Did you forget that Nissan still builds the Frontier? That's OK – we think Nissan did too. After all, the Frontier has been languishing on these shores with hardly an update since George W. Bush was entering his second term. That's a long time by any non-geological standard, and positively antiquarian in the automotive world. Ride, handling, technology, and style all hail from the mid-aughts, and the overall vibe is that of a time machine with a bed. Call it a classic or label it a Luddite, but the quaint 2019 Nissan Frontier – the cheapest truck in America – is mostly just a bargain relic in today's fast-moving age.
What's New for 2019
A seven-inch touchscreen is now standard on S and SV models, and the color palette has been tweaked. Otherwise, Nissan is still pumping out the same truck they've been building for the last 15 years.
Choosing Your Nissan Frontier
It may be to your relief or consternation, but there's no asinine amount of build combinations to parse through with the Frontier. Two cabs, two engines, and three transmission choices are up for grabs, most of which can be had across any of the four trim levels. It's about the same variety that can be found on competing mid-size trucks. Both cabs can be had with either a 60- or 73-inch bed.
The ever-onward march of time has given the Frontier the dubious distinction of being one of a small handful of vehicles still on the market with a five-speed transmission. Actually, make that two five-speeds – there's both a manual and an automatic gearbox available with five cogs each. The five-speed manual is only paired with the four-cylinder engine, while the automatic does duty behind the four- and six-cylinder. The only way to get more than five gears is to order a V6 with the six-speed stick shift.
A 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine leads things off. It's standard on the low-end S and SV trims, and makes 152 horsepower and 171 pound-feet of torque. It pairs to either of the five-speed gearboxes. EPA-estimated fuel economy with two-wheel drive is 19 miles per gallon city, 23 mpg highway, and 21 combined with the manual, or 17/22/19 mpg (city/highway/combined) with the automatic.
Most trucks come with the upsized 4.0-liter V6 engine. It's standard in all variants beyond the SV, and makes a much more robust 261 hp and 281 lb-ft of torque. Nissan has built this engine with an eye toward durability; it boasts a forged crankshaft and other strengthened internals. Fuel economy is 16/23/19 mpg for 2WD models and the five-speed automatic transmission; those numbers drop to 15/21/17 mpg with 4WD. The six-speed manual is standard and a five-speed auto is optional.
For four-cylinder models, payload ranges between 890 to 910 pounds depending on transmission and trim. Towing capacity maxes out at 3,810 pounds for a stick shift SV. The V6 is significantly better on both counts, offering up to 1,430 pounds of payload capacity and a maximum 6,720 pounds of towing ability. Neither stat is class-leading, but these figures aren't far off from what the Frontier's competitive set can lug and tow.
Notable features are few and far between, but Nissan was did manage to give even the lowly S features such as Bluetooth, Siri Eyes Free, an auxiliary jack, and a USB port. A seven-inch touchscreen is standard on all but the top-spec Pro-4X. That trim oddly gets a smaller 5.8-inch screen, but it offers additional amenities such as SiriusXM and real-time traffic updates.
Being so long in the tooth, the Frontier has proved itself over the years as being a durable truck. Yet this alone cannot sell a truck against competition that is, quite literally, 10 to 15 years ahead on the ever-upward curve of progress. How can a $35 grand SL ever be justified when a comparably-priced GMC Caynon or Ford Ranger will outclass it so comprehensively? This logic leads us to recommend a 2019 Nissan Frontier that's no higher up the totem pole than an SV. Being as outdated as it is, the value proposition of a stripped-down work truck is the best argument this hoary old rig can muster for itself.
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