MOTORING / Auto Biography: Getting to know the Nissan Maxima in less than one minute

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GOING PLACES: Smooth power from a chunky V6; smooth shifts from a brainy automatic gearbox; silky low-revs motorway cruising in overdrive. Top speed 130mph, 0-60 in 9.5 secs.

STAYING ALIVE: Reinforced safety beams in doors, and strengthened pillars; anti-lock brakes and driver's airbag in SE. Cornering competent, body roll reasonably controlled but rear suspension hard for this class; steering above Japanese average, below German norm.

CREATURE COMFORTS: Supportive, fully adjustable front seats; enough rear compartment room for long legs and tall heads; good stereo and ventilation; CD player in SE model.

BANGS PER BUCK: Power steering, auto gearbox, alloys, central locking, electric windows, sunroof and mirrors standard throughout; electric seats, cruise control, air-conditioning, CD player and airbag on top models. Expensive on fuel at around 18mpg in town.

AND ON MY RIGHT. . . . Opponents include BMW 525 (old prestige), Toyota Camry (new prestige), Mitsubishi Sigma (techno-blitz), Ford Scorpio (right engine, wrong image), Vauxhall Carlton (stylish) and Peugeot 605 (integrity, balance). The Maxima is cheapest considering its spec, but lacks presence.

STAR QUALITY: Quiet, reliable upmarket saloon with excellent luxury specification and uprated body strength for under pounds 20,000.

TURKEY QUOTIENT: Personality that makes John Major look like Victor Borge.