I'm not usually a sedan person. I find sedans to be, well, sedate. By which I mean, boring. Then the 2010 Nissan Maxima showed up in my driveway, and "Bad to the Bone" started playing in my head. I began to think that maybe not all sedans are boring.
The Maxima is, in fact, fun to drive. It's the good kind of fun, which is mildly entertaining without requiring all of my focus or encouraging me to do something less than responsible like speed. This car is faster than I need, but just as fast as I'd like. Braking is firm without being sharp. The ride is as sporty as the engine, so the Maxima laughs at twisty roads and hairpin turns. I cracked a smile, myself. My smile faded, however, when I hit the shopping center where I had to run some errands. Oof, driveway. Oof, speed bump. Sporty rides are all fun and games on the open road, but running errands and handling bumps in the Maxima is less than comfortable.
The Maxima I drove was the high-end SV trim with all the bells and whistles, including a sportier ride, bigger wheels and all the heated/power/leather goodness of a luxury car, plus navigation and XM Satellite Radio. The Premium Package, which my test car had, comes with a rearview camera, which made me happy since the view out the rear window is limited and there are significant blind spots to the side. I relied rather heavily on the rearview camera while in Reverse.
Even more impressive is that all this luxury comes at a moderate price, taking the Maxima from its base price of $30,690 to my test car's $38,660. Of course, the less-than-stellar mileage and premium gas take some of the shine off that value. But in all, the Maxima offers an impressive package for the driver as well as a few concessions for the backseat crowd.
From the front or rear, the Maxima looks really wide and low to the ground. From the side, it's more elegant and less aggressive. Chrome trim surrounds the windows, brightens the door handles and shines at the front and rear of the Maxima. I always enjoy a little bit of chrome; too much hurts my eyes, but the Maxima managed just the right proportion of bling. On my test car, the standard 18-inch wheels were replaced with optional 19-inchers that were so shiny they could almost be chrome. My test car was a beautiful mix of dark and light.
Getting in and out of the car was no struggle because of the nifty automatic entry and exit system that slides the driver's seat and steering wheel away from each other when the engine is turned off. However, I'd appreciate a bit more swing out of the rear doors if I had an infant or toddler to wrangle. However, my school-age boys handled the doors without complaint and managed their ungainly clambering without incident. I handled the trunk just as easily. It opens at a touch and has a low lip, so loading groceries or bikes is relatively painless. I did get a bike in there. I slid it right in and tossed more stuff on top of it.
Both trims of the Maxima come with a beefy 3.5-liter V-6 engine paired with a continuously variable automatic transmission that makes a lovely, throaty growl, but it also sucks down the premium fuel at an EPA-estimated rate of 19/26 mpg city/highway.
SENSE AND STYLE
Family Friendly (Not Really, Fair, Great, Excellent): Fair
Fun-Factor (None, Some, Good Times, Groove-On): Groove-On
I was comfy in my power-adjustable heated leather seat, but I struggled with the entertainment system. Some of the stereo controls are on the steering wheel and others are on the center stack, so I had to look around to figure out how to change a radio station or switch to the CD player. While the Maxima has Bluetooth connectivity for cell phones, it doesn't have Bluetooth streaming audio, which is available, so I couldn't play the music on my iPhone. Instead, I hooked my iPhone up to the MP3 jack and listened to my tunes that way.
The wide second row fits three comfortably for a total of five passengers. It could possibly hold three child-safety seats if they were of the narrow variety and installed by a person of tenacity. The kids also enjoyed the leather armrest with cupholders. They love to find things that are tucked away and hidden.
IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS THAT COUNT
Storage Compartments (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Fair
Cargo/Trunk Space (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Ample
The 2010 Maxima received the top score of Good in front, side and rear crash tests conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. For 2010, IIHS has a new rollover crash test that evaluates a car's roof strength. In this crash test, the Maxima received the second highest score of Average.
The backseat is a wonderful place for adults and older children, but little ones are not quite at home there. The lower Latch anchors are buried within the seats, and the molded sport seats make installing child-safety seats a challenge.
The booster seat experience was no fun in the Maxima. The booster itself doesn't sit flat, so it tilts to one side or the other, often sliding over the seat belt buckle and right up against the armrest, meaning that my 7-year-old would have to rearrange his booster seat every time he got in the car and I had to hear about it. I don't like to hear about it. Because my little guy wasn't tall enough for the rear seat belt to fit correctly on him without the booster, we were stuck using it. I'd have loved height-adjustable rear seat belts, a slightly wider bucket seat or somewhat less bucket-molding in back. Basically, I'd have liked anything that made the booster seat either unnecessary or easy to use.
There's lots of legroom in the backseat, which translates to room for child-safety seats. However, I found that the backseat's bottom cushion was really long. If adults and older kids are riding back there, it's not a problem. However, the edge of the backseat didn't hit my 7-year-old at his knee, so his feet stuck straight out and he ended up resting his feet on the back of the front seats. My test car had a variety of lovely shoe prints on the seatbacks by the end of our week. Thankfully, it was nothing a baby wipe couldn't solve.
The Maxima has standard four-wheel-disc antilock brakes, stability control, traction control and six airbags, including side-impact airbags for the front row and side curtains for both rows.
Get more safety information about the 2010 Maxima here.
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