It’s normal in truck advertisements for pickup makers to call their product the “longest lasting,” but Nissan’s Frontier – largely unchanged since its introduction in 2005 – has them all beat. It’s beyond long-in-the-tooth; it’s on its second set of dentures.
The lemonade of the Frontier’s seemingly sour story is that its age is a positive in a way, as the truck has had over a decade of real-world durability testing and fine-tuning done to it, giving Nissan a proven product focused on offering what customers have voted for years with their dollars to include in a value-oriented truck that requires less of those dollars to buy and own.
What's New for 2018
All Frontiers get standard RearView Monitor cameras, air conditioning, a five-inch color display, cruise control, and Siri Eyes Free and Bluetooth compatibility. A new Midnight Edition package is available on SV-trim Crew Cab two- or four-wheel drives with automatic transmissions, and in Magnetic Black, Gun Metallic and Glacier White. The package includes body-color front and rear bumpers, a gloss-black grille and 18-inch aluminum wheels, semi-gloss black step rails, and black exterior mirrors, door handles, and badging.
Choosing Your Nissan Frontier
Thanks to its 13 years on the market, Nissan has had enough time to tweak the Frontier roster to satisfy the demands of the largest number of consumers with the fewest possible trim and equipment offerings. But that in no way means finding the best fit in the Frontier range is an easy job, because even this limited lineup comprises a mélange of models in six trim levels, each with at least one of three transmissions, two engines, two cabs, two bed lengths, and in rear-drive-only or full-on four-wheel-drive forms.
And with prices ranging from $19,965 (including $975 Destination Charge) for the base S King Cab – that's the version with the full-size front and half-size, rear-hinged back doors – four-cylinder with a five-speed manual gearbox, standard-length bed, and rear-wheel drive to the $37,375 top-trim SL with the four-door Crew Cab body, four-wheel drive, a V6, standard bed, and five-speed automatic transmission, it’s clear that Nissan’s price structure is as wide-ranging as its model offerings.
There is one constant in the Frontier line, though: its engines. For the skinflint crowd, Nissan offers a 2.5-liter four-cylinder with 152 horsepower and 171 pound-feet of torque, but only on the S and slightly-upmarket SV in two-wheel-drive King Cab form. For every other application there’s a 4.0-liter V6 with 261 hp and 281 lb-ft of grunt.
If it seems Nissan is reluctant to offer four-cylinder applications, that could be due to that engine’s EPA mileage ratings of 19 mpg city, 23 highway, and 21 combined with the manual and 19/17/22 mpg with the automatic, which are within three mpg of a fully-loaded V6 4x4’s figures. Even more embarrassing for the four is its maximum towing capacity of 3,790 lbs. and max payload of 900 pounds, as the V6’s towing capacity bests it by almost a ton-and-a-half and it can carry 560 additional pounds.
Similarly, a five-speed manual transmission is only offered in the down-market models, while a six-speed stick available in two-wheel-drive S, four-wheel-drive SV V6, and PRO-4X Crew cab bodies rounds out the row-your-own options. Every other Frontier permutation comes with a five-speed automatic in mandatory or optional form.
The Nissan Frontier comes in six trim levels:
Trucks are a deeply personal purchase. Two doors or four, four cylinders or six, stick or automatic, two- or four-wheel drive, it all depends on what you plan to do with it. As it stands, the Frontier is a capable machine available in myriad combinations, and it offers a solid value that’s withstood the test of time. It may not be as fresh or high-tech as some of its recently-introduced (and promised) competition, but trucks are about doing the most work for the least amount of money, something the Frontier’s been doing – well – for ages.
The 2018 Nissan Frontier remains a strong seller among mid-size pickup trucks, despite its advanced age. Although outclassed by newer models, the Frontier’s good value, classic style, and strong V6 engine are its strengths. For some shoppers, that's enough to overcome some of its demerits, including an aged infotainment system and unrefined cabin.
The 2018 Nissan Frontier is offered as an extended (King) or Crew Cab model with room for up to five. Nissan supplies a base four-cylinder engine, although most trucks are powered by a V6. You'll find manual and automatic transmission options, along with rear- and four-wheel drive.
Our pick is the Frontier Crew Cab SV 4x2, as it offers the interior room most truck buyers want. This model also has a 6,450- to 6,710-pound tow rating with a payload capacity of up to 1,480 pounds. It comes with remote keyless entry, 16-inch aluminum-alloy wheels, and satellite radio.
Options: Value Truck Package ($1,890, fog lights, spray-on bedliner, bed channel system, sliding bed extender, tow hitch receiver, rear sonar system, dual-zone climate control, heated front seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, auto-dimming rearview mirror).
Base Price: $27,325 (including a $975 destination charge)
Best Value Price: $29,215
You get a choice of a four-cylinder or V6 engine with the 2018 Nissan Frontier. We think the base engine is simply too underpowered and is also outclassed by competing models. That said, the V6 is aged too, but this 4.0-liter engine delivers a robust 261 horsepower and 281 pound-feet of torque. Power is sent to the wheels by means of a five-speed automatic transmission or a six-speed manual.
Although the V6 isn't as loud as the inline-four, it's far from quiet and is unrefined. Nissan sells a large number of manual transmissions with this model, but we think most will prefer the automatic. This transmission works well with the engine, finding the right gear and doing so without complaining. The V6 also delivers payload and towing numbers within the range of its competitors. Compare that to the inline-four with a 3,500-pound rating.
The Nissan Frontier delivers a traditional style that, in some eyes, is reassuring, but otherwise points to a dated design. We like its strong layout marked by a powerful grille and oversized wheel well arches. Much of the rest of the design is what you'd expect with some variations based on trim level.
Crew cab models come with the same 73.3-inch bed found in the King Cab, but you can also order one with a shorter 59.5-inch bed. The bedliner that’s standard with the SV makes a whole lot of sense.
On paper, the Frontier Crew Cab seats five, but it's best for four. Even then, if your rear-seat passengers include a couple of big guys, you might begin your search with the full-size Nissan Titan.
The interior reflects this truck’s older design, with plastics dominating. We find it a mood spoiler and especially a disappointment in models costing $30,000 or more. The front seats offer average comfort, the rear seat even less so. The sight lines are average, but only the SL and PRO-4X models offer a height-adjustable driver’s seat.
The Best and Worst Things
Perhaps the best attribute of the 2018 Frontier is its low starting price. But we recommend better-equipped models with the V6 engine, which drive the cost up significantly. Still, we think the Nissan offers a solid price point in the segment. As for the worst things about this model, where do we start? It's aged, outclassed by everyone, and the infotainment system is very outdated.
Right For? Wrong For?
Nissan Frontier faithful continue to buy this truck, demonstrating strong brand loyalty. Despite its age, it's a good basic truck for consumers. On the other hand, it lacks the refinement and strong safety attributes of more modern models and would be a wrong purchase decision for a strong cohort of truck buyers.
The Bottom Line
Yes, the Nissan Frontier is outclassed by every model in its segment. We have heard rumors of a new model for several years and witnessing new Titan pickup trucks arriving, but still no Frontier. Nissan will at some point deliver a new one, but for now, the 2018 Nissan Frontier is it. Outside of Nissan faithful, we think most shoppers should direct their gaze elsewhere.