The Nissan Maxima and Honda Accord both debuted in 1976. Since then, they’ve been fighting tooth-and-nail for the lead share in mid-level sedan sales. Honda has

captured headlines as the Accord became one of the best-selling automobiles in the world. But the Maxima hasn’t lasted this long for nothing. It has been one of Nissan’s best-selling flagships and has shown steady improvement over the years, garnishing it the AutoPacific® Best in Class Vehicle Satisfaction Award. Automotive experts Car and Driver, Consumer Reports, Edmunds, and Motor Trend have given us the information needed to see which new model (2010-2011) is today’s best value.

Powertrain: The Maxima offers only one engine choice, the 3.5L V6 producing more horsepower and torque than the 3.5L V6 Honda engine. The Accord does, however,

offer a 4-cylinder option for those who want to increase fuel efficiency. Both vehicles offer an automatic transmission, but the Honda offers a six-speed manual at no extra cost. The automatic transmission of the Maxima is a continuously-variable transmission that can be overridden by six simulated gear ratios via paddle-mounted shifters.

Winner: Honda Accord, for the added engine choice

Braking/Safety/Handling: Braking has been an issue with Honda in all vehicles for some time now. The Accord is no better, coming to a stop from 60 mph in 137 feet. It also didn’t perform very well in the front-passenger impact crash test, scoring only three stars. The Maxima scored a perfect five out of five stars in all front and side-impact protection as well as a rating of Good from the IIHS. It boasts a light, responsive steering with great precision. The Accord displays significant body roll on cornering; that is improved somewhat on the coupe model, but only slightly.

Winner: Nissan Maxima

Cargo/Hauling: Trunk space is nearly identical at 14 cubic feet in the Accord and 14.3 cubic feet in the Maxima. The Maxima’s 60/40-split rear seats can be folded down to accommodate larger bulky items, but if you opt for the bucket seats, that changes to just a center pass-through opening for longer objects.

Winner: Tie

Comfort/Interior: “The Maxima’s interior is as upscale as you’ll find in the Nissan lineup. The cabin is understated and surrounds passengers with high-quality materials worthy of the sedan’s luxury-car price tag. When combined with the Premium or Sport packages, the cabin is on even footing with its pricier Infiniti G37 cousin.” (www.edmunds.com) The Accord interior is also very underrated, possessing very high-quality materials and a sophisticated center-stack console. It is button-heavy, which only increases with the navigation system, but its voice commands and high-mounted screen make it more user-friendly.

Winner: Tie

Amenities/Options: While the Accord is no slouch in the options category, offering 25 different styles and a variety of trims, the Maxima does go a step further. The rearview camera, streaming Bluetooth with 9.3GB of music storage space, 2GB music server (replacing the 6-disc CD changer), and driver memory functions are all options that are omitted on the Accord. It also offers rear-seat audio and HVAC controls for better rear-passenger comfort.

Winner: Nissan Maxima

Value for the $: The MSRP on both these sedans is exceptionally spaced apart. The Accord starts off at a modest $21,055, while the bottom-end for the Maxima is $30,690. However, with only three styles to choose from, the Maxima climbs only to $33,410, whereas the Accord’s bevy of choices can bring the grand total to $31,305, a major jump from the base price.

Winner: There’s no denying the Accord’s track record for reliability and economy. But if you’ve got the extra cash to spend, the Maxima beats it out in nearly every category, making it the better value here.

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