For the 1999 model year, Nissan, not a company that had taken many chances with its pickup trucks, took a big one: Though light-duty, four-door pickup trucks had long been popular in plenty of other places, such as Central America, Nissan was the first to figure out that Americans who did not necessarily need to transport a six-person landscaping crew to the job site might like a four-door truck, too. Immediately, every other manufacturer followed suit, and now the top-selling segment of the truck market is one that essentially did not exist 10 years ago. So when we see a Nissan Frontier Crew Cab, we're seeing the truck that started the four-door trend.
And since 1999? Well, the current Frontier, which was redesigned for the 2005 model year, is an exceptionally nice compact truck, but the last frontier it conquered was in '99. Which is fine, because no other manufacturer, with the exception of the Honda Ridgeline, has really advanced the cause of the smaller-than-full-sized pickup, either. For the most part, compact-truck sales are flat or declining, largely because the full-sized-truck market is so competitive, you often can buy one of those for the same price as a smaller truck.
That said, this is a very substantial pickup. The gutsy 4.0-liter V-6 -- a 2.5-liter four-cylinder is standard, but you want the V-6 -- ought to be enough for anyone. With 261 horsepower -- 30 more than the 4.6-liter V-8 in the full-sized Ford F-150 pickup -- a Frontier with the V-6 will tow a healthy 6,300 pounds, which is plenty for a truck this size. If you need more, then there's the full-sized Nissan Titan, which comes with only the 5.6-liter V-8.
The Frontier is, in fact, built on the same chassis as the big Titan, just trimmed down a bit. Overall length of the Frontier Crew Cab I tested was 205.5 inches, and that's with the standard bed. For 2007, you also can get a long-bed version of the Frontier Crew Cab, which totals 219.4 inches in length, about 6 inches shorter than the Titan. If it sounds as if the Frontier is pretty big for a compact pickup, it is, and that certainly has been the trend. The longest Frontier you could get in 1999 was 196.1 inches long, and the most powerful engine was a 170-horsepower V-6.
The test Frontier, a well-equipped SE model, is more comfy than you'd think on the highway, and not at all unpleasant to drive on a twisty road. Front seats are excellent, and rear seats are acceptable even for adults, though getting in and out takes a little twisting and turning. It's an easy truck to get comfortable in, and it's certainly muscular enough to get some work done.
But the price: At $25,960, it's on par with comparable trucks, but it also isn't far removed from a comparable Titan.
Hmm. Your money, your call.