With a rugged fully boxed frame, the midsize Nissan Frontier pickup walks the line between compact pricing and efficiency and full size power and utility. Offered with a four-seat extended cab or a five-passenger crew cab, the Frontier provides everything from fuel-sipping four-cylinder economy to four-wheel drive off-road prowess.
2005 to Present: Nissan Frontier
The second-generation Nissan Frontier was introduced for the 2005 model year and refreshed for 2009. Nissan’s midsize pickup truck is available as a Crew Cab model that provides front bucket seats and a three-passenger bench seat that lifts to double as a cargo area. An extended cab (King Cab) model provides seating for four, with full-size front seats complemented by two fold down seats in the back. The tradeoff for the King cab’s limited rear passenger space is the truck’s 6-foot bed versus the 5-foot bed found on Crew Cab models.
Depending on trim level, the Frontier is powered by Nissan’s 152-horsepower, 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine or a 261-horsepower, 4.0-liter V6. Five- or six-speed manual transmissions are offered, as well as a five-speed automatic. Rear-wheel drive is standard and four-wheel drive is available.
The Frontier features full-length, boxed ladder frame construction that provides the strength and durability needed for a purpose-built truck. While not a luxury vehicle, the Frontier strives to be a well-rounded truck that’s equally comfortable on the highway as it is off road. The King Cab’s fold down seats work well in a pinch for rear passengers. When not in use, the King Cab’s rear seats easily fold away to provide plenty of extra storage space. The Crew Cab model has two full-size rear doors for easy ingress and egress. The rear bench seat is made for three passengers, providing plenty of room for two adults or three children.
The base Frontier provides only basic no-frills interior comfort, but the fit and finish is excellent, especially for the price. Midlevel trims provide the basic amenities that most are looking for in a new vehicle, including keyless entry, cruise control and more.
Off-road ready versions of the Frontier can be fitted with Bilstein performance shocks and custom interior and exterior touches. Features like a rearview camera became available starting with the 2013 model year.
Earlier Nissan Frontier Models
The Nissan Frontier debuted for 1998 as a compact pickup truck. Available as a two-seat regular cab or a four-passenger King Cab, the 1998 Frontier is powered by a 143-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine and a five-speed manual transmission; a four-speed automatic is available. A 170-horsepower, 3.3-liter V6 was added to the lineup for 1999. Rear-wheel drive is standard and four-wheel drive is available. When introduced, the Frontier was available in base, XE and SE trims.
A four-door, five-passenger Crew Cab model was introduced for the 2000 model year, as was the off-road ready Desert Runner trim.
For 2001, Nissan gave the Frontier a facelift and added a supercharger to the 3.3-liter V6 engine, resulting in a more powerful 210-horsepower SC trim. The sporty and off-road oriented Frontier SC also includes 17-inch alloy wheels and a limited-slip differential.
The first-generation Frontier offers plenty of utility and performance with a budget-conscious price tag. Earlier models provide excellent no-frills basic transportation, though the formula continually evolved through the first-generation’s six-year run with additional features and amenities appearing with each subsequent model year.
While the current Frontier’s midsize designation creates a bigger market for the truck, the first-generation’s compact size makes the 1998-2004 Frontier an excellent choice if you want to add a second vehicle for weekend warrior projects or light towing.