Choices for a midsize pickup truck have been shrinking in recent years, but the Nissan Frontier carries on as a strong, work-ready contender. Though relatively small for this group, the Frontier stands tall on capabilities.
Available with two-or four-wheel drive, and a four- or six-cylinder engine, the Frontier has a lot to offer pickup fanciers who favor a truck that delivers plenty of substance and flavor, but little fat.
What's New for 2016
Updates are minor for 2016, led by a moonroof added to SV Crew Cab models. Three new exterior colors are offered: Forged Copper, Magnetic Black, and Gun Metallic.
Choosing Your Nissan Frontier
The Frontier is offered in two body styles, King Cab and four-door Crew Cab, and in five trim levels: S, SV, PRO-4X, Desert Runner and SL.
It comes with either a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, rated 152 horsepower, or a 4-liter V6 that makes 261 horsepower. Engine availability varies between two- or four-wheel drive, and by trim level. Fuel-economy estimates range from 19/23 mpg city/highway with the four-cylinder, manual shift and front-drive, down to 15/21 mpg with V6, automatic, and four-wheel drive.
Crew Cab SV and SL models come on a long or short wheelbase, with long or standard-length cargo bed.
Facing all those choices, you're probably going to pick a V6-equipped model. In addition, it's hard to pass up a 4x4 because of its greater capabilities, jacked-up suspension, and more rugged looks. Then again, a nicely optioned SV Frontier could make the most financial sense, compared against full-size pickup trucks that are often heavily discounted.
In 2005, the Nissan Frontier underwent its last significant redesign -- a look that is nearly unchanged as we enter the 2016 model year. It's an 11-year-old design, and we expect some outdated elements, but this also means that the Frontier isn’t so stylish that you’re afraid to toss a few hundred pounds of gravel in the bed.
Pricing and Equipment
The Nissan Frontier may be an aging pickup, but it remains as one of the least expensive pickup on the market with a starting price of just $18,090. This base Frontier S King Cab comes standard with:
15-inch steel wheels
Rear jump seats
Four-speaker audio system
While the base model is pretty simple, there is a wide array of trims to choose from, including the SV, PRO-4X, and Desert Runner.
The 4-liter V6 is plenty potent -- enough to handle the hauling needs of most buyers. We also think it's a hoot taking the off-road prepped PRO-4X off the beaten path.
261-horsepower V6 injects plenty of power into this midsize pickup.
Max towing capacity of 6,500 pounds is impressive for the segment.
The base four-cylinder engine, with just 152 horsepower, is uninspiring at best.
We understand the Frontier is a truck, but does it need to ride like a tank?
As pickup trucks have gotten more comfortable and more expensive, interior materials have lost some of their scuff-friendly durability. Buyers who want a work truck might just appreciate the hard plastics that abound in a Frontier's cabin. And you can still lux it up a bit with optional features.
Most buyers, however, will look at competition like the Chevrolet Colorado and feel like a Frontier's cabin is ancient history by comparison. Dated interior design and a lack of soft-touch materials leave a lot to be desired.
The Most Pleasant Surprise
The responsiveness of the V6 is somewhat unexpected. We knew that it was significantly more potent than the four-cylinder, but it really does turn the Frontier into a different truck.
The Least Pleasant Surprise
The interior is simply not up to par with today’s standards. Even with low expectations because of the Frontier's age, we still think it's pretty bad.
The Bottom Line
If you are looking for a truck that can handle work and not drain your wallet, the Frontier is great. This imported pickup harks back to the days when trucks were trucks and styling wasn’t a concern. However, these days, pickup trucks are becoming well-equipped daily drivers, and the Frontier is too old and simple to serve in this new role.