2003 Nissan Maxima Review

Pros & Cons

  • Impressively powerful V6 engine, sports car moves, availability of premium features, plenty of room for five adults.
  • High price, rough ride quality with SE suspension.
List Price Estimate
$839 - $1,970

Used Maxima for Sale
None for sale nearby. Instead:
See all for sale

Get More For Your Trade-In

Get More For Your Trade-In

Edmunds shoppers get on average $235 more for their trade-in.
Find out what your car is really worth in minutes.
See your car's value

Edmunds' Expert Review

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

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.

2003 Nissan Maxima models

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.

2003 Highlights

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.

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.


Consumer reviews

Read what other owners think about the Used 2003 Nissan Maxima.

Trending topics in reviews

Most helpful consumer reviews

Great Car
Vincent Giannotti,12/20/2008
I own a 2003 Nissan Maxima SE with the Titanium Package which I purchased new in April 2003. It currently has 65,000 miles and is still solid as a rock. The VQ35 3.5L V6 is amazing - great power and torque. I've added the following: custom grille, Viper remote start system and Injen cold air intake. I plan to add hi-flow exhaust and upgrade to 18" wheels. It has never been back to the dealership even once for any problems. I also own three American cars, including a Cadillac, but none of them can match the quality of the Maxima. I wouldn't part with it for anything!
Maxima love.
Jeff,12/10/2015
SE 4dr Sedan (3.5L 6cyl 4A)
No complaints except for the typical radio problems. Other then that I love this car, I have owned a few Nissan cars and trucks and this is bye far the best. Got my first Maxima 03 SE with 174,000 and its still like a new car. Love it. And not to mention only paid $1,800. Best deal ever.
Fun to Drive
chrispv,12/01/2009
I've owned my Maxima since 2004 and it has been a great car. The car is loaded and also has a 6 speed, which is fun to drive and is fast for a family sedan. There is a lot of room in the car and trunk for my family. The car has had minimal repair work (tires, brakes, exhaust system). I've got 89k miles and the car still looks great and runs well. I've noticed a slight drop in the acceleration but that is to be expected with time. I would highly recommend this car to anyone looking.
Reliable and fun to drive but noisy
jojo791,03/08/2010
I drove the SE model for almost 5 years. Much better built than my 1999 Camry. Good power and handling. The car was reliable but far from perfect. First it was one of the noisiest cars from the wind I have ever driven, wind leaked in from everywhere. Second was the 1 wheel drive. The front right tire drove the whole car. Third was the steering radius, the longest of any car made.premium unleaded is not necessary., no pinging with regular and the same gas mileage.

Safety

NHTSA Overall Rating

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration offers independent analysis.
  • Frontal Barrier Crash Rating
    OverallNot Rated
    Driver4 / 5
    Passenger4 / 5
  • Side Crash Rating
    OverallNot Rated
  • Side Barrier Rating
    OverallNot Rated
    Driver4 / 5
    Passenger4 / 5
  • Combined Side Barrier & Pole Ratings
    Front SeatNot Rated
    Back SeatNot Rated
  • Rollover
    Rollover4 / 5
    Dynamic Test ResultNo Tip
    Risk Of RolloverNot Rated
IIHS Rating
The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety uses extensive crash tests to determine car safety.
  • Side Impact Test
    Not Tested
  • Roof Strength Test
    Not Tested
  • Rear Crash Protection / Head Restraint
    Not Tested
  • IIHS Small Overlap Front Test
    Not Tested
  • Moderate Overlap Front Test
    Acceptable

More about the 2003 Nissan Maxima

Used 2003 Nissan Maxima Overview

The Used 2003 Nissan Maxima is offered in the following submodels: Maxima Sedan. Available styles include GXE 4dr Sedan (3.5L 6cyl 4A), GLE 4dr Sedan (3.5L 6cyl 4A), SE 4dr Sedan (3.5L 6cyl 4A), and SE 4dr Sedan (3.5L 6cyl 6M).

What's a good price on a Used 2003 Nissan Maxima?

Shop with Edmunds for perks and special offers on used cars, trucks, and SUVs near Ashburn, VA. Doing so could save you hundreds or thousands of dollars. Edmunds also provides consumer-driven dealership sales and service reviews to help you make informed decisions about what cars to buy and where to buy them.

Which used 2003 Nissan Maximas are available in my area?

Shop Edmunds' car, SUV, and truck listings of over 6 million vehicles to find a cheap new, used, or certified pre-owned (CPO) 2003 Nissan Maxima for sale near. Simply research the type of car you're interested in and then select a used car from our massive database to find cheap prew-owned vehicles for sale near you. Once you have identified a used vehicle you're interested in, check the AutoCheck vehicle history reports, read dealer reviews, and find out what other owners paid for the Used 2003 Nissan Maxima.

Can't find a used 2003 Nissan Maximas you want in your area? Consider a broader search.

Find a used Nissan Maxima for sale - 3 great deals out of 22 listings starting at $15,186.

Find a used Nissan for sale - 10 great deals out of 15 listings starting at $21,691.

Find a used certified pre-owned Nissan Maxima for sale - 6 great deals out of 10 listings starting at $11,343.

Find a used certified pre-owned Nissan for sale - 3 great deals out of 7 listings starting at $11,158.

Should I lease or buy a 2003 Nissan Maxima?

Is it better to lease or buy a car? Ask most people and they'll probably tell you that car buying is the way to go. And from a financial perspective, it's true, provided you're willing to make higher monthly payments, pay off the loan in full and keep the car for a few years. Leasing, on the other hand, can be a less expensive option on a month-to-month basis. It's also good if you're someone who likes to drive a new car every three years or so.

Check out Nissan lease specials
Check out Nissan Maxima lease specials