Versus the competiton:
Nissan’s Frontier compact pickup truck has been around a while now.
Nissan put the first-generation Frontier on the market in 1998, upgrading it to the present model in 2004. It would be fair to think that this truck’s cycle has run its course, but to drive one is to learn otherwise.
The Frontier is rugged, from its fully boxed frame to the optional bedliners. Our test vehicle was a four-wheel-drive 2009 King Cab SE V6 equipped with the Value Truck Package, which adds power windows, mirrors, locks, and other basic necessities totaling $26,500. It had plenty of power for routine hauling or towing with a 4.0 liter V-6 mated to a 5-speed automatic transmission. That combination gave us 17.1 miles per gallon on a five-day “weekend” trip.
It was comfortable and stable on the highway trip, and equally happy doing a weekend of local lugging for spring yardwork. We didn’t quite get it off-road, but did have to ford a flooded street in Newbury during an early-April storm and high tide.
We wouldn’t even want to subject a hitchhiker to the cramped second seats. However, folding them up gave enough space to keep the extended weekend’s worth of luggage, cooler, food, camera bags, and laptop secure and dry.
Our test vehicle was lacking an auxiliary plug for an MP3 player. It also didn’t have a navigation system. The upside of that was a nice tray built into the top of the dashboard for carrying the phones, transponders, and change of an itinerant driver.
The SE trim line – one step up from the base XE but below the LE or Pro-4X – meant that stability control wasn’t available, either. It’s an option on the top two trim levels.
The cloth interior looked rugged enough as was the heavy plastic that constituted most of the interior. It bespoke capability more than luxury – as did the full array of instrumentation. The seats were comfortable but a bit short in support after a couple of hour’s worth of driving.
All the controls and knobs were intuitive. There was nothing to send one to the owner’s manual aside from a tire that needed a few pounds of air and caused the tire pressure warning light to illuminate.
It did have a sliding rear window, but it’s not easily adjusted without coming to a stop and opening the clamshell rear doors to gain access.
The six-foot bed is plenty big for the average user. Ours had a bedliner, but had we bought this truck, we’d have opted for the spray-in liner and kit with adjustable tie-downs and cleats.
In a world filled with SUVs and crossovers, the Frontier does a creditable job of being an all-purpose family vehicle, especially in the crew cab configuration. It would be on my list to consider along with the Toyota Tacoma, Ford Ranger, GMC Canyon, and Nissan’s Suzuki-badged sibling, the Equator.