A pickup truck isn't usually a consideration for most moms out there. I know a few truck-driving moms, and they're very proud of their trucks. Some of these moms are on farms, some on ranches, and even some who use a truck pretty regularly for home improvements and more. I wanted to be that kind of mom during my test drive of the 2010 Nissan Frontier, but it just didn't happen.
It might have been my lack of hard-core errands that hampered my truck-driving experience. Did the lack of hard-core truck duty get me down? A bit; I had done tons of home improvements this summer and could have made good use of a pickup. However, I had no major errands for the Frontier. Sheesh, what's a mom to do? And then it snowed.
The Frontier is sturdy and even comfortable while driving around, and in the snow, it was just as great. While there wasn't enough snow to close schools, it was enough to make me grateful for the Frontier's four-wheel drive and a higher view of the traffic around me.
The top-of-the-line Frontier PRO-X has a V-6 engine that makes 261 horsepower; the engine practically roared every time I hit the gas pedal. The engine is awesome, but its gas mileage is not. It gets an EPA-estimated 14/19 mpg city/highway, and it takes premium gas, too. Double whammy.
The Frontier looks like most smaller trucks. My family and I were happy to have four doors on our test truck, but getting in and out of it reminded me of the old days when my kids struggled with any test cars that were high off the ground. In the Frontier, it was a little a bit sloppy when the kids were getting in and out, but they sure had fun and were anxious to ride around in it. If you have young children, you'll be helping them into this truck for a long, long time.
The truck has large, tubular roof rails as part of its roof rack that helps to distinguish it from other trucks. You can buy all kinds of additional accessories for it, including ski/snowboard racks, bike racks and cargo baskets. That kind of versatility is cool.
There's even more versatility in the bed of the Frontier. My test car had the bed extender, which slides out as far as the tailgate when it's down. In addition, there's a tie-down system to handle almost anything you'd want to put back there. Yes, it does seem to be overkill for groceries, but no one wants to lose their dinner out of the back of a pickup. In case it's snowing or raining and you don't want to put the groceries in the truck bed, there's plenty of room inside, too.
SENSE AND STYLE
Family Friendly (Not Really, Fair, Great, Excellent): Fair-Great
Fun-Factor (None, Some, Good Times, Groove-On): Good Times
The interior is predictably rugged. A rectangular center stack and flat panels create a linear theme that's reinforced in the seat upholstery and door angles. It's clean, minimalist and functional; there's nothing mushy and coddling here, folks. The Frontier is comfortable, too; the seats fit me pretty well, and everything was within reach.
My main gripe about the Frontier is there are two trays that should be lined with a rubbery, grippy surface. They look like they have it, but they instead have a hard, slippery surface. Whatever you put in these trays will slide, rattle and bonk all over the place. The Frontier's other storage areas are much more useful, especially the dual glove box.
In the backseat, there's only one seatback pocket. This isn't a big deal until you have to explain why a pint-sized passenger who sits behind the driver is so much more special than the other seatback-pocketless passenger who's apparently chopped liver in the eyes of Nissan.
The second-row cupholders pop out of the back of the front center console. This is not a huge deal for bigger kids, but younger kids strapped into child-safety seats won't be able to reach them. Let's remember, though, that this is a pickup truck, not a spa on wheels. You get a pickup truck because you don't mind roughing it, people.
And you know what? Maybe I should change my gripe about the seatback pocket because there's under-seat storage. Lift up the rear bench and there's a net-covered bin to hold all your kids' coloring books. The only downside is you have to lift up the bench to get to it, which is a hassle if there's a child-safety seat on said bench. But it's there and that counts for something.
Remember those groceries I mentioned in the Exterior section? The ones you didn't want to put in the truck bed because it's raining or snowing? With my son in the backseat, I managed to haul a Costco run using the second row. There was even room for the pizza I brought home, which is a big pizza. If I wanted to, I could fold the rear seats up for more space in the back. I love this truck's versatility.
IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS THAT COUNT
Storage Compartments (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Ample
Cargo/Trunk Space (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Ample
Is the Frontier kid-friendly? In crew cab models, it has Latch connectors that are easy to access, but a rear-facing infant-safety seat or a rear-facing convertible seat wouldn't fit well in the second row because the seat bench isn't very deep. I suspect the rear-facing car seats would run out of room for the bases. My kids' booster seats came right up to the edge of the bench, causing their legs to hang awkwardly off the edge. This is no big deal on short rides, but a long drive might elicit some discomfort and whining from the back.
There's Bluetooth connectivity for your phone, so you don't talk and drive with only one hand. I think this is one of my favorite new safety features, although most automakers categorize it as a convenience feature.
For 2010, the Frontier now comes with standard side curtain airbags on all trims and a standard stability system on all V-6 models, including the PRO-4X. The Frontier also comes with standard antilock brakes and front- and side-impact airbags. Traction control is standard on V-6 models.
In Diapers: This truck is tall, which means you'll be hoisting infant-safety seats and small people into it.
In School: Once your kids are in booster seats or older, this is a fun, rugged truck.
Teens: It's a cool-looking truck, but the crash-test results should give any parent pause.