2021 Nissan Maxima Review
Drivers with a penchant for performance are usually willing to make sacrifices for a sporty edge. The Nissan Maxima has long catered to this set by offering standard V6 power and sharper handling than the typical midsize sedan. With the 2021 Maxima, you get a 300-horsepower V6 plus lots of standard features. Even the base-trim Maxima comes with leather upholstery, for instance.
Unfortunately, the 2021 Maxima, which is part of the eight-generation car that debuted for 2015, has little else to distinguish itself. Fresher rivals, such as the Honda Accord, Kia K5 and Toyota Camry, offer similar performance potential with fewer compromises. They typically cost less, too. We generally suggest going with one of these rivals, but check out the categories of our Expert Rating to learn more about the Maxima's strengths and weaknesses.
The Maxima offers an appealing bridge to luxury sedans with sporty handling, above-average performance and a classy interior. Yet despite its ample mass, this midsize sedan doesn't offer a lot of space for either passengers or things. Many rivals also deliver better tech and more features for less money.
How does the Maxima drive?
The Maxima isn't quite the "four-door sports car" that Nissan says it is. It's not even really a sport sedan. But it is a sporty midsize sedan, with above-average handling and strong acceleration from a V6 engine. Oddly, the Maxima feels heavy at low speeds but lighter and more agile as speed increases.
This sensation largely comes down to the steering feel. In many cars it's the opposite — lighter at parking-lot speeds and heavier with at higher speeds. In turns and corners, the Maxima's dynamic limits are fairly low, but the car communicates well enough that drivers can be confident not to overstep them. Overall, this Nissan is a friendly and easy car to drive.
How comfortable is the Maxima?
The Maxima's quiet cabin — a joint effort involving acoustic glass, ample sound-deadening materials and active noise cancellation — gives the sedan a premium feel out on the road. The ride is firm and controlled, and the suspension does well at absorbing bumps and road imperfections. (A firmer sport suspension is available for drivers willing to trade ride comfort for sharper handling.) Overall, the Maxima rides better than most midsize family sedans and more like an entry-level luxury car.
The Maxima's seats also straddle the line between sporty support and long-distance comfort. They'll keep you in place through fast corners but remain comfortable for long stretches.
How’s the interior?
The Maxima's interior looks great, the controls are easy to use, and the infotainment system's structure is logical. But there's a price to pay for the Maxima's sleek exterior design. Passenger space is limited, and the cabin feels small. Front passengers get decent headroom, but intrusions in the footwells and high armrests make things feel cramped.
Rear passengers endure even less legroom and headroom. And getting in and out of the Maxima, particularly for those in the rear seat, is more work than it should be. Visibility also leaves something to be desired, and the front corners of the car are hard to judge. Useful side mirrors and safety aids help for awareness.
How’s the tech?
Nissan's technology features are easy to use, but aside from up to two USB-C ports (in addition to two regular ones) and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, the infotainment feels dated and behind the curve. The stereo and touchscreen are adequate, especially if you like bass, but other midsize sedans cost less and offer more fully featured systems and better audio.
Most basic infotainment features can be controlled through voice command, but we found the system finicky about word choice and phrasing. Driver aids are also limited. Adaptive cruise control works well and can bring the car to a complete stop, but Nissan's innovative ProPilot package isn't offered.
How’s the storage?
Considering the Maxima's size, its overall cargo capacity is disappointing. The Maxima lags behind similarly sized cars in both small-item storage and trunk space, but the trunk has a wide and low opening, which makes for easy loading. Additional useful features include hooks for hanging shopping bags and in-trunk pull tabs to release the fold-down seats.
The Maxima has four clearly marked lower car-seat anchors across the back seat and sufficient space for most car seats. The downside is the sloping rear door opening that will require some parental contortions for access.
How economical is the Maxima?
At 24 mpg combined (20 city/30 highway), the Maxima falls short of midsize competitors with upgraded engines. In our time with the car, we had trouble matching EPA numbers, falling short even of the city mpg estimate. The fact that 91 octane is recommended adds even more cost.
Is the Maxima a good value?
The Maxima tries to thread a line between a near-luxury car and one that delivers better-than-average performance. It doesn't quite succeed at either. Sure, the interior looks nice with a veneer of luxury and many touch points covered in soft or premium materials. It also offers a measure of sophisticated handling and performance, but nothing you can't get from another competitor for less money.
The Maxima manages to capture a sense of luxury and sportiness in an accessible package, even if it doesn't quite excel at either. It's a car designed to make the driver feel good. Largely it succeeds, even if it's far from the best value.
Which Maxima does Edmunds recommend?
Since one of the Maxima's few selling points is its sporty performance, we suggest the SR trim that comes with a stiffer suspension for sharper handling. You also get some comfort and safety features to help justify the added cost.
Nissan Maxima models
The 2021 Nissan Maxima is a midsize sedan that is offered in SV, SR and Platinum trims. Powering all Maxima models is a 3.5-liter V6 engine (300 horsepower, 261 lb-ft of torque) that is mated to a continuously variable transmission (CVT) that drives the front wheels. Standard feature highlights include: