Poor Nissan.

How you take that depends on how much you know about the company. According to the trade publication Automotive News, Nissan's debt-to-equity ratio is 350 percent and is forecasting a loss for this fiscal year, it's sixth loss in seven years.

Nissan sold its Tokyo headquarters and sales in the United Statesare the same as last year's, despite a booming market and heavy incentives. Rumors are swirling that Nissan will soon join with another company.

So Nissan is hoping that its new pickup truck, the Frontier will help forge new paths of profitability.

The Frontier although not as interesting as the previous design is conservative yet handsome. It garnered some favorable comments, although no one seemed to recognize which brand of truck it was. Like many new Nissan designs, it takes no chances. This is understandable in light of their lingering financial burden.

The truck comes in Regular Cab or King Cab in XE trim level. An SE V-6 trim level is available only on the King Cab. All models are available as a 4x2 or 4x4.

When it debuted earlier this year, Nissan equipped it only with a 143-horsepower, double-overhead-cam, 16-valve, 4-cylinder engine. With 154 foot-pounds of torque hauling around a 3,499-pound vehicle, this Frontier would let the scenery drift by very slowly. So for 1999, Nissan introduces a V-6 in XE or SE trim levels on the King Cab only. The 3.3-liter, single-overhead-cam, 16-valve engine produces 170 horsepower and 200 foot pounds of torque. With almost 4,000 pounds to haul around, this engine has a bit more life than its smaller sibling. It has a satisfying amount of power. The V6 yields a 5,000-pound towing capacity and 1,200-pound payload.

The four-cylinder comes mated to a five-speed manual only, while V6 models get a choice of the manual or four-speed automatic. The four-wheel-drive system is a part-time system for use in bad weather or off-road. It's actuated through a console-mounted lever that sits to the left of the transmission shifter.

For those of us who are taller, your right knee will intersect perfectly with this lever. The flat bucket seats don't adjust for rake, so the seating position can become tiring.

The door panels come straight from the Pathfinder, but their trimmed out in a less-expensive fashion. The dash is somewhat similar, and is typically well laid out in the Asian idiom. The exception is the radio, mounted below the climate controls. Again, this mimics the Pathfinder, although the Frontier bets a more-rounded radio design.

The AM/FM/cassette/CD stereo had average sound quality, but it had trouble pulling in distant signals.

Overall, the assembly quality was quite good. The cabin was roomy -- just don't expect anyone other than kids or really drunk friends to ride in the rear jump seats.

Road noise is average for the class, while the ride is firm without being stiff. Still, you won't find this vehicle a soft ride. There was some body l ean around corners, but that's not unusual in this class. Rear bump steer was non-existent in normal maneuvers. Turning radius was nice and compact for a truck.

The test model, an SE King Cab had body side graphics, smart-looking fender flares, fog lamps and step rails. It was also equipped with an optional Power Package (consisting of power locks/windows/mirrors, security system, keyless entry and cruise control). It also had an optional sport package (a flip-up sunroof and upgraded stereo). The sunroof cover rattled through most of the test.

Safety is well accounted for, with dual air-bags (with passenger side shut-off switch) and four-wheel, anti-lock front-disc/rear-drum brakes.

What Nissan is hoping is that you'll rush out and buy one.

But with average interior appointments and a solid -- if conservative -- redesign, one wonders how sales will increase in light of the intense competition in the truck market.

It's a solid vehicle, but with little to ma ke it sta nd out in a crowded market.

1999 Nissan Frontier 4x4 SE-V6 King Cab

Engine: 3.3-liter SOHC 16-valve V6

Transmissions: 5-speed manual or 4-speed automatic

Tires: P265/70R15 all-season tires

Standard: 3.3-liter V6, power assist anti-lock brakes, dual air-bags, front and rear stabilizer bars, auto-locking front hubs, two-speed transfer case, full-size spare, step rails, sliding rear window, fog lamps, removable tailgate, tie-down hooks, air-conditioning, AM/FM/ cassette stereo, center console with cupholders, auxiliary power outlets, passenger vanity mirror.

Major options: Power package, Sport Package, limited-slip differential, bedliner

Base price, base model: $20,710

Base price, test model: $21,240

As tested: $24,017

EPA rating: 15 mpg city, 19 mpg highway

Test mileage: 16 mpg