Has an old dog learned any new tricks for 2021?

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The Nissan Maxima – there’s quite a bit to say about it. Once a popular, full-size family sedan, the Nissan Maxima has fallen from average U.S. sales for 60,000 plus to just 18,141 units in 2020. Those numbers in 2020 are specifically worrying as Nissan updated the Maxima for the 2019 model year to bring in some extra safety and modernized technology. As of 2021, the Maxima is now five years into its eighth generation, so have things turned around or does Nissan have to make a tough choice between discontinuation and spending heaps of money in designing a ninth-gen model? We spent a week with the 2021 Nissan Maxima to find out, and this is our experience.


Nissan Maxima Powertrain and Performance

2021 Nissan Maxima - Driven Drivetrain
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The Nissan Maxima is one of the few “affordable” sedans on the market that hasn’t fallen victim to engine and performance downsizing. It’s main rivals, the Hyundai Sonata and Honda Accord run the market with turbo-charged four-cylinders while the Maxima delivers power via a naturally aspirated V-6. It might sound promising if you believe that there’s no replacement for displacement, but all that extra power (and those two extra cylinders) come at a cost that just keeps on taking.

How Much Power Does The Nissan Maxima Have?

2021 Nissan Maxima - Driven Drivetrain
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The Nissan Maxima is powered by a 3.5-liter V-6 that delivers a total of 300 horsepower at 6,400 rpm and 261 pound-feet of torque at 4,400 rpm. These numbers are pretty impressive considering the Hyundai Sonata’s 1.6-liter Turbo-Four is good for just 180 horsepower and 196 pound-feet of torque. The Honda Accord and its 1.5-liter four-banger comes a little closer with 192 horsepower and 192 pound-feet of torque, but the Maxima is still much more powerful.

What Kind of Transmission Does The Nissan Maxima Have?

2021 Nissan Maxima - Driven Interior
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If you’re someone who prefers the feel of a manual transmission or at least the definitive shift of a good, hearty automatic transmission, then the Maxima will surely disappoint you with its Xtronic CVT. The same story goes for the Honda Accord, which also comes standard with a CVT. The least powerful of the bunch, the Hyundai Sonata has an eight-speed automatic, so that might be your best bet if you’re not into the whole CVT revolution.

[q[Is the Nissan Maxima Fast?

2021 Nissan Maxima - Driven Exterior
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Believe it or not, the Nissan Maxima can hit 60 mph in six seconds flat. According to Motor Trend, it can also run the quarter-mile in 14.6 seconds at 97.8 mph! In comparison, the Hyundai Sonata runs up to 60 mph in 7.9 seconds and can do a quarter mile in 15.9 seconds if you’ll believe what carindigo is talking. According to Car and Driver, the Honda Accord with the 1.5-liter can run to 60 mph in 7.3 seconds and hits the quarter mile in 15.7 seconds. So, as you can see, the Maxima with is major power superiority complex is quite a bit faster than the competition. If you want a family sedan that can move, it’s not a bad choice.

What Kind of Fuel Economy Does The Nissan Maxima Get

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The Nissan Maxima might offer impressive power for its class and price point, but it also suffers from subpar fuel economy that comes in at 20 mpg in the city, 30 mpg on the highway, and 24 mpg combined. It’s not horrible, of course, but the Hyundai Sonata manages 27, 36, and 31, respectively while the Accord comes in at 30, 38, and 33 combined. Needless to say, if fuel economy is a big deal to you, the Maxima probably isn’t the best car for you.

Nissan Maxima Interior Design

2021 Nissan Maxima - Driven Interior
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The Nissan Maxima might look pretty stylish outside for a 5-year-old vehicle, but the interior gives you this weird premium vibe that makes it easy to forget that you’re not driving something much more expensive. The higher trim levels are ripe with two-tone leather upholstery, supportive sports seats, and — believe it or not – a flat-bottom steering wheel that’s wrapped in perforated leather. These nicer materials aside, there are still a few things to remind you that you’re not driving a GT-R – like the semi-digital instrument cluster and the not-so-modern infotainment system. Neither are bad, mind you, but they aren’t exactly fitting all that well in 2021. Overall, the Maxima offers a comfortable, spacious cabin, and if you can splurge on the higher trim levels, you’ll have little hints of luxury and maybe even a small taste of GT-R DNA too.

Is the Nissan Maxima Spacious

2021 Nissan Maxima - Driven Interior
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The Nissan Maxima does exert a certain scent of spaciousness, but the truth is that it is inferior t both the Hyundai Sonata and Honda Accord, with the exception of one place – front leg room, where it still falls short of the Sonata but beats out the Accord by a few inches. Otherwise, the Sonata and Accord offer more space in every category, check out the table below to see the full breakdown:

Nissan Maxima vs competition interior dimensions
Nissan Maxima Hyundai Sonata Honda Accord
Front Headroom 39.4 inches 40.0 Inches 39.5 Inches
Front Shoulder Room 56.7 inches 57.9 Inches 58.3 Inches
Front Hip Room 54.2 inches 54.6 Inches 55.3 Inches
Front Leg Room 45.0 inches 46.1 Inches 42.3 Inches
Rear Headroom 36.7 inches 38.4 Inches 37.3 Inches
Rear Shoulder Room 55.7 inches 56.1 Inches 56.5 Inches
Rear Hip Room 53.5 inches 54.4 Inches 55.0 Inches
Rear Leg Room 34.2 inches 34.8 Inches 40.4 Inches

How Much Cargo Room Does The Nissan Maxima Have?

2021 Nissan Maxima - Driven Interior
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The Nissan Maxima offers 14.3 cubic-feet of cargo room, which is – in general – enough for most people who are interested in driving a sedan. In comparison, though, you’ll find you have a little more space for carrying goodies in the Sonata at 16.3 cubic-feet or the Accord, which has 16.7 cubic-feet.

Nissan Maxima Infotainment System

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The Nissan Maxima’s infotainment system is, if nothing else, adequate for what most people need. Main features include two USB-C ports, two USB 3.0 ports, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto. Outside of this, the system is rather dated, even when compared to cheaper sedans in this segment. Audio quality is decent, especially in terms of bass, while the stereo and touchscreen is tolerable. You can control most features of the system via voice control, however, that system is also dated and can be picky about word choice and phrasing. Ultimately, it’s best to avoid it unless you really want to train yourself to use its specific commands.

Nissan Maxima Exterior Design

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The Nissan Maxima Might be getting a little long in the tooth in terms of generational aging, but the most recent facelift brought its exterior design inline with the newest models in Nissan’s lineup. One could even argue that the front end of the Maxima features a nice blend of sporty and muscular DNA, with the headlights and design of the front fascia being the most intriguing parts of the whole design. Add in the muscular front arches and the chiseled rear haunches, and you have a very attractive vehicle that is going to age well through the rest of its current generation. The 40th Anniversary package as seen on our tester gives the car a darker ambiance that makes the car even more attractive.

How Big Is the Nissan Maxima

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The Nissan Maxima has been classified as a large or full-size vehicle since the third generation was introduced in 1989, however, it’s commonly referred to in the industry as a midsized car because it kind of sits right on the line. It also sits above both the Sentra and Altima, making it the largest and most expensive non-electric car in Nissan’s lineup outside of the 370Z and GT-R. It measures 192.8 inches long, 73.2 inches wide, and 56.5 inches tall. All these figures come so close to those of the Hyundai Sonata and Honda Accord that the difference between them all is negligible at best. In terms of garaging, you’ll need a decent 1.5-car garage to park comfortably, but if you have a deep enough one-car garage, you can probably make it work as long as you don’t want to have space for anything else.

Nissan Maxima vs competition exterior dimensions
Nissan Maxima Hyundai Sonata Honda Accord
Length 192.8 inches 192.9 Inches 192.2 Inches
Width 73.2 inches 73.2 Inches 73.3 Inches
Height 56.5 inches 56.9 Inches 57.1 Inches
Wheelbase 109.3 inches 111.8 Inches 111.4 Inches
Front Track 62.4 inches 63.5 nches 63.0 Inches
Rear Track 62.4 inches 63.8 Inches 63.4 Inches

How Much Does The Nissan Maxima Weigh?

2021 Nissan Maxima - Driven Exterior
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The Nissan Maxima tips the scales at 3,612 pounds, making it nearly 300 pounds heavier than the Hyundai Sonata, and more than 400 pounds heavier than the Honda Accord. Part of this weight difference comes courtesy of the larger and naturally aspirated V-6 engine, but even with a more modern turbocharged inline-four, the Maxima would still be the heaviest of the bunch.

What Tires Do I Need for the Nissan Maxima

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The Nissan Maxima Platinum comes standard with P245/45R 18-inch tires. The Hyundai Sonata also comes with 18-inch wheels and tires, while the Honda Accord can be had with 19-inch wheels and tires in certain trims.

Nissan Maxima Pricing

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The Nissan Maxima isn’t the cheapest among its peers. In fact, it starts out at more than $10,000 above both the Hyundai Sonata and Honda Accord, with an entry-level price of $36,990. Moving up the trim lines will see you max out the MSRP at $42,220. In comparison, the Hyundai Sonata ranges in price from $23,600 to $33,500 while the Accord starts out at $24,020 and goes as high as $36,250, all before options, taxes, delivery, and other fees, of course. This means you can buy a range-topping Accord or Sonata for less than it takes to buy the entry-level Maxima.

Nissan Maxima Competition

2021 Nissan Maxima - Driven Exterior
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The Nissan Maxima doesn’t cruise the market alone as, despite the diminishing availability of sedans in general, there are still a lot of comparable options out there. The Nissan Maxima might sit a little higher in terms of premium appointments, though, so that’s certainly something to keep in mind as we compare it to both the Hyundai Sonata and Honda Accord.

Is the Nissan Maxima Better Than The Hyundai Sonata?

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From the get-go, you’ll find that the Hyundai Sonata is an interesting vehicle. It doesn’t have the super-sleek headlights like the Maxima, but it does feature a muscular and sporty front end. The latest iteration of Hyundai’s grille, however, is oddly reminiscent of Audi’s current design, but we’ll let the Korean brand slide on this one as the design is still somewhat unique and it really fits the Sonata Well. The Sonata does, however, have more of a four-door coupe appearance and the body lines almost make it look like it has a light upward ark. The Sonata’s interior is fairly nice, but unless you spring for the range-topping trim line, you’ll find that the materials aren’t quite as good as you’ll get in the Maxima – and understandable scenario given the two different price points. Hyundai’s technology is a little more advanced at this stage as the Sonata is quite a bit newer, but unless you’re huge into technology and want the latest in infotainment goodness, it won’t make much of a difference to you.

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Under the hood, the Sonata boasts a 1.6-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder that’s good for just 180 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque. That comes at a deficit of 120 ponies and 66 pound-feet of torque compared to the Maxima. Naturally, it’ll take you about 2 seconds longer to get to 60 mph in the Sonata, but the big benefit here is the fuel savings that come along with that turbo-four. Where the Maxima delivers 20 mpg in the city, 30 mpg on the highway, and 24 mpg combined, the Sonata kicks its ass with 27, 36, and 31, respectively. The Sonata is also cheaper, starting at just $23,600 and maxing out at $33,500 before options, taxes, and delivery fess.

Nissan Maxima vs Hyundai Sonata
Nissan Maxima Hyundai Sonata
Engine 3.5-liter V-6 1.6-Liter Turbo-Four
Horsepower 300 @ 6,400 180HP
Torque 261 @ 4,400 195 LB-FT
Transmission Xtronicwith manual shift mode 8AT
Driveline FWD FWD
Fuel Regular Regular
Steering Hydro-electric power-assisted steering Electric
Suspension Multi-link independent Four-Wheel Independent
Tires 245/45R18 All-Season P235/45R18 All-Season
Curb Weight 3612 3,336 LBS
Fuel Economy 20/30/24 27/36/31

Read our full review on the Hyundai Sonata

Is the Nissan Maxima Better than the Honda Accord?

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The Honda Accord has grown over its life from a compact car into being classified as a midsized car, which is also why it’s a little funny that the Nissan Maxima is billed as a full-size because the Accord is just 0.6 inches shorter in length but is wider and taller than the Maxima. Oddly enough, the Accord generally boasts more interior room and passenger space and beats the Maxima out in terms of cargo room by more than two cubic-feet. Interior materials and fit and finish are very nice as Honda has gone out of its way to make the Accord as nice as possible without making it too expensive or imposing on its performance\luxury arm Acura.

Under the hood of the Accord sits a 1.5-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder that delivers a decent 192 horsepower and 192 pound-feet of torque. Much like the Sonata, the Accord is largely underpowered compared to the Maxima but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing if fuel economy is important to you. With a rating of 30 mpg in the city, 38 mpg on the highway, and 33 mpg combined, the Accord becomes a very attractive option, especially considering you can get a range-topping model for less than it’ll cost you to get into the base Maxima. Hondas are also notoriously reliable, so you also have that on your side as well. The entry-level accord commands $24,020 while the best you can get comes at $36,250 before options, taxes, and delivery.

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Nissan Maxima vs Honda Accord
Nissan Maxima Honda Accord
Engine 3.5-liter V-6 1.5-Liter Turbo-Four
Horsepower 300 @ 6,400 192 HP
Torque 261 @ 4,400 192 LB-FT
Transmission Xtronicwith manual shift mode CVT
Driveline FWD FWD
Fuel Regular Regular
Steering Hydro-electric power-assisted steering Electric
Suspension Multi-link independent Four-Wheel Independent
Tires 245/45R18 All-Season P235/40R19 All-Season
Curb Weight 3612 3,208 LBS
Fuel Economy 20/30/24 30/38/33

Read our full review on the Honda Accord

Final Thoughts

2021 Nissan Maxima - Driven Exterior
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Overall, the Nissan Maxima is a fun, attractive vehicle, but it also comes at a price point that’s more appropriate for a full size vehicle, which makes it a little controversial as it’s more of a midsize that a full size despite its official classification. That said, the interior is comfortable and pretty spacious, so as long as you don’t mind the higher price, really want the naturally aspirated V-6 engine, and don’t mind the lower fuel economy, the Maxima is a good buy. It may also be one of your last changes to get a vehicle of this nature that is naturally aspirated, so do with that information what you will.

Philippe Daix
Philippe Daix
Obsessive and Compulsive Automotive Expert - phil@topspeed.com
Always on the lookout for the latest automotive news, Philippe Daix is our most senior editor and founder of TopSpeed.com. He likes to see himself as a consumer advocate with a mission to educate motorheads of all ages.  Read full bio
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