Used 2003 Nissan Maxima Review

Edmunds expert review

An excellent choice as a well-equipped family sedan or as a cheaper alternative to an entry-level luxury sedan.




What's new for 2003

Since the Maxima was updated last year and is scheduled for a redesign in 2004, there are no major changes in store for the family sedan in 2003. There's a Titanium Edition package available for the SE and side airbags are now standard on GLEs.

Vehicle overview

Since the mid- to late '80s, the Nissan Maxima has been a favorite choice of those who wanted a V6 sedan that offered a lot of bang for the buck in terms of standard features, performance and reliability. Last year, Nissan upped the ante by offering the most powerful and most luxurious Maxima ever. For 2003, this flagship car can be equipped to be anything from a nicely equipped family car to an affordable sport sedan.




Trim levels & features

The Maxima is offered in three trim levels -- base GXE, sporting SE and luxury GLE. There is plenty of standard equipment on the GXE and SE, including cloth seating; a power driver seat; air conditioning; cruise control; HID headlights; power windows, locks and mirrors; a CD player; Homelink and a trip computer with an outside temperature display. The main difference between the two is on the outside, with the SE having 17-inch wheels and tires (the GXE has 16s), front foglights and a rear spoiler. The SE also has a sport-tuned suspension that includes firmer springs and shocks and a larger front stabilizer bar. Want to be pampered? Go with the GLE and enjoy its leather seating, premium audio system with an in-dash six-disc CD changer, power front passenger seat, driver-seat memory system, automatic climate control and 17-inch wheels and tires. In terms of optional equipment, the GLE and SE can be ordered with a power sunroof; a Meridian package that includes heated front seats, steering wheel and outside mirrors; a traction control system and a CD-based navigation system. There are also a couple option packages that allow an SE to be equipped similarly to a GLE.



Performance & mpg

Last year, the Maxima received a new 3.5-liter V6 engine. Very similar to the V6 engine found in the Altima and Pathfinder, as well as Infiniti I35 and G35, this advanced power plant produces 255 horsepower and 246 lb-ft of torque. For the money, this is one of the most powerful sedans you can buy. A close-ratio six-speed manual transmission is standard on SE models. The six-speed can also be ordered with a helical-type limited-slip front differential. Remaining models come equipped with a standard four-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission (optional on SE). In terms of acceleration, a manual-equipped SE can launch from 0-to-60 mph in just 6.3 seconds.

Safety

Along with dual-stage front airbags, the Maxima comes standard with ABS-equipped brakes with BrakeAssist and Electronic Brakeforce Distribution; active head restraints; ALR/ELR seatbelts and child-seat anchor points. GLE cars also come with front side airbags. In government crash testing, the Maxima has earned respectable scores with four stars (out of a possible five) in front- and side-impact tests. The IIHS has given the Maxima an "Acceptable" rating for front-offset crash test results.

Driving

Regardless of trim, the Maxima is an entertaining car to drive. The V6 provides plenty of forward thrust. Some people might find the SE to have overly firm ride quality because of the sport-tuned suspension, but it's never harsh. If you have about $30,000 to spend, the Maxima is a great choice as a well-equipped family sedan or as an alternative to an entry-level luxury sedan. If the Maxima no longer fits your budget, you might want to check out the Altima. It offers near identical performance and passenger space for a lower price tag.

Interior

As sedans go, the Maxima is well appointed with features and amenities. The backseat offers plenty of legroom and headroom, the trunk is big and the front seats are comfortable. The Maxima also features richer interior materials than its in-house competitor, the Altima.

Edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.