Interior

When a car gets to be a few years old it usually looks dated next to competitors that have been more recently redesigned. At roughly three model years of age, the Maxima's cabin still seems up-to-date compared with the newer Taurus. I think the Avalon is a bit more upscale, but it's also more expensive.

The dash and cockpit design is more sports carlike than those two as well, and that's Nissan's aim. I liked my test car's leather seats, too; the base version has cloth seats. The leather ones are extremely comfortable but still offer lots of support and thick bolstering.

The dashboard and controls are well-laid-out, with Nissan's usual high-quality materials providing both pleasant tactile interactions and sturdy feedback when using buttons and knobs.

In a large sedan like this, the backseat is extremely important. While not as big on paper as the Taurus, I found the rear accommodations airier than the Ford. There's plenty of headroom and legroom in the two outboard seats for full-size adults, and my kids' child-safety seats fit more easily in the Nissan than they did in the Ford.

Due to the car's relatively short length, there isn't much trunk space, totaling 14.2 cubic feet. The Taurus offers a massive 20.1 cubic feet, and even Nissan's midsize sedan, the Altima, has a bigger, 15.3-cubic-foot boot. The Avalon's trunk is similarly small, at 14.4 cubic feet.

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