Skip to main content

The Globe and Mail

Should we buy a Honda Accord, a Nissan Maxima, or something else?

2013 Nissan Maxima


My wife and I are going to buy a new car in the next six months. We tested the new Lexus ES350, but found the driving dynamics "soft." Looked at the new Honda Accord Touring; although we liked the size and features, we found the interior "cheap." Our test drive of the Nissan Maxima Premium gave us a better feel, both in terms of driving dynamics as well the interior finish. Our issue is the Maxima comes only with a CVT transmission. Is this an issue for the long-term reliability of the car? Is there another car option we should have a look at? – Ken and Mary in Hamilton, Ont.

Vaughan: I like the Maxima and the continuously variable transmission (CVT) is utterly reliable for the long term. It is a great advance, delivering a 5 to 6 per cent improvement in fuel economy while feeling to the driver like an ordinary automatic transmission.

Nissan has done a really good job on CTVs and there is no reason to avoid one. I will now yield the floor to the old fogey who will no doubt rant on about CVTs being the Devil's work.

Story continues below advertisement

Cato: The easiest way to understand how a CVT works is to look at the gearset and chain on your bicycle. This is close to how a CVT changes ratios. Except in a CVT, the teethed cones of the gearset are just plain cones and a metal or rubber belt is driven up and down the cones to change gear ratios.

I'm only going into this to make a point. And the point is, just as shifting gears on your bike is not aesthetically pleasing, so, too is how a CVT goes about its work. Sure, a CVT is efficient and, compared to a complex traditional transmission, it's a wonder of simplicity. But the way a CVT does its work leaves me, Ken and Mary, cold.

Vaughan: Wrong, but let's look at the Maxima as a car.

Cato: No, not yet. I want to hit on K and M's other worry: CTV reliability. I did a search for government recalls and defect investigations and found nothing of concern. Nissan has not had a single CVT recall in Canada that I can find. Ditto for defect investigations. CVTs are not problematic.

Vaughan: You simply must get in the last word. The things I endure …

The Maxima: it's a stylish sedan with a V-6 engine that delivers power to the front wheels. That's for weight saving and fuel economy, although a lot of competitors in this category have rear-wheel-drive or even all-wheel-drive. However, the Maxima is still fun to drive, feels sporty enough and I like the interior.

What I like even more are the deals you can get. It's been on the market a while and hardly ever advertised. You can drive a hard bargain on one of these.

Story continues below advertisement

2013 Toyota Avalon Toyota Toyota  

Cato: Deals? You want a deal. I like the base price – $37,880 – and I like the $2,000 factory rebate for dealers even more.

Toyota, of course, will say the base price for the 2013 Avalon is even better and, at $36,800, the words would ring true.

I really like the Maxima for all the reasons you mention, but the Avalon is a better deal. I did a comparison of the Avalon and Maxima loaded with the same stuff and the Avalon came out about $6,000 cheaper. So even with the $2,000 discount, it's hard to argue price when it comes to the Toyota.

Vaughan: Well, this is the big Toyota flagship and this new version is a major change in style from the previous transportation appliance. It's all aggressive-looking now and it's powered by the same 3.5-litre V-6 that's in the Lexus ES350.

Speaking of Lexus, you'd think the interior of the Avalon came right out of one. In fact, the main reason you'd take the Avalon over a Lexus is the price tag.

Story continues below advertisement

Cato: Honestly, Lexus could use a car as stylish as the Avalon.

2013 Buick LaCrosse General Motors General Motors  

Vaughan: A few years ago, they used to call the old Avalon a Japanese Buick, and that was no compliment.

Buick has made huge progress since its near-death experience and the Buick LaCrosse is a car you ought to check out if you're shopping in this price bracket.

It is solid, quiet, comfortable and amazingly responsive to drive. It's available with e-Assist, which is the mildest form of hybrid, and all-wheel-drive.

Toyota had similar aims for the new Avalon as Buick had for the LaCrosse.

Cato: And with $2,500 in discounts on a $38,895 eAssist LaCrosse with a Luxury package, it's a solid deal.

But it's the Maxima for me. I like its looks, how it drives and the sticker looks fair.

Vaughan: Not as fair as the Avalon's. I'm voting with my wallet and taking Toyota's cut-rate pricing on the Avalon.




2013 Toyota Avalon XLE2013 Nissan Maxima SV2013 Buick LaCrosse eAsssist Luxury Group

Wheelbase (mm)


Length (mm)


Width (mm)


Track, front (mm)



3.5-litre V-63.5-litre V-63.6-litre V-6 with mild hybrid system

Output (horsepower/torque)

268/248 lb-ft290/261 lb-ft303/264lb-ft

Drive system

Front-wheel driveFront-wheel driveFront-wheel drive


Six-speed automaticCVTSix-speed automatic

Curb weight (kg)


Fuel economy (litres/100 km)

9.9 city/6.4 highway10.9 city/7.7 highway8.3 city/5.4 highway

Base price (MSRP)


Source: car manufacturers

Jeremy Cato and Michael Vaughan are co-hosts of Car/Business, which airs Thursdays at 8:30 p.m. on Business News Network and Saturdays at 11:30 a.m. on CTV.

Report an error
About the Author
Senior writer, Globe Drive

In 25 years of covering the auto industry, Jeremy Cato has won more than two-dozen awards, including three times being named automotive journalist of the year. Jeremy was born in Montreal and grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. More


The Globe invites you to share your views. Please stay on topic and be respectful to everyone. For more information on our commenting policies and how our community-based moderation works, please read our Community Guidelines and our Terms and Conditions.

We’ve made some technical updates to our commenting software. If you are experiencing any issues posting comments, simply log out and log back in.

Discussion loading… ✨