Used Nissan Maxima 2000-2003 review
Overview: The Maxima is a mid-size front-wheel drive sporty sedan with a roomy upscale interior, powerful V6, crisp handling and firm ride. The 2000-2003 Nissan Maxima is more of a refreshed version of the previous generation with an updated exterior and interior.
2003 Nissan Maxima (photo: Nissan Canada)
Engine: The 2000 and 2001 models were equipped with the 222-hp 3.0L VQ30 V6. From 2002, the Maxima received the 255-hp 3.5L VQ35 V6, which is still used in many Nissan vehicles. Even Nissan GT-R's VR38 uses the same basic design and some of the valvetrain components as the VQ35. Both, the VQ30 and VQ35 are strong solid engines. Either engine uses a timing chain instead of a belt. However, with the high mileage, especially if the engine was maintained poorly, the timing chain hardware wears, the chain stretches and becomes noisy. Replacing the timing chain and related components in the VQ engine is very expensive. If you are buying a used Nissan Maxima, especially with if the mileage is high, watch for whirring or whining noises from the timing chain area.
The 2000-2003 Maxima was available with a five-speed, or from 2002, six-speed manual or 4-speed automatic. The rear brakes were discs only.
2003 Nissan Maxima. Photo: Nissan
Interior: Inside the Maxima is spacious, with a well designed dash and comfortable supportive seats. Available features included a power driver's seat with memory, auto-dimming rearview mirror, heated steering wheel, trip computer, steering wheel mounted audio controls and navigation.
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 some torque steer under hard acceleration, especially with the manual transmission.
Safety: Antilock brakes were standard; traction control was optional. The side-impact airbags were available as an option. 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.
Fuel Economy: The 2003 Maxima automatic is rated at 17/24 mpg or 13.8/9.8 L/100 km city/highway, which is at the middle of a family sedan class.
Pros: Powerful V6, sporty handling, roomy upscale interior, standard ABS
Cons: Requires premium gasoline, torque steer on hard acceleration, firm ride, expensive to keep
Overall: When this Maxima came out for 2000, it was an excellent sporty sedan. The reliability was not bad other than some electrical problems and 'Check Engine' light issues. However, as we updated this review in 2013, problems kept piling up. Faulty cam and crank sensors, bad air flow sensors, noisy timing chain, weak transmissions, bad coils, alternators, EVAP system issues are some of the common problems. If you want to buy a used Maxima now, especially the high-mileage one, it could be quite expensive to keep. You may want to consider something more simple, like Honda Civic instead. Toyota Camry of the same age will be more reliable too.
What to look for when buying a used Nissan Maxima: Before buying a used car, check the used car VIN history, as it may show some of the problems the car had in the past such as accidents, or other issues. Watch for leaks; coolant leaks are not uncommon. Check operation of all accessories including all windows, heater controls, air conditioner, etc. Watch for leaking struts and noisy wheel bearings. During the test drive, make sure to test the transmission very carefully; if abused, it might be excessively worn. Watch for the noise coming from the timing chain area. If the 'Check Engine' light is on, the problem must be investigated before you decide to buy a car. Read our illustrated used car buyer's checklist for more tips what to look for. Before buying a car, have it properly inspected by a mechanic.
Maintenance: Keeping the body of your car clean and applying the car wax periodically will help protect the paint finish. Touch-up the chips and scratches in the paint before the corrosion starts. Have the oil changes done regularly. Keep all the fluids clean and topped up. The coolant leaks are not uncommon; check the coolant level regularly. Nissan original parts are the best fit for this vehicle; using cheap aftermarket parts can lead to problems. If you need an owner's manual in a pdf. format or want to check the maintenance schedule for your Maxima, check Nissan Owner's website. Follow link For Owners. Have your car inspected at least once a year in a repair shop to keep it safe. If your Nissan Maxima has the Check Engine light on with the codes P0340 or P0345 and cuts out intermittently, there might be a problem with the camshaft position sensor (CMP), which was fairly common.
More on maintenance:
| 10 simple tips how to keep
your car running longer »
| Easy car maintenance
checklist with photos »
Nissan Maxima specifications (2003 model)
| Overall length:
| 191.5 (4863 mm)
70.3 (1785 mm)
56.3 (1430 mm)
108.3 (2750 mm)
|| 15.1 cu. ft. (428 liters)
|Base Curb Weight:|
| SE Manual:
| 3239 lb. (1469 kg)
3274 lb. (1485 kg)
3233 lb. (1466 kg)
3289 lb. (1492 kg)
||3.5L DOHC 24-valve V6, model VQ35
with Aluminum block and aluminum heads.
255 hp @ 5,800 RPM, 246 lb.-ft. @ 4,400 RPM
|Maximum towing load:
|| 1000 lb. (454 kg)
|EPA Fuel Economy (US mpg, L/100 km):
| Manual transmission:
| city: 19 mpg (12.4 L/100 km)
hwy: 26 mpg (9.0 L/100 km)
city: 17 mpg (13.8 L/100 km)
hwy: 24 mpg (9.8 L/100 km)
|| premium unleaded
|Fuel Tank Capacity:
||18.5 US gal (70 liters)
|Engine Oil capacity:|
| With oil filter change:
||4.2 quart (4.0 liters)