Used Nissan Maxima 2000-2003 review

Overall rating:3.5 Star Rating
Updated: August 17, 2013
2003 Nissan Maxima
2003 Nissan Maxima (photo: Nissan)

Nissan Maxima is a mid-size front-wheel drive premium sporty sedan with a strong V6 engine. It handles very well and has a firm but quiet ride. The interior is spacious with upscale touches. Front seats are comfortable. Available features include a power driver's seat with memory, Bose audio system, auto-dimming rearview mirror, heated steering wheel, trip computer, steering wheel mounted audio controls and navigation.
Nissan Maxima is one of the rare V6 sedans that you can find with a manual transmission. The Maxima holds its value well. Fuel economy is not very good. Competitors include Acura TL, Honda Accord, Toyota Camry and Mazda 6. Reliability is about average, however some common problems could be quite expensive to repair. Read more below.

2003 Nissan Maxima interior
2003 Nissan Maxima. Photo: Nissan
Nissan Maxima Engine
2000 Nissan Maxima VQ30 engine

Handling and performance: On the road, the Maxima handles well with solid sporty feel. The V6 engine is very strong, with good low-end torque and plenty of passing power. The ride is firm and fairly quiet. On the downside, you might feel torque steer on hard acceleration, especially with the manual transmission.

Engine: The 2000 and 2001 models were equipped with the 222-hp 3.0L V6 DOHC (VQ30). For 2002, the Maxima received the 255-hp 3.5L V6 (VQ35), which is to this day used in many Nissan vehicles. Even if you look under the Nissan GT-R's hood, its VR38 looks very similar and uses the same basic design and some of the valvetrain components as the VQ35.
Overall, both VQ30 and VQ35 are strong solid engines. Both have a timing chain instead of a timing belt. However, this engine needs to be maintained very well to last, otherwise it could be quite troublesome at high mileage. Timing chain issues are not uncommon. Replacing a timing chain is very expensive. If you are buying a used Nissan Maxima, especially with high mileage, watch out for whirring or rattling noises from the timing chain area. A good engine should be quiet.

Fuel Economy: The 2003 Nissan Maxima with an automatic transmission is rated at 17/24 mpg or 13.8/9.8 L/100 km city/highway, which is below average for a family sedan. To compare, the 2003 V6 Honda Accord automatic has the EPA rating of 19/27 mpg. However, the 2003 Maxima with a manual transmission gets much better mileage: 19/26 mpg or 12.4/9.0 L/100 km.

Safety: Antilock brakes are standard; traction control is optional. Side-impact airbags are optional. In the NHTSA frontal crash tests the 2000-2003 Nissan Maxima received four stars out of five for both the driver and the front passenger.

Pros: Powerful V6, available with a manual transmission, sporty handling, roomy upscale interior, standard ABS, available heated steering.

Cons: High maintenance and repair costs, torque steer on acceleration, firm ride, expensive to keep.

Similar cars:

Honda Accord review Used Honda Accord
1998-2001 review »
Used Mazda 6 review Used Mazda 6
2003-2008 review »


Overall: At this age, a high-mileage used Maxima could be quite expensive to keep. If you want a used family sedan, consider something like a used Toyota Camry or Honda Accord, preferably with a 4-cylinder engine. A used Mazda 6 is not a bad choice if you like sporty handling. Acura TL is another upscale sporty mid-size sedan.