Big time

Besides doing big business, the 2014 Nissan Sentra boasts size - both inside and out - at the top of its class.

Besides doing big business, the 2014 Nissan Sentra boasts size – both inside and out – at the top of its class.

If you’ve been seeing a lot more Nissan Sentra’s plying the roads lately, it isn’t your imagination.

Buyers have been snapping up the Sentra like canned goods before a Category 5 hurricane, giving the traditional compact car players a run for their money.

This is a big step back into the spotlight for a venerable model that had become almost invisible in Nissan’s lineup.

October sales in the U.S. show a staggering 56.3% increase over the same month last year, while year-to-date sales are up 44.7% over 2013. In Canada, Nissan moved a total of 1,372 Sentras off dealer lots in October, compared to 1,178 in Oct., 2013.

One thing I can’t help but notice when I see one is its size. You’d swear it was pushing into mid-size territory. If this were the 1990s, you couldn’t tell me the 2014 Sentra is smaller than a Chevy Corsica or Ford Contour.

(Ah, that long lost ‘lower midsize’ category. May it rest in peace.)

After seeing this sizeable compact eleventy billion times, I figured it was time to get down and dirty and compare measurements, just to see if my eyes were deceiving me.

Sentra sales are up 44.7% over last year. (Image:

Sentra sales are up 44.7% over last year. (Image:

Dimension-wise, I compared the Sentra to other popular vehicles in its class – the Toyota Corolla, Honda Civic, Mazda 3, Ford Focus and Chevy Cruze. Cargo volume was thrown in for good measure, because who doesn’t look a big trunk?

Going by factory spec, it turns out the Sentra is indeed on the large size, coming in at-or-near the top of its class in terms of length and wheelbase.

At 182.1 inches in length, only the Toyota Corolla bests it, and that’s only by five-tenths of an inch. This was somewhat surprising, as the Corolla  in my eyes – appears a little stubby.

The Sentra’s wheelbase, 106.3 inches, was matched by the Corolla and the Mazda 3.

Trunk space, at a generous 15.1 cubic feet, was at the top of the pack. The closest challenger was the Cruze at 15 cubic feet. The other four vehicles ranged from a measly 12.4 cubic feet in the Mazda 3 to 13.2 cubic feet in the Corolla and the Focus.

The Sentra makes no sporting claims in its advertising, preferring to sway car shoppers with value. Offering lots of space for the money is a time-honoured tactic that seems to work well, assuming that the product is at least of fair quality.

With the other brands in a sales tug-of-war fueled by claims of driving excitement (and a healthy dose of name-recognition), it seems the folks at Nissan made a conscious choice to go big, or go home.