The 2012 Nissan Sentra gets a new Technology Package option, but little else has changed in the new model year for this 34-mpg small sedan. Available in four models, the Sentra fits between the smaller Versa and the larger Altima in Nissan’s lineup.

The four models include the Sentra 2.0, Sentra 2.0 S, 2.0 SR and the 2.0 SL. Performance oriented SE-R and SE-R Spec V versions are also available. Our test car this week was the Sentra 2.0 S. All of the 2.0 models are powered by a 140-horsepower 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine that sends 147 lb.-ft. of torque to either a CVT automatic transmission or a 6-speed manual. With the CVT transmission, the Sentra gets EPA mileage ratings of 27 miles per gallon in city driving and 34 mpg on the highway.

Standard features on the 2.0 include electric power steering, 15-inch wheels, power windows and doors, a 60/40 folding rear seat, and a 4-speaker AM/FM/CD audio system. The 2.0 S adds 16-inch wheels, a 6-speaker system with MP3, interface for iPod, a security system, a trip computer, cruise control and remote keyless entry. The sportier 2.0 SR adds design changes, fog lights and aluminum alloy wheels. The top of the line 2.0 SL has optional leather seating, Nissan’s Intelligent Key system, Bluetooth, satellite radio and a 4.3-inch color screen. Various optional packages can add navigation, moon roofs, backup cameras and other features.

Our 2.0 S test vehicle arrived in the distinguished “Red Brick” color, with a charcoal cloth interior. The seats were soft, which is good for short trips, but not so much for long jaunts cross-country. But there was plenty of room in the cabin. Controls are logically located in the center stack – audio/navigation on top, climate control below. The gear shifter extends from the center stack rather than on the center console.

The five-passenger Sentra has 97.7 cubic feet of interior volume and 13.1 cubic feet of cargo space. The fold-flat rear seat allows for longer items to be loaded into the trunk.

The Sentra’s handling is solid, with some lean in hard cornering. Steering is adequate, and braking is excellent, thanks to standard anti-lock brakes with electronic brake force distribution.

The Sentra is equipped with a full complement of airbags (including side curtains front and rear), traction and stability control systems, and front-seat active headrests. The government’s new stricter safety testing gives the Sentra four stars in frontal crash protection for the driver and three stars

for the passenger. In side crashes, front seat passengers get four stars, and rear seat passengers get two stars. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gives the Sentra its top “Good” rating for frontal crashes and “Acceptable” in side crashes.

Our test Sentra 2.0 S had a base price of $17,990, and with an $850 “Convenience Package” still came in below $20-grand.

From a design standpoint, the Sentra is beginning to show its age. But it’s still a solid option in the small sedan category. If you’re looking to add excitement, though, take a look at the two SE-R models.

Engine: 2.0-liter 4-cylinder

Transmissio: CVT or 6-speed manual

Horsepowe: 140

Test model base price: $17,990

EPA mileage rating: 27 mpg city / 34 mpg highway