- Striking styling looks more upscale than rivals.
- Spacious cabin with many standard features.
- Powerful acceleration and sporty handling.
- Included suite of driver safety technology.
- Pricier than several other midsize sedans.
- SR trim’s firmer suspension impacts ride quality.
- Not as fun to drive as European sport sedans.
Would we buy one? Probably.
Vehicle Type: Four-door midsize sedan.
Price Range: $35,375-$42,765, including MSRP and destination but before options.
Powertrain: A 300-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 gas engine paired to a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) and front-wheel-drive (FWD).
Overall Score: 7/10
Safety Features: 9/10
The Nissan Maxima comes with plenty of standard safety equipment. This includes dual-stage driver and front passenger-seat front airbags, first- and second-row curtain airbags, driver and front-passenger knee airbags, and rear side-impact airbags. There is electronic stability control, and traction control. For 2020, all new Maxima sedans come standard with Nissan’s Safety Shield 360, a comprehensive suite of driver safety aids. It consists of forward-collision warning, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, lane-departure warning, automatic high beam LED headlights, and automatic rear braking. All trims have rear parking sensors; the Maxima SL trim and above have front and rear sensors. The Maxima SV adds adaptive cruise control. The priciest SR and Platinum trim levels come with lane-keep assist and a surround-view camera.
A couple of rivals offer slightly more driver safety tech, like the full-size Toyota Avalon sedan with its lane-centering and lane-keep assists.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety is one of the largest nonprofit crash-safety organizations in the country, and they test cars on various safety metrics. The 2020 Nissan Maxima scored ‘Good’ (the top score) in all six crashworthiness tests. It received an ‘Adequate’ in the headlight test, and the front-crash prevention and child seat anchor tests were passed with flying colors. Overall, the IIHS gave the Maxima their top honor, the ‘Top Safety Pick Plus’ designation, which is not given to many cars. On top of that, most vehicles that receive that award get it with the clear stipulation that optional safety equipment was added to the tested vehicle, and so cars without those extra safety assists do not receive that score. The Maxima is one of the rare vehicles to win the award with standard equipment, meaning no options need to be selected to meet the IIHS’s elite expectations.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is the primary governmental outfit that tests cars in the US. They gave the 2020 Maxima a perfect five-star overall rating.
Determining if the Maxima is a good value depends greatly on what shoppers are seeking out of their mid- or full-size sedan. For those wanting a car that seamlessly blends sportiness and comfort, the Maxima is a great choice. It offers more interior space than midsize cars like the Toyota Camry while providing faster driving reflexes. It is expensive, though, and upper trim levels have pricing of over $40,000, putting them firmly in the territory of smaller but quicker and more luxurious cars like the Audi A4, BMW 3 Series, and Mercedes-Benz C-Class. Supposing one stays with one of the Maxima’s lower trims, they get the 300-horsepower V6, tons of interior space, and standard driver safety aids at a reasonable price that makes the Maxima a justifiable purchase.
The 2020 model year Maxima has above-average predicted reliability.
Nissan’s five-year/60,000-mile drivetrain warranty is typical for the segment. Nissan does add in three years or 36,000 miles of roadside assistance, providing extra peace of mind.
Tech Features: 6/10
The infotainment screen is built into the dashboard, centered within the cascading center stack. The flowing angle of the dashboard stack gives the screen a good viewing angle. An eight-inch touchscreen comes standard on all trims and includes USB inputs, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Bluetooth. The S and SV trims have an eight-speaker audio system as well, with a CD player and SiriusXM satellite radio. The SL, SR, and Platinum come with an 11-speaker Bose premium audio system. Navigation is standard on the Maxima SV trim and above. There are few tech options, and unfortunately, no larger touchscreen is available.
The Nissan Maxima’s spacious interior and many standard features make it quite a practical car to drive every day. There are front and rear cupholders, a center console bin, a glovebox, front and rear door bins, and a small hidden tray at the bottom of the center stack. The interior is spacious enough to hold many items, and the trunk provides 14.3 cubic feet of cargo space. Cargo options include carpeted or all-season trunk floor protectors, a sliding trunk organizer tray, a net for keeping items in place, and shopping bag hooks. Unfortunately, the rear wheel wells make a dent in the trunk size, meaning some bulkier items won’t fit. But practicality overall is fairly average.
Styling & Design: 7/10
As Nissan’s largest and most expensive sedan, the Maxima sets the style trends for smaller cars like the Nissan Altima and Sentra. Its exterior is one of the sportiest of any non-luxury car, with only the Mazda 6 offering a similarly exciting appeal. The Maxima’s tall window line, black side pillars, sleek alloy wheels, and sloping roof give it a modern and upscale look.
Inside the cabin, the vast headroom, waterfall-style dashboard, and flat-bottom steering wheel give occupants a premium environment that exceeds most midsize family sedans, coming close to the fanciness and exclusivity of a European luxury car. Cloth upholstery comes standard on the S trim, while upper trims get premium Ascot leather. The Maxima SR model, which is the most sport-focused Maxima, has unique leather seats with Alcantara inserts. The Nissan Maxima Platinum gets quilted leather inserts in its seats, and semi-aniline leather is available as part of the $1,140 Platinum Reserve Package along with upgraded interior trim and other features.
All Maximas have power front seats and a split-folding rear seat. Keyless entry/ignition, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, and dual-zone climate control are also included. Available features include front and rear heated seats, driver’s seat memory, a heated steering wheel, ambient lighting, and a panoramic sunroof.
The Maxima provides 39.4 inches of front-seat headroom and 45 inches of legroom. That’s better than the Toyota Avalon or Camry, Subaru Legacy, Mazda 6, Honda Accord, or Chrysler 300. The Chevrolet Impala is one of the only cars with more room. Rear-seat space is a different story: The Maxima is comfortable in the back, but not as spacious as any of the cars mentioned above.
Driving Experience: 8/10
Driving is one area where the Nissan Maxima shines. It accelerates from 0-60 mph in an estimated 6.5 seconds, which is quite rapid for a large car. The 300-horsepower V6 is engaging and fun to drive. Its single-speed CVT works very well, and the brakes are excellent. The Maxima has good emergency handling as well, avoiding obstacles better than some rivals. The cabin is quiet, though the ride could be softer. Opting for the SR trim with its firmed-up sport suspension and 19-inch wheels make the ride unrefined over uneven roads. Paddle shifters enhance the Maxima's sportiness.
Nissan is known for making some of the most comfortable seats in the business, and the Maxima is no exception. The front seats are sumptuous, with great support for long trips, while standard power adjustment is a nice touch. The rear seats are not as enjoyable, mostly due to a lack of space.
Fuel Efficiency: 6/10
Fuel economy is adequate when considering the 2020 Nissan Maxima’s large size and potent powertrain. It gets an EPA-estimated 20/30/24 mpg city/highway combined. While that is pretty good, full-size rivals like the Toyota Avalon, which also comes with a standard V6 engine, gets 22/32/26 mpg combined. Smaller competitors like the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Subaru Legacy, and Mazda 6, all of which come with smaller engines, get significantly better mileage.
One flaw of the Nissan Maxima is that it does not offer a hybrid powertrain. Many family sedans these days provide a hybrid option for shoppers, and those engines can get up to 40 mpg overall.