Nissan Maxima is a six-cylinder family car from Japan. The big Nissan can carry five adults if they don’t mind some shoulder rubbing. Mum, Dad and three kids works well.
Maxima’s ride on roads is quiet and comfortable, almost in the limo class. However, it’s not quite as good on rough and course-chip surfaces as cars designed for Aussie roads. Handling is softer and less responsive than that of the local family cars, but are likely to suit most drivers.
The Japanese giant is focussing purely on SUVs these days and cars are currently no longer sold new in this country.
You may think this will leave the Maxima, which was discontinued Downunder in September 2014, because it wasn’t longer built in right-hand drive, something of an orphan. But this is not the case as spare parts will be available till at least 2024, and probably longer.
In the meantime Maximas are selling for slightly lower prices than used Camry, Commodore and Falcon, making them relative bargains on the secondhand market.
Nissan Maximas have been on sale in Australia since the early 1990s, in this used car review we will cover those built from the J31 series of December 2003. These were more powerful, smoother and quieter than the model they superseded.
The J31 Series 2, from March 2006, had a facelift and tail-tuck, but the biggest changes were under the bonnet, more about that in a moment.
New Maxima, now tagged without a lot of imagination as the J32, was sold from May 2009. It featured quite a bit more style both inside and out and major changes to the engine, suspension and noise reduction made it a pretty impressive car.
Most Maximas have an excellent 3.5-litre V6 that’s smooth, quiet and reasonably economical. In 2009, with the release of the J32 in May, Nissan Australia made an interesting move in introducing of a small 2.5-litre V6 to sell alongside the 3.5-litre. The smaller engine has more performance than you might expect, but Aussies do like big capacity sixes and these probably makes more sense from a resale point of view.
Then again, you might be able to pick up a small-six for a very reasonably price. Drive both, then do some shopping around. You may well prefer it to the four-cylinder models from the likes of Mazda and Honda with which it competes.
The automatic transmission had four forward ratios until becoming one of the early adopters of a continuously variable transmission (CVT) in the J31 Series 2 of early 2006.
From 2003, the lower-cost model was 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 presumably 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.
Dealers in the bush may not have spare parts on hand for the Maxima but can usually have them freighted out in a couple of business days.
Insurance charges are likely to be higher than those for locally built family cars but aren’t usually excessive. Shop around, but be sure you’re doing accurate comparisons.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Always have a professional do a final inspection as these are relatively complex cars and it’s easy to miss some items.
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.
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 so should be treated with extreme caution.
If the automatic transmission is slow to go into gear or rough in its changes it could be due for an overhaul, but it may just be due for a routine service.
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 a mechanic check it out.
Make sure there are no suspension noises when the car is driven on rough roads. This could indicate the car has had a hard life bouncing around in the bush.
Expect to pay from $3000 to $5000 for a 2003 Nissan Maxima ST-L; $4000 to $7000 for a 2005 Ti; $5000 to $8500 for a 2007 Ti; $8000 to $13,000 for a 2010 350 Ti; $10,000 to $16,000 for a 2012 350Ti; $12,000 to $18,000 for a 2013 350Ti; and $13,000 to $19,000 for a 2014 350 Ti.
CAR BUYING TIP
We often make our first move in inspecting any used by with a look at the left-front wheel and tyre. These are the first items to suffer from poor parking skills of previous owners.