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2021 Nissan Sentra headline fix earns it an IIHS Top Safety Pick

Redesigned headlights earned the 2021 Nissan Sentra a coveted Top Safety Pick award from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Some 2020 models built after the last round of updates get the distinction, too.

Nissan’s eighth-generation Sentra made its debut for the 2020 model year with a new platform, a much more muscular design inspired by the bigger Maxima, and better technology inside. We drove it and called it an appealing small car, but the IIHS gave its snazzy headlights an inferior rating. Nissan took the criticism to heart.

Acting surprisingly fast, the firm made improvements to the optional LED projector headlights that are bundled into the Premium package on the SR and SV trim levels. IIHS tested the sedan again and gave the redesigned headlights an acceptable rating, which isn’t stellar. It’s enough to earn it a Top Safety Pick award, however. Sentra’s 2020 models made after September 2020 and 2021 models received the award; earlier 2020s don’t qualify for it.

Nissan’s decision to make electronic driving aids standard across the board was praised, too. The IIHS pointed out the front crash prevention system (which earned a superior rating) avoided collisions in the vehicle-to-vehicle tests and in most of the vehicle-to-pedestrian scenarios. On a sterner note, the IIHS pointed out the Sentra only slowed down by an average of 8 mph when it encountered a child dummy stepping out onto the road at 25 mph.

On sale now, the 2021 Nissan Sentra carries a base price of $20,335 including a mandatory $925 destination charge. The mid-range SV model starts at $21,395, while the range-topping SR is priced at $22,675.

As cars get safer, and features once reserved for upmarket models trickle down to the more affordable end of the market, the list of IIHS Top Safety Pick cars grows. Toyota’s C-HR also joined the roster for the 2021 model year.

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