagons. The rest is history, although, for diehard sedan fans, the SUV revolution is nothing more than noise.

All that bulk isn’t necessary if you’re using a vehicle for commuting. Also, unless you have a growing family or your lifestyle includes regularly hauling cargo or towing, SUVs and crossovers don’t really make sense. Still, we tend to gravitate toward what’s new and exciting, so it’s not surprising that SUVs represent more than 65 percent of vehicle sales in the U.S. today.

Despite the headlines claiming otherwise, sedans are far from obsolete. In fact, sedans still hold roughly 1/5th of the market in new car sales, with small sedans like the Sentra making up about half of that 20%. Domestic automakers have all but abandoned the category, but that’s actually good news for sedan buyers. The attrition acts as a quality filter, weeding out the less competitive models.

Fewer available models and a shrinking number of buyers mean stiffer competition for market share. Sedan manufacturers like Nissan must put their best foot forward to win business, and the result is a high-quality, streamlined set of options, so buyers don’t have to work as hard to weed out lower-quality models. Not only that, but when buyers tire of larger SUVs, they’ll re-enter the sedan category. Automakers work hard to earn those buyers, too.

The black interior of a 2022 Nissan Sentra shows the steering wheel and infotainment screen.

Why Buyers Still Prefer Sedans

The benefits of driving a sedan vs a crossover or SUV are many. First is agility. Urban dwellers especially benefit from a sedan’s smaller proportions. It makes tucking into tight parking spaces simpler and takes the stress out of shoehorning your car into constricted street parking (or making multiple attempts to successfully parallel park).

Turning radius is almost always tighter on a sedan, so navigating congested city streets is also easier. Anyone that has attempted to captain a massive SUV through a busy downtown area can relate. The diversity of performance packages and features available on sedans also outweighs what you’ll find on a typical SUV. SUVs have a higher center of gravity, putting them at a big disadvantage on the performance front.

From a safety perspective, the jury’s out. Some argue that the sedan’s closed trunk provides more protection in a collision, both because the trunk isolates loose objects and acts as a crumple zone that’s separate from the cabin area. It pays to check the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) website for specific safety ratings; the 2022 Nissan Sentra, for example, boasts a 5-Star Overall Safety Rating from the NHTSA.

Sedans are more aerodynamic and tend to ride a lot smoother than SUVs, particularly utes that sit on truck platforms. We concede that you’ll find more cargo space in a crossover/SUV, but from the perspective of a daily commuter, does that really weigh in? Drivability is paramount when you’re behind the wheel every day. As for SUVs being better for winter driving with all-wheel drive or four-wheel drive, slap a set of winter tires on your all-wheel drive sedan, and you’ll enjoy nearly the same traction in the winter months.

Is a Sedan Right for You?

If you commute, it’s hard to beat a compact sedan like the Sentra. For 2022, the Sentra comes in four trims, the most expensive of which won’t exceed the $25,000 price point, even if you opt for the more expensive two-tone exterior paint. The Sentra is one of the most stylish offerings in the category, earning it a few extra “valet ready” points.

Beyond fuel economy, the second most sought-after feature for consumers is infotainment. The Sentra has it in spades, offering an 8-inch infotainment touchscreen on all but the base S trim, along with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity and a generous sprinkling of USB charging ports located throughout the cabin. SiriusXM satellite radio is available, as is an upgraded 8-speaker Bose premium audio system.

Infotainment features give way to more advanced connected services when buyers opt for NissanConnect, a subscription-based series of convenience features accessible via your smartphone. Services range from remote start to live 24-hour roadside assistance, and NissanConnect is also where buyers can activate and buy a data plan for the Sentra’s included Wi-Fi hotspot.

Along with plenty of ways to stream playlists and podcasts, the Sentra features standard Safety Shield 360, a series of six different semi-autonomous driver-assist features designed to ease the strain of long daily commutes. These include Automatic Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection and Rear Automatic Braking, along with Automatic High Beams and Lane Departure Warning.

The front of a red 2022 Nissan Sentra is shown in close up driving on an open road.

Trendy Isn’t Always Better

Budget is almost always the first consideration when you wade in the new car buying waters, but a close second is lifestyle. If you’re a long-range commuter, if you live in the city, or if you simply like to feel more connected to the road when you drive, our recommendation is to start with a sedan like the 2022 Nissan Sentra.

The Sentra wins big style points for its angular lines and sloped hood. Nissan’s signature V-Motion grille is front-and-center, and thanks to a long list of standard features like Safety Shield 360 and robust infotainment and connected services, the Sentra will get you to-and-from work safely and free from boredom. Luxury lovers take heart: the Premium Package adds plush leather seating and other accouterments to level up your ride.

Consumer interest in the sedan body style may be waning, but apparently, Nissan didn’t get the memo. If you need a practical car but can’t give up on performance and low-slung aerodynamics, the 2022 Sentra is worth a test drive. Once you slide into the Zero Gravity Seats, you’ll quickly see why the Sentra deserves the top spot on your consideration list.