Used Nissan Maxima review: 2000-2012
- Nissan Maxima 2000
- Nissan Maxima 2001
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- Nissan Maxima 2003
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Nissan Maxima is the largest car sold in Australia by the Japanese giant. For some reason it’s frequently overlooked by those shopping in the family car scene.
The Maxima can carry four adults and a child with ease. Five adults will fit if they don’t mind doing some squeezing up, but that applies to all cars of this size.
Though it's not quite as good on really rough corrugations as cars that are specifically built for Australian roads, it copes reasonably well with Aussie dirt roads. Ride on smooth surfaces is quiet and comfortable.
Handling is softer and less responsive than that of the local sixes, but the Nissan is safe and predictable and will suit all but sports sedan enthusiasts.
Nissan couldn't seem to make up its corporate mind on how the Maxima should look; it was somewhat unusual in the pre-1995 models but then went mainstream for a few years.
Maxima from late 2003 then went the radical route in its shape, something that increased buyer awareness and certainly helped sales. But the 2009 model went back onto the conservative track, though it is still a handsome machine and suits many shopping in this usually conservative class.
Maximas prior to the 2003 model, use a 3.0-litre V6 engine. From the 1995 model, a twin-cam 3.0 was installed. It has plenty of low-down torque and immediate throttle response so appeals to drivers of cars set up in the Australian fashion. The twin-cam engine is also noticeably smoother and quieter than the old single-cam one. The 2003 Maxima received an excellent 3.5-litre V6 and it’s better still.
In 2009, Nissan Australia made an interesting move introducing a small 2.5-litre V6 as an option to the 3.5-litre unit. The smaller engine has more performance than you might expect, but traditionally buyers of six-cylinder family cars in Australia want plenty of grunt and the 2.5 may disappoint those people.
Nissan Maxima is unusual in having a manual transmission option in a market that’s normally auto-only. However, the manual was only offered during 1995 and 1996 and only in the lower-cost model. This five-speed unit is not common and could be difficult to resell. Then again, if you are doing a lot of country driving where few gear changes are required, a manual will save on fuel.
The automatic transmission had four forward ratios until becoming one of the early adopters of a continuously variable transmission (CVT) in 2006. The CVT gives a little more performance and there's some reduction in fuel consumption. But not all may like the different sound and feel it displays. It's an acquired taste so give it a good long road test if you haven’t experienced a CVT before.
Maxima model names have a somewhat confusing history. The lower-priced versions, called Maxima M in the pre-1995 models, Maxima 30J until October 1996, Maxima 30S Touring, and currently Maxima S, come well-equipped, with air conditioning, alloy wheels, power windows, cruise control and a quality stereo.
The topline cars, tagged Maxima Ti then Maxima 30GV, then back to Maxima Ti again, are positively luxurious, with power-operated front seats, leather trim (not used in all early Ti models) and ABS anti-lock brakes. Additionally the 30GV and later Ti variants have climate-controlled air conditioning, a power sunroof, dual airbags, a built-in alarm system and foglights.
From 2003, the lower-cost model became the ST-L, with the Ti tag being retained by the upper-crust variants, a further upgrade to the Ti is called the Ti-L and is loaded with good gear. Spare parts prices are often a little higher than average for this class, reflecting the fact that the Maxima is fully imported. We hear very few complaints about prices so owners obviously consider them acceptable.
The good home mechanic can do some of their own maintenance and minor repair work on older models, later ones are pretty complex in places. Underbonnet access is good but make sure you have a workshop manual before diving in too deep.
The Australian Nissan dealer network is long established and works well with outlets in virtually every area, even those deep in the outback. The latter may not always keep spare parts on hand for the Maxima so you may face a wait if unlucky enough to have problems in the bush.
Insurance charges, though usually higher than for Aussie family sixes, aren't excessive. There can be a bigger than average range of premium charges so it's smart to take time to shop around.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
The engine should start almost the moment you turn the key and idle smoothly and quietly immediately.
A smoking exhaust is probably a sign of expensive wear – and the older Maximas are often getting towards their use-buy date.
If the automatic transmission is slow to go into gear or harsh in its changes it could be due for an overhaul – though you may get away with simply having it serviced.
Check the brakes pull up the car in a straight line and that one wheel doesn’t lock before the others. If ABS is installed you should feel a pulsing through the pedal during hard braking. If it’s too harsh have an expert look it over.
Make sure there are no suspension noises when the car is driven on rough roads. This could indicate the car has had a rough life in the bush.
Look for body damage or repairs following a crash, an inspection of the front tyres for uneven wear and a look over the seats, door trim and carpets for signs of rough use.
Always have a professional do a final inspection as these are relatively complex cars and it’s easy to miss some items.
CAR BUYING TIP
If shopping for something out of the ordinary try looking for a car club featuring the model.
The gals and guys there can be a superb source of information.
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