By on August 1, 2013

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The compact pickup is an endangered species in North America, but the reasons for its demise depend on which camp you ask. Its proponents will tell you that CAFE, the chicken tax and marketing campaigns have all conspired to kill off small trucks. Detractors claim that the new generation of full-size trucks are just as fuel-efficient and affordable, while in many cases being more refined.

I really like pickups, but haven’t had a lot of seat time in them. Hell, it wasn’t that long ago that I mistakenly called the new Ram 1500 a “quarter ton” pickup, with some members of the B&B responding in a manner that made Kohmeni’s fatwa against Salman Rushdie look measured and calm. In keeping with our new mandate to expand TTAC’s rental review program, I decided to work out my Zipcar membership when I needed to haul two sets of R-Compound tires and wheels to the tire shop. And it just so happened that I ended up with what could actually be called a quarter-ton pickup.

For $14.25 per hour or $113 per day (including taxes, insurance, fuel and 120 miles of driving), Zipcar’s Toronto outpost offers you a choice of a Nissan Frontier or a Toyota Tacoma. There is no vague “pickup truck” category that surprises you with the exact model. You can pick your car of choice assuming it’s available at the time you want it. It just so happened that all the Tacomas were booked up, but the Zipcar website showed a Lava Red Frontier Crew Cab SL.

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Imagine my surprise when I strolled up to the parking lot (above the fold, situated in the showroom for one of the city’s ubiquitous condo development projects) to see a silver, base model “King Cab”, Nissan’s nomenclature for an extended cab truck. Press fleets never stock such a basic vehicle, so I seized the opportunity to get behind the wheel of a truly basic vehicle.

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This Frontier’s sole option was the automatic transmission hooked up to the 2.5L 4-cylinder engine. It had basic creature comforts like air-conditioning, power locks and windows and a tinny sound system, but everything else was decidedly poverty-spec. I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen block-off switches in a new car.

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Not that I blame Zipcar for ordering the most basic trim. I’d be hard pressed to think of a car that has gone through a rougher life than a pickup being operated by an urban car sharing service. Those 23,479 km (14,589 miles) are without a doubt some of the hardest ever racked up on any car. But a quick walk-around reveals something disconcerting for such low mileage.

rust2

Rust. All over the unlined bed. This car has likely had all sorts of crap mercilessly tossed in the back, and gone through one wretched winter of road salt and associated grime, but I find the notion of surface rust all over the bed (the spots were too numerous to photograph) to be rather disconcerting after such a short service life.

rust3

 

Undettered by the corrosion, I made the 7 mile journey from the lot to my storage area, which necessitated a drive through dense, urban traffic. And you know what? I quite liked the Frontier. The 2.5L 4-cylinder is hardly a model of refinement, and it’s quite eager to rev up and make lots of noise without doing anything, but for this kind of driving, it was perfectly adequate. The ride quality was most surprising: it was hard to unsettle the Frontier. I’ve driven other Japanese full-sizers with far worse ride quality, and NVH for that matter. This truck was quiet, something I noticed because the stereo was so awful that turning it up even one-quarter of the way would immediately make everything sound like a Yoko Ono performance art piece. By far the biggest dynamic letdown were the brakes, which were as firm as a moldy apricot.

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Once I finally arrived, I was easily able to fit all 8 wheels into the fairly long bed. Once the rims were separated from the tires, I threw a set on the pitiful jump seats, which are suitable for a house cat at best. It’s hard to imagine any human or canine being comfortable back there for any period of time.

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In this setting, the Frontier performed admirably. One might even say its spartan character lent it a bit of charm and I was perfectly satisfied with the way it performed. I can’t say it’s an object of lust for me like a nicely equipped F-Series or RAM 1500 might be, but I’d have no problem renting one again.

The big problem that this and other mid-size trucks face is when customers take a look at actually purchasing one. For the same $22,218 Nissan wants for this exact truck in Canada, you can get a far superior full-size truck. Take Canada’s best-seller, the Ford F-150, for example. Ford is now offering a basic V6 standard cab F-150 XL for just over $18,000, while a 5.0L STX can be had for $19,611 – add another $1000 for the 5.0L V8 and you’re still undercutting the 4-cylinder Frontier with a truck that is undoubtedly a generation ahead of the Frontier. Add 4-wheel drive to the mix and you’re stepping up to the $27,218 Frontier SV V6, while adding it to the STX brings the total to $22,911. Given that the Frontier and F-150′s respective powertrains are within 1-2 mpg of each other, the fuel economy argument becomes moot. And at 205 inches long, this Frontier isn’t exactly the ideal urban truck that people tend to think of when discussing smaller trucks. All this illustrates exactly why mid-size trucks have had such a tough go in the United States (and Canada for that matter). The new full-sizers are better than ever and priced so competitively that it’s tough to make the case for one over a full-size truck. I’ll leave it to the commentariat to make the case. For now I’m not quite convinced.

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142 Comments on “Rental Review: 2012 Nissan Frontier S King Cab 4×2...”


  • avatar
    Jimal

    Personal preference. I’ve owned and driven plenty of pickups of various sizes over the years and I prefer compacts. Size isn’t always everything and bigger isn’t always better.

    • 0 avatar
      RobertRyan

      Very true

    • 0 avatar
      jeffzekas

      Agreed- I’ve always liked small trucks, and resented how Toyota has made its “small” Tacoma so much larger, over the years. Folks would buy a truly small new truck (think 1970) with a fuel efficient motor, if such a beast were available- but if that’s your desire, then the only real choice is a used small truck- and it’s gotten harder to find a clean 70′s or early 80′s Toyota or Datsun at a reasonable price.

    • 0 avatar
      lunosalpha

      Exactly. Why is this so hard to understand. I don’t want a huge pickup, value be damned. Let’s be honest, the current F-150 and it’s competitors are beyond ridiculously huge. And it’s mostly wasted space. The only F-150 I would be interested in was back in the mid 90′s when it was still reasonably sized.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      And how many of you guys that prefer a compact truck, and live in North America, have actually went out and bought a brand new compact pickup in the last 10 years?

      Fact is that as of last year the total number of compact pickups sold was less than what the Ranger sold by itself in 2001 and that was down significantly from its peak. In 1986 1.4 million compact pickups were sold in the US while in 2012 about 265K were sold, less than 20% of the market’s peak.

      • 0 avatar
        RobertRyan

        “Compact Trucks” have not been updated in the US, unlike their Global cousins.So a “new” Tacoma is actually a pretty old model ,akin to the old Toyota Surf Hilux that was sold in the late 1990′s.

      • 0 avatar
        mkirk

        Did it 3 weeks ago.

      • 0 avatar
        morbo

        Yo. One 2003 Little Red Ranger (bought used in ’06).

        Great for city hauling in Atlantic City and mud bogging in the Pine Barrens. Equivalent Tacoma/Frontier/Dakota/Canyon too expensive/less fun/too big/made from excrement, lies, and rust.

      • 0 avatar
        NMGOM

        Scoutdude – - –

        Three years ago, I bought my 2010 Nissan Frontier Crew Cab (4×2), with long bed; color is “Night Armor”. The truck is fantastic, and I love it. It tows 5,000 lbs, hauls 1500 lbs, seats 5 people, and gets 24-25 mpg on the highway, even though its EPA-listed as 16/20. To prevent wear-and-tear in the bed, I had the factory do the spray-in bed-liner coating. No rusting AT ALL so far, and I really appreciate the 260 HP, torque-happy, 4-liter V-6.

        But why this truck?
        Well, in 2010, there were only TWO trucks available here with a manual transmission (MT), essential for me:
        1) Nissan Frontier, equipped as above, for ~$24K;
        2) RAM 2500 HD, with Cummins Diesel, similarly equipped, for ~$40K

        So, despite my love for RAM trucks (I have a 1996 RAM 1500, with MT), this choice was a no-brainer. And the Frontier is a simple, basic, uncluttered truck, with no frills – exactly what I wanted. (And yes, I live in the USA.)

        BTW, Derek, thanks for the review. Obviously my experience has not at all been like your findings, and I do think the market can sustain at least a mid-size category (the Frontier is mid-size). But in all honesty, if the basic Ford F150 or Ram 1500, or GMC had come out with an MT-truck in 2010, the price points would have been much closer, and I might have gone full-size. To be competitive now though, mid-size offerings like the Frontier would have to get at least 30 mpg highway.

        ———————–

        • 0 avatar
          Scoutdude

          I thought Toyota was still offering a manual trans at that time. But yeah unfortunately manual transmissions are another thing that has went away because there were just not enough sales to justify keeping them on the market.

  • avatar
    TorontoSkeptic

    So you live in the King West area? Not exactly an ideal location for a car-lover as parking is damn scarce…

    Does Nissan just stick in the Altima base engine here, or is it a different 2.5L 4-cylinder?

    I’ll admit it looks like a dog but this truck is on the Consumer Reports “Recommended list.” And come on, this is TTAC, shouldn’t we give credit for the base model coming standard with a 5-speed manual?!

  • avatar
    PlookStick

    I traded a 2007 Frontier SE Crew Cab 2WD 4.0L V6 6-speed manual transmission, for a 2009 F-150 XLT “Super Crew” Cab 2WD 4.6L V8 6-speed automatic- and have never looked back.

    The big Ford is much more spacious and comfortable, actually is just as quick off the line, gets the same or better fuel economy, and rides MUCH better. Also, so far, it has required less trips to the shop.

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      No doubt that is all true. But for some, myself included, the physical size is just a turn off, period. I don’t want all the space in the driveway hogged up, and I just don’t like driving something that is so large. Being that I was involved with a decade long house restoration project (well, you’re never really finished) I thought hard about buying a truck for material purchases. In the end I just had the largest items delivered. It actually was the most cost-effective solution. You would be quite surprised what you can carry with a roof rack system on your car.

      • 0 avatar
        PlookStick

        The F150 is a little hard to park sometimes, yes.

        However honestly the Frontier drove like a full size truck in every way other than size. The turning circle was huge, and the V6 was thirsty even when driving with fuel economy in mind. It was also fairly expensive to maintain.

        Further, I forgot to mention that Nissan recommended premium fuel for the 4.0, further contributing to full size running costs.

  • avatar

    BTW, they still sell Tacomas with manual windows and manual transmission. The price of those undercuts even the most basic F-150. Still not makes them viable in the market.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      So far this year, the Tacoma is the 24th best selling vehicle in the US. They’ve sold about 60% more Tacomas than BMW has sold 3-series cars in the US. It isn’t competing with any UAW full sized pickup in volume other than the badge-engineered GMC Sierra, but it’s probably viable at 160,000 sales a year. Killing them will be down to CAFE.

    • 0 avatar
      BunkerMan

      Here in Canada it’s a little different. A stripper Tacoma is $21,335. The base F-150 is $18,014.

      • 0 avatar
        DenverMike

        Stripper Tacomas in Canada only come in Access cabs. No more regular cab Tacos for you. And that makes Taco sales drop quite a bit vs. US sales. The Hyundai Veloster and Audi A4 outsell the Tacoma in Canada.

        http://bestsellingcarsblog.com/2011/10/29/canada-september-2011-honda-civic-reclaims-passenger-cars-1-spot/

  • avatar
    eggsalad

    Neither Nissan nor Toyota have updated their trucks in a long time. I imagine their costs are fully amortized, so sales are likely very profitable. As long as there are buyers who want smaller trucks, regardless of the fact that the MPG or price isn’t particularly competitive relative to full-size trucks, Nissan and Toyota will probably continue to sell them.

    Of interesting note is that Nissan abandoned the regular-cab Frontier a while back. I can only assume either they weren’t selling, or weren’t profitable.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      Nissan sidestepped most of the cheapskates, fleet and other bottom feeders when they eliminated their regular cabs. Hey Orkin. I didn’t mean you specifically.

  • avatar
    ToxicSludge

    The demise of compact pickup trucks in the USA squarely rests on the shoulders of the oem’s,not the consumers.We,(me included) faithfully bought our favorite brand and got many years of service out them.They were for the most part,built well,got decent power and mpg’s for the time.Mine were all 4X4′s.Basic for me was ac and cruise,rollup windows and a shit stereo.Perfect for me,and countless others.But somewhere along the line two things happened:the trucks started getting bigger and more expensive,and the oem’s,once they sized them up,started to neglect them.The engines stayed the same while their ‘car’ counterparts got new fuel efficient engines,ours stayed the same,year after year.Meanwhile with a few body styling updates the prices soon ended up near to the full size pickups that did have bigger,yet more efficient engines so where do you go? Yes,then we started buying the reg cab full size for almost the same prices as the not-so-small trucks.Then they went by the wayside and sales dropped bigtime.Now all we have here is the taco,and the frontier in their ancient over-bloated glory,and damned expensive too.”Build them and they will sell”,maybe.But don’t ignore them like you did the last time or the same will happen yet again.Rant over….

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      Sorry but now the sales started to drop off when the current or recent designs debuted. For example the Colorado/Canyon twins lost half of their sales after only 3 years on the market.

      • 0 avatar
        ToxicSludge

        The colorado/canyon were shit beyond belief,and sales soon reflected that.I bought a new 07 colorado ext cab Z71 and it spent more time in the shop then at my house.When it was home everytime it rained both front footwells were full of water.I got rid of it shortly after one year of ownership.I’m in my 60′s and that was the single worst new vehicle I have ever had.Do a google if you don’t believe me.That is why gm shut it down.Also look up the abs pumps that would run the battery down AND lock up all four corners.They had to sent a rollback to mu place TWICE for that alone,at 80 miles round trip each,at chevies expense.The ranger was discontinued because it went virtually unchanged for many years and was as stale as last weeks bread.

        • 0 avatar
          Scoutdude

          The didn’t create a new Ranger since the sales were tanking. Spending the money on a new truck would have been a money loser while keeping making the old one with minor updates kept the profits rolling in.

          • 0 avatar
            golden2husky

            The answer is simple really. Ford realized that as the ancient Ranger rotted on the vine, they were still capturing the sales with basic F150s. It made more business sense (in the short term) to milk the stale Ranger till it was not economical to keep the line running anymore and then kill it. And that is what they did. Had Ford decided to do a full redesign on the Ranger, and price it logically as compared to the F150, I believe Ranger sales would have been more than good enough to make the effort worthwhile. But when you figure that most of those redesigned Ranger buyers likely would have bought the F150 had a new Ranger not been available, then all the expenses for the redesign did nothing to bring in new customers. A business decision, pure and simple. Had buyers chosen to defect Ford instead of buying base F150s, well we likely would have seen a new Ranger. But they didn’t so we don’t…

          • 0 avatar
            Freddy M

            We hear that argument all the time; “well, it’s virtually the same price as the larger vehicle, so I might as well get that one.” So the argument goes that since there was more value to the consumer in the large full size pickups, they all went that way, allowing the small pickup market to wither.

            But the same argument has been echoed in the car market where multiple camps can be heard making the same argument; “well the price of the mid size car is only $XX more than the compact, so might as well go for that one,” yet it seems that in the car market, multiple segments still have a healthy existence despite the tremendous cross-shopping that can often occur between them.

            Is the pickup truck market any different? I’m really asking, I don’t buy pickups. Is the utter dominance of the Full Size market driven by the pursuit of corporate profit (i.e. don’t give them a choice, so they’ll have to buy the Full Size), or is it determined truly by the market (i.e. no one was buying the smaller one because virtually everyone saw more value in the bigger one)?

          • 0 avatar
            Summicron

            @FreddyM

            There’s another factor that makes your question even more imponderable:

            Haven’t the Transit Connect and it’s inevitable clones obsoleted commercial sales of small pickups?

            More payload in a tall, enclosed space and better mileage. They’re more ubiquitous around here than obese teens.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            “They’re more ubiquitous around here than obese teens.”

            +1

            I’d like to examine some of the examples from the first MY when they turn ten and see how they have held up. Rangers especially always seemed to respond well to moderate abuse. I still see 80s versions driving around long after the small Dodge and Chevy trucks of the period.

  • avatar
    eggsalad

    “Take Canada’s best-seller, the Ford F-150, for example. Ford is now offering a basic V6 standard cab F-150 XL for just over $18,000. . .”

    Interesting. That same vehicle (F-150, no options) lists for $23k with rebate here in the States.

    I don’t know what import rules there are for brand-new vehicles, but $5k is a chunk of change to save. Could a F-150 buyer in the states visit Canada and drive one home? It would sure be worth the trip to save $5000!

    • 0 avatar
      Preludacris

      @eggsalad
      After sales tax and assorted fees, you might come out ahead by staying home.
      Even if not in this particular case, Canadians do buy vehicles in the States relatively often, despite a disadvantageous exchange rate.

      • 0 avatar
        jim brewer

        Cost me 2.15K in the U.S. with a lot of hard-bargaining and they practically threw me out of the office after we signed the contract.

        Easy to say that advantages of small pickup trump big pickup, but I’m here to tell you the article is right. There’s just too much difference in value for money to justify a low-end small pickup. I don’t like the ungainliness of the vehicle, but I put up with it as a trade-off. I bought at the end of the Ranger–Those vehicles were pretty dreary.

        What would it take to get me in a compact? Realistically about a 20% cost and mileage advantage. i.e. 16.5 K car, with 21K city and 27K hwy mileage.

        Not gonna happen.

    • 0 avatar
      TorontoSkeptic

      Two big things to keep in mind:

      - 13% sales tax
      - “base” models are often not the same between the two countries, Canadian versions can frequently be de-contented.

      Actually most cars are much more expensive in Canada, especially on the luxury side. Many popular luxury cars are made in Canada (e.g. Acura MDX, Lexus RX350, Chrysler 300) but cost 20+% more in Canada than the US:

      http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/story/2012/06/12/ottawa-car-price-disparity-border-shopping.html

      The difference is that at the very bottom – Toyota Matrix, Dodge Caravan, Nissan Versa – the MSRP tends to be lower in Canada. I’ve never seen a 5k disparity before, I’d check what “base” model/no options means.

  • avatar
    Scoutdude

    What I see shows that the AT 4cyl Frontier has the same MPG ratings as the non-turbo V6 AT F150 while the HFE (High Fuel Economy)AT V6 version of the Ram 1500 actually out does both by 1mpg in the city, and 2mpg on the hwy and combined ratings. Yes the Manual trans Frontier beats the Ram by 1 MPG in the city, matches the combined rating, and gets 2 MPG less in hwy ratings. The results for the Tacoma 4cly aren’t much different The AT gets a little better in the city at the expensive of hwy MPG and the Manual trans does beat the city and combined ratings of the Ram while matching it on the Hwy rating.

    Why pay more for less? The only reason I can see is if you are married to the idea of doing your own shifting something you can’t get in the full size options. However fact is that many in north America just can’t be bothered to do so which of course is why that option went away on the full size trucks. So few people bought them they couldn’t justify certifying that combination as it likely would have made it more expensive for the mfg than the Automatic.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    The full-size pickups are just too darned big. This seems like a useful size, big enough for a larger person or two to get comfortable, small enough to be user friendly. You can’t even reach over the side into the bed on a full-size these days. Those jump seats would be just fine for a couple of kids. Who cares if they are comfortable anyway? They are lucky they are not riding in the bed like we all did as kids.

    Sometimes paying more for less is worth it. And I doubt very much that a full-size truck will get better mileage in the real world outside of the EPA test. For my friends with newer trucks, mid-teens seems to be the norm. Even 2-3mpg better is a huge improvement when you are talking those sort of numbers.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      It comes down to perspective. My extra cab F-150 with a 6.5′ bed is a perfect compromise between a crew cab F-350 long bed and an ’80s mini-truck. The Goldilocks of trucks? If you haven’t noticed, mid-size are darn big themselves.

      Unless you get the base regular cab, 2wd with the manual trans, you’re not getting much better MPG. And no one criticizes a mid-size 4X4 crew cab that’s getting worse MPG than my 4X4 and V8 F-150.

    • 0 avatar
      Carlson Fan

      Its all what your used to drving. My 1/2 ton Tahoe felt big after getting out of my compact Toyota, but drive the Chev for a week and the Toy felt small. Imagine my surprise when I took a road trip with it and it got 19 MPG running 75 MPH down the interstate. My Toy would have got 20 MPG. 3.0 V6 5 speed stick verus the Chevy 5.7 V8 Vortec with a 4 speed auto, both 4WD trucks. In town the Toy got 19 and the Chev 14. The Chevy got better mileage towing my 23′ cuddy(5500 lbs) than the Toy could ever muster towing my 18′ open bow(3000 lbs.).

  • avatar
    philadlj

    It’s simple: some people just don’t want a FULL-size truck; they’re too big.

    However, the number of people who feel this way and put their money where their mouths are has clearly dwindled, to the point both Ford and Ram aren’t bothering with a smaller truck anymore.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      The mass of full-size can be a deal breaker for truck buyers, but why do they reject mid-size more so? Are they even truck buyers to begin with? They don’t seem to be buying ‘either or’.

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        I had a Ranger as “my truck” for 8 years, which I thought made me someone who likes trucks.

        I’ll never have a full-sized truck as “my truck”, though, any more than I’ll have a box truck or a commercial van as “my truck”.

        So, despite owning, liking, and driving a truck for most of my adult life, I guess I’m not a “truck guy”. That’s news to me.

        But, hey, the market insists and I like my Sienna and harbor freight trailer. Like my Ranger before it, the Sienna packs in more practicality per pound than just about anything else.

        Man, and I THOUGHT I was a truck guy, just because I owned, drove, and liked my Ranger! :-)

  • avatar
    sckid213

    “I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen block-off switches in a new car.”

    Go check out a new Lexus ES that is anything but absolutely loaded to the gills. Plenty of block-off switches — even in the press photos!

  • avatar
    philadlj

    Don’t despair. I was taking a look at pictures of the $130,400 (base) 2014 911 GT3…and it has block-off switches too!

    http://www.blogcdn.com/www.autoblog.com/media/2013/08/305x203xlead11-2014-porsche-911-gt3-fd.jpg.pagespeed.ic.cTiT-ZL_sD.jpg

  • avatar
    TonyJZX

    Frontier offers a 2.5-L 4-cylinder that delivers the smoothness of a V6. The engine is made out of a lightweight aluminum engine block backed by a massive 152 horsepower and 171 lb-ft of unrelenting torque that translates into brute strength. And that’s exactly what gives Frontier the ability to easily tow your ski boat or a trailer full of quads. Frontier delivers the perfect combination of efficiency and power.

    lol

    ‘massive power’

    ‘unrelenting torque’

    where i am these are only available as turbo diesels and they are popular since they cost about the same as a midrange Cruze

    they are still very large though… reverse parking them isnt much fun especially if it has an alloy tray that has some overhang

  • avatar
    ringomon

    My father has one of these! He actually has the stripper model with manual transmission AND manual doorlocks/windows.
    The reason he got it is because he likes stripped down vehicles, and it fits in his garage. An F150 doesn’t. He had a Dakota before.

    I’ve had quite a bit of seat time in it. The stereo is one of the worst I’ve ever heard.
    They got the extended cab so the black lab could ride in the back (on the floor- not on the jump seat). The Tacoma with the extended cab has a shorter bed I believe.
    My parents ride a tandem so they needed a certain length bed to accommodate. They also put a canoe on top sometimes.

    My wife has ridden in the back on the jump seat for some around town trips. Nothing you’d want to do a road-trip with, but good enough for a little added flexibility.

    All in all a practical choice for my dad, who really didn’t have a choice when it came to fulfilling his specific parameters- fits in the garage, under a certain price, the dog has a place to sit, bed long enough for his bicycles. No rust yet either after a year or two living in Ohio, which is a little lower in the salt belt but still in the salt belt nonetheless.

    • 0 avatar
      TonyJZX

      i dont have a problem much with manual windows but we have the basic “city utility” spec model which is white with steel wheels, rubber liner insert and vinyl floor mats and prison spec cloth seats, basic single CD player

      you see these all the time with “Water Board” and “City Electricity” stickers on the side

      they invariably have heaps left over at the end of the finanicial year and the public can buy them brand new

      even these have full electrics and central locking like any western grade vehicle

      i dont mind them too much… its a truck, not an Audi Q7

  • avatar
    mkirk

    I agree that if you can get by with a regular cab truck the Full Size work truck trim is hard to beat. A place in Tennessee was advertising basic F150s for somewhere around 16k a few weeks ago.

    What I found though was if you wanted 4 doors the mid size was where its at. I got a basic 2013 Frontier with an Automatic and a trailer hitch receiver as the only options for right at 20k out the door. The full sizers with room for 4 were considerably more.

    The Crew Cab comes with the 260 HP VQ series 4.0 V6. Interestingly the Frontier dropped in price for the 2013 MY I believe. Also, power windows and locks are not standard, at least on US trucks as mine has manual windows and locks. A couple hundred bucks and about 30 minutes addressed the awful radio. 100 bucks for proper vinyl floor mats and I’ll probably add an aftermarket, non vacuum cruise for a couple hundred more and roll some Monstaliner on the bed that I already have and call it good. I am quite happy with the truck and the only folks I know getting close to the rated MPG with full size trucks have Dodges. I generally get right at 20 city which works for me but yes, had I been able to drive a regular cab I likely would have purchased an F150 or outgoing GM model. I didn’t care for the Ram.

  • avatar
    Sigivald

    “Rust. All over the unlined bed. This car has likely had all sorts of crap mercilessly tossed in the back, and gone through one wretched winter of road salt and associated grime, but I find the notion of surface rust all over the bed (the spots were too numerous to photograph) to be rather disconcerting after such a short service life.”

    People who care what their bed looks like or are worried about rust, get a bedliner, often as a factory option.

    The only interesting thing here is that the rental company doesn’t think a bedliner is worth the cost vs. the depreciation of damage to the bed.

    And probably they’re right.

    (Compared with normal car uses, a pickup bed is the Roughest Possible Environment. Things get literally thrown in it, or left to rattle around, or someone dumps in loose gravel and shovels it out [along with some paint].

    Truck people know this, and either accept that the bed will get lost paint and then rust, or get a bedliner before ever using it.

    My old Toyota never had a bedliner, and got some surface rust after a while where I’d scraped off the paint – but by truck standards, I babied it, only ever really hauling either camping gear or light trash, and putting a canopy on it to keep the worst of the weather out…)

  • avatar
    ajla

    Although I wasn’t a huge fan of the overall execution. I think the final version of the Dakota was just about the perfect size for a general use pickup truck.

    • 0 avatar
      Halftruth

      I had an 04 Dakota and it was a great truck. I went to a 2012 Toyota and still prefer the Dakota. It was slightly bigger and everything was a tad more beefier. Don’t get me wrong, the 4 cylinder Tacoma is more than adequate and so far so good. I also have a hard time believing the F series trucks get comparable mileage. Hogwash.

      I did test drive a 2010 Frontier some time ago and the whole thing seemed flimsy to me. I didn’t even go a half mile down the street before I returned it. My one impression was how wildly the bed shook when going over bumps. You could see it in the rear view shaking when compared to the cab. The interior was mid 90′s GM vintage as well. Pieces creaking and loose fitting. Just plain bad.

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      That’s why I still have my ’02 V8 Dakota Quad Cab. It’s the perfect size. Fits in my garage AND tows my 16′ boat. Granted 13 mpg isn’t great but would a full size return anything better while towing? I owned a V6 Ranger prior to the Dak and it was under powered and a touch small. I’ve driven full size Rams and they are just HUGE. I can’t even SEE my boat in their rear-view mirrors as the tail gate is higher then the boat!

  • avatar
    Lorenzo

    These rental reviews are starting to get to me. Every time I rent a car, all they have left is a white Impala. The last time I didn’t get an Impala was 2003, when they gave me a 1998 Volvo S70 sedan. It broke down 5 miles from the airport, and they brought me an Impala. How do you get these choices? What’s the secret?

    • 0 avatar
      mkirk

      I have been fed a steady diet of Camarys and Altimas with an occasional Kia Optima. I always see them in the rental lot so I know they are there, but it has been some time since I got a domestic.

  • avatar
    andyinatl

    I’ll consider full size truck when i don’t have to climb into bed every time i need to get something. Last truck i had was 2000 GMC Sierra, and i loved that truck. It fit our family with comfort, and it was manageable size-wise. New Sierra is a monstrosity that’s completely unusable outside of work sites. Majority of people buying new trucks are commuters, that use truck for its intended purpose maybe twice a year (christmas tree and an odd mulch bag in the spring). When my in-laws come and park their Tundra on my driveway, they completely block my view from inside the house, so i can’t see kids playing anymore.

    Thanks, but i’ll stick to cars now, and maybe if i feel a need for a truck, i’ll buy me a Tacoma, because the rest of the trucks are not for me.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    Derek, a very interesting insight into one of your midsizers.

    We don’t have the salt issue here in Australia, also we would have had a trayback or flatbed on a rental vehicle. Trayback utes are far more durable.

    What I also find amusing is some of the comments to try and justify the purchase of a fullsize pickup.

    It seems some who buy a fullsize pickup would also ‘upsize’ at McDonalds. They view size with value, is it really better value to have a larger truck?

    There is a huge fullsize market in US/Canada, but as pickups become more SUV like I think size will become less of an issue, like purchasing a car. People don’t just view size as a sign of value when buying a car.

    You guys also have a poor choice of engines in NA with your midsizers. Our Frontier/Navara generally has a 2.5 diesel that is getting over 30mpg on the highway. Considering it’s about 185hp and 320ftlb of torque that’s much better. The best engine in the Frontier/Navara is the V6 diesel with 230hp and 420ftlb of torque, and it still gets over 30mpg on the highway.

    A comparison between one of the current generation Ranger/BT50, Colorado/Dmax, VW Amarok would show that these new midsizers are competitive against a fullsize truck for 99% of what a fullsize is generally used for.

    Most of you guys haven’t experienced a new global midsizer, you can only look at one of your outdated Frontier’s or Taco’s. They really are quite agricultural. It also appears GM’s US Colorado will be ‘downgraded’ also. I mean why redesign a vehicle that also designed?

    Even here in Australia the Hilux and Navara are considered outdated by a long shot. They are capable, but not in the same league as the current midsizers we have.

    It’s a pity the NA vehicle market is socialist/protectionist or you could get your hands on one, even as a grey market vehicle for an enthusiast.

    Your new fullsize trucks would be on par with a current midsizer in overall performance, that’s what scares Detroit or there would be no protectionist barriers preventing them coming into the NA market.

    It’s about time Canada says to the US enough is enough we will shape our own vehicle market.

    Don’t get me wrong I’m not anti fullsize, I actually think they are fantastic vehicles, but so are the smaller trucks, especially the current generation.

    • 0 avatar
      racer193

      Im from Canada and I would happily have a colarado/ dmax. supposedly they will offer this truck here in the near future but not with a diesel. I could only wish for a mid size truck with a diesel as that would be my ideal rig useful as a daily and for the things I do with a pickup such as light towing and parts hauling. somday maybe.

    • 0 avatar

      Hey Big Al!

      I’ve driven all. IMO the last gen Ranger was top of the heap with the Hilux close and the Frontier (here in Brazil it’s Frontier (Navarra could have some unwelcome connotations if read wrong in Portuguese!) somewhat better than the old Chevy S10.

      With the new ones I think the Ranger is still tops, the Amarok and new Chevy S10 come close while the Japanese trucks lag very far behind. To be honest, I didn’t like the Amarok all that much, though it’s less jumpy than the Chevy.

      Don’t really think the US is all that socialist, but Americans really are missing out on the new midsizers.

      • 0 avatar
        Big Al from Oz

        @Marcelo de Vasconcellos
        I’m not calling Americans socialist, but the protectionist system of tariffs and taxes etc, only really allow for the manufacture of pickups within the US.

        You can’t even grey import a pickup into the US, but pretty much elsewhere in the modern world you can grey import US pickups.

        • 0 avatar
          Onus

          I agree. Everywhere i have been i have seen atleast 1 f150. Its the first thing i look for.

          But, the rules are stupid. We should see this change soon with the eu / us free trade. Both sides behind recognizing each other standards. Can’t wait.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      Sorry but you view from down under is just not an accurate picture of the US. You keep spouting how our market is protected to save the US manufacturers from competition. Fact is if Ford wanted to bring in the global Ranger they could and would. They wanted to bring the Transit Connect over and they did w/o paying one dime in chicken tax. Daimler/Chrysler wanted to bring the Sprinter over and they did, again w/o paying a dime in chicken tax. But the fact is the market has spoken and very few want a compact/mid size truck. In 04 the big players Ford, Dodge/Ram, GM, Toyota and Nissan sold about 625K compact/midsize trucks. In 2012 that was down to about 265K. At its peak the Ranger sold about 350K by itself. GM plans to bring in their Global Colorado/Canyon or what ever they are going to call it this time and they will almost certainly will lose money on the deal. If for some strange reason it takes off and sells in serious numbers you can bet that Ford will have the global Ranger on the market by the next model year. It was designed to be able to meet the US standards from the beginning, since they were in fact planning on bringing it here before the market for such a vehicle disappeared.

      As far as your repeated comment that the diesels you see down under get so much better MPG you always seem to forget that is a relatively dirty diesel engine that when made to pass US emissions standards will loose 10~20% or even more of that MPG advantage.

      • 0 avatar
        RobertRyan

        No they had to strip and rebuild both the Transit and Sprinter. not A CHEAP exercise, try doing yourself, That would add thoiusands of uneccessary cost to a vehicle.

        “GM plans to bring in their Global Colorado/Canyon or what ever”
        Fascinating comment after they have done an extensive business case of BUILDING the Colorado in the US.

        ” you always seem to forget that is a relatively dirty diesel engine that when made to pass US emissions standards will loose 10~20% or even more of that MPG advantage”

        US Diesels have always had a reputation for bad fuel economy here. As it stands US EPA reg diesels cannot be imported into Australia, so it is basically a non issue.

      • 0 avatar
        RobertRyan

        The Sprinter and Transir connect have cost their OEM’s a ton of money to rebuild , try doing it yourself.

        “GM plans to bring in their Global Colorado/Canyon or what ever they are going to call it this time and they will almost certainly will lose money on the deal.”
        After doing an extensive business case of BUILDING it in the US, GM thinks otherwise.

        “As far as your repeated comment that the diesels you see down under get so much better MPG you always seem to forget that is a relatively dirty diesel engine that when made to pass US emissions standards will loose 10~20% or even more of that MPG advantage.”
        US Diesels have always had poor fuel economy in Australia. As they do not pass current Euro V regulations here, it does not matter.

        • 0 avatar
          Scoutdude

          There is no rebuilding of the Transit Connect. They install a very cheap second row of seats and seat belts so it is imported as a passenger vehicle and then if it will be sold as a cargo version the remove the seat and throw it in the shredder.

          In the case of pickup they just import it as an incomplete vehicle make and instal a bed somewhere in North America.

          Yes Daimler went a more complicated way with the Sprinter by removing the engine and trans on the completed vehicle and then reinstalling it in the US. But I think you are grossly overestimating the cost of doing so. If I can instal a rebuilt engine in 10-12 hours that includes transferring all the accessories, manifolds, brackets ect while having to figure out which wrenches, sockets, extensions ect to use, certainly someone working on an assembly line with a complete ready to plug and play engine and trans can do it in no more than 1/2 that time. Plus at least at this end it is done with non-union labor.

          • 0 avatar
            RobertRyan

            Transit Connect has less “surgery” than the Sprinter, but it still adds a lot of cost. The Sprinter sounds like a RHD Conversion here and they are fairly expensive,
            It would be a lot less onerous on the OEM’s if they could import the vehicles in a “ready to go’ manner like they do with cars from overseas that arrive in RoRo Ships.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            Yes, “Chicken tax” workarounds cost OEMs hundreds of dollars per truck, but that’s about what it costs OEMs for the 2.5% tariff on import cars. So why do people cry about the Chicken tax, but don’t shed a tear for tariffs against import cars?

            http://online.wsj.com/article/SB125357990638429655.html

          • 0 avatar
            Scoutdude

            I’m just not seeing a big expense fitting the bare minimum of what meets the definition of a back seat and seat belts. At the supplier cost those items can’t be more than $100~$150 and pulling them out and throwing them in the shredder can’t take more than a few minutes per vehicle. Changing from glass to a steep panel as is done on some also just can’t add that much cost.

            The Sprinter is more involved that is for certain but if that process adds more than $500 total I’d be really surprised. I’d put it at $200~$250 considering the fact that the plant that re-installs the engine is non union.

            Yes it would be cheaper to import them as is but the added cost obviously isn’t high enough to keep those that want to be in the market out.

        • 0 avatar
          Onus

          Epa 2010 diesel emissions are much much more strigent than euro V diesel emissions.

          Euro VI is equivalent to epa 2010. This is why in the us we are starting to get diesel’s. The design work has to be done anyway with dpf, and scr, to be sold in europe and its a simple software change at that point to switch between the two standards.

          • 0 avatar
            RobertRyan

            @Scoutdude,
            It costs Ford $2000-3000 on a “at cost” vehicle like the Transit.
            The Sprinter costs many thousands more replacing engines and transmissions is not a cheap process. Same as converting a LHD to RHD Vehicles.
            That is why the Sprinter is expensive in the US, but cheap and common in Europe.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            RobertRyan-

            It does not cost Ford $2000-3000 dollars to take the seats out of a Transit Connect. Don’t be ridiculous. They don’t even have to take the seats out of some of them. I’m sure the cost will go down even further since they are trying to market the wagon version as a minivan alternative.

            The WSJ says “hundreds of dollars per vehicle”.

            I’ve heard $200-300

          • 0 avatar
            RobertRyan

            @bball40dtw
            No related costs for the OEM, not just taking out seats and putting them back in. It is shipping them from Turkey, then having expensive labor(UAW) doing the reassembling. The Labor and transport costs add up.
            Luckily they are not doing major surgery like Mercedes, than the Transit would not be viable.

          • 0 avatar
            Scoutdude

            @Robert yes they have to pay shipping from Turkey but any vehicle imported from one country to another incurs some shipping cost. As bball noted there is no way that seat and seat belts along with unlatching them add more than $200-$300 to the cost of a Transit.

            You’ve obviously never done any engine or transmission replacements. Back when the Cadillac HT4100 was still common and blowing up left and right I could have the engine out of one and sitting on the ground in about 1 hour. If I got a complete used engine to install from the wrecking yard the total process including running it for an hour or so to burp the cooling system and verify everything was working properly took about 5 hours. That was in a FWD with very poor access. When I replaced the engine in my dump truck with one that was fully assembled and ready to go except for the flywheel, clutch, alternator and carb it was a 3 1/2 hour job and that included removing the hood, and unbolting the power brake booster/master cyl and positioning it aside for clearance. So yeah replacing complete plug and play engines attached to the complete plug and play transmission is a cheap process.

      • 0 avatar
        Big Al from Oz

        @Scotdude
        There are several parts you are missing out on. I do go to the US extensively, and almost sort of live there, so to speak. You also don’t have the midsizers that are available in Australia. All you have for a comparison are vehicles of a standard we have had up to 20 years ago.

        You just don’t have the midsizers we have. Period. You can’t make a comparison.

        We also have your full size trucks. People where I work have them, one guy even drives his dual cab HD Ford everyday to work.

        I do know full size pickups are huge in the US, but your limited access to decent midsizers has curbed some demand for these vehicles. There is no competition, hence the agricultural NA midsizers available.

        Even the recently discontinued Ranger was of a standard we haven’t seen since the 80s. For something like that to be competitive up until this year, really show how much protection is reducing competition.

        As for diesel, US diesel fuel is of a lower quality than what we use. Your diesels are tuned to run on it. Our diesel will eventually have problems running on your diesel.

        Your diesel is more abrasive (scar rate), has 50% more sulphur, and I think is only 47 cetane. I have read that engine fuel systems have to be redesigned to run on US diesel fuel.

        I don’t know if you read the article that Doug DeMuro did on the Fiat Ducato. It had a GVM of 10 000lbs and returned 26.5mpg and maintained highway speeds into the mountains.

        Could one of your full size pickups achieve that? The Ducato is about the size of a full size pickup as well.

        You can sit at your terminal and debate me all day. But you just don’t have anything to make a comparison with. Your midsizers are antiques.

        • 0 avatar
          RobertRyan

          @Big Al from OZ,
          I did see my second Tundra a week ago. Like a White 3500 Silverado and a Ram 3500,all in pristine condition these are being used as Daily drivers, something different to the customised/modified Utes and Asian/European exotica that is part of the traffic in Sydney.
          http://forums.justcommodores.com.au/attachments/vr-vs/92593d1273107381-my-custom-air-bagged-vs-ss-v8-ute-bkjq-tg-wk-kgrhqmoki0esnykil5cblwu3en-2g-_1.jpg

          https://sphotos-a.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ash3/p480x480/579305_10151597884439334_794642858_n.jpg

          http://forums.justcommodores.com.au/attachments/vehicles-sale/45053d1203409806-tiger-mica-hz-ute-dsc00457.jpg

        • 0 avatar
          Scoutdude

          You are correct that we don’t have the mid size trucks you get down under. The market for compact and mid size trucks in the US started shrinking significantly over 25 years ago long before any of those trucks you get today were even dreamed about. That is the primary reason that the mfgs stopped giving us “state of the art” compact/mid sized pickups they just didn’t see long term profits in them.

          However we do get the Frontier which looking at the Oz Nissan web site is not that much different that what you get down there other than power trains that meet US emissions standards and rated capacities that keep the US based lawyers happy and it is the worst selling pickup left in the US.

          The fact is that GM is planning on bringing in their most up to date global mid size pickup. If it actually sells worth a darn you can be guaranteed that we will be seeing the rest of the mfgs start bringing their most recent versions to the US as well.

          There was a time when we had full size diesel pickups that could in fact pull a 10K trailer in addition to their 6K vehicle weight and still return over 25 MPG. That went away with the 2007 emissions standards and got worse with the 2010 standards. I seriously doubt that the Ducato that Doug tested met all US emissions standards. There is a program where it is legal for mfgs to import and operate non-compliant vehicles for testing and evaluation purposes. If that weren’t the case people wouldn’t have been seeing the Global Ranger running around Detroit like they have. I’m willing to be that a vehicle imported under that exemption is what Doug got the chance to drive. So we will have to wait and see what the version of the Ducato that actually goes on sale in the US is capable of achieving. That article referenced the MPG shown on the in vehicle display so I have to wonder if that reprogrammed to show MPG based on US gallons or the larger Imperial gallon.

          • 0 avatar
            RobertRyan

            Scoutdude,
            The Navara and Frontier are chalk and cheese. The Navara is considerably beefed up for Global use. Its Payload is much greater than the Frontier.
            They use them to tow Lightweight 5Vers here and in Europe an IMPOSSIBELE task for the Frontier.
            Bit like saying a F150 is the same as a F250.
            http://www.5thwheels.co.uk/media/catalog/product/cache/1/image/687×515/5e06319eda06f020e43594a9c230972d/f/i/file_53_20.JPG

            http://i589.photobucket.com/albums/ss339/nissannavara_album/Kaseys%20Nav%20%205th%20wheeler/puptrailerR.jpg

            http://i84.photobucket.com/albums/k22/jpd56/Image199.jpg

        • 0 avatar
          Onus

          The difference between the 10ppm diesel and 15ppm diesel we have is of very little importance in practice.

          The one truth is diesel here only has to have cetane rating of 40 ( just got this off the pump 3 days ago ) , and its is crappy as you say. We have had lots of injection pump failures on models like the tdi jetta.

          A better filtering setup should atleast solve the crap in the fuel, and some cetane addative will solve the rest.

          • 0 avatar
            Scoutdude

            The injection pump failures on the TDI Jettas is mainly on the older(2009 or older) models that were not designed to operate on ultra low sulfur diesel, lots of other vehicles have suffered the same problems.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        @Scoutdude

        I think this is a case of you both being a little bit right, and you both are a little bit wrong.

        The market has certainly NOT spoken, because no one has tried to sell a global mid-size truck here. The Detroit 3 possibly never will, for the simple reason that those trucks will never be a profitable as the antediluvian tanks they sell here. American trucks are STUPID cheap to make, and while cheap in stripper work truck form get very expensive and thus VERY profitable very fast as you go up from there. The 3/4-size global trucks seem to be much more sophisticated and thus much more expensive to build vehicles, and are thus likely less profitable. Maybe this will all change as CAFE bites harder into the OEMs – certainly Ford’s next generation aluminum truck can’t be as cheap to slap together as the current one. Then again, the Detroit 3 pretty much got the CAFE rules they wanted. Trucks should be held to the exact same standards as cars, not this goofy footprint crap. If you are going to have idiotic standards at all, and not a proper gas tax, that is.

        I do agree that vis-à-vis the smaller trucks we do get, the domestic full-size trucks are good value. But we only get crappy small trucks. And of course, part of the reason the small trucks are so relatively expensive is that there is no competition in that market. Toyota and Nissan split what there is, neither has any reason to build a better or cheaper truck. Ford obviously made a valid business decision that they would make more profit by killing the Ranger than keeping it. What they gain from people buying F150s is more than they lose to people buying Toyotas and Nissans, because most of the people who bought Rangers won’t buy those trucks anyway.

        Finally, the American market is amazingly closed. The hurdles to entry are utterly ridiculous, and it is that way in large part because the OEMs wanted it that way in the past. It’s a different world now though, and I fully expect to see harmonized standards for vehicles in the next 10 years or so as the American market becomes relatively less important. It is completely ridiculous that I cannot go overseas and buy whatever I want and personally ship it back and drive it. A European can come over here, buy whatever, and ship it home. They may have to pay a pile of tax, make a few relatively minor changes to the vehicle and have it inspected, but it is possible. The reverse is NOT possible. Never mind the hoops the OEMs have to jump through.

        • 0 avatar
          Scoutdude

          Fact is the US market fell out of love with smaller trucks long before any of the current global trucks were even dreamed of. That is the reason that all mfgs decided to not spend too much money on the ones they sell here.

          The new global trucks are not any more sophisticated that full size trucks. You are correct that they would be basically just as expensive to produce as a full size truck. The labor to assemble a truck does not go down based on the size of the truck and the slightly smaller amount of raw material does not significantly affect the final cost of the truck.

          While we don’t get some of the pickups that are sold in the rest of the world we do get the subject of this review the Nissan Frontier which as far as I can tell is the same basic truck as sold down under but with power trains that meet US standards and capacities that are in line with the available power trains and US lawyer friendly. Where does it rank on the US sales charts? Dead last. Might it do better with a diesel engine? Maybe.

          We are due to see GM’s current global mid size truck soon. So we will soon have a chance to see just how well it sells in the US.

          You are correct that there is a certain cost of doing business in the US but it affects all mfgs equally. It is not like Ford gets an exemption to import it’s euro vehicles w/o meeting US standards. That is one of the reasons the Fiesta, Focus and Fusion we get are so different than the comparable models sold in Europe and around the world.

          • 0 avatar
            Big Al from Oz

            @Scotdud
            I’m not saying midsizers will take over, I have never stated that.

            But I do know in Australia we have importers that only import 1 000 vehicles per year, and that is on cheap vehicles that are selling.

            If a manufacturer only imports 20 000 units a year into the US, you will have access to something you don’t have now.

            We have at least a dozen midsize importers at the moment. It’s like the car market. They come in a wide variety of quality and types.

            You should start to comprehend what I’m writing. I have never stated midsizers will take over fullsize trucks. I’m not that stupid.

            But I do think the midsizer market is larger than you think, especially with the new ones.

            But, the UAW/Big 3/Government won’t allow it.

          • 0 avatar
            Scoutdude

            As usual you have to result to name calling.

            We shall see if the mid sizers can gain any traction with the intro of the GM twins. I highly doubt that they will sell in large enough numbers for them to be truly profitable. I’m sure Orkin and the auto parts stores will buy a few if they offer it with a regular cab.

        • 0 avatar
          Onus

          I’m with you. I don’t care if they don’t sell what i want here but i would like to be able to take it home.

          But, i think your correct in 10 years we will have something. I don’t think it will be identical standards but, i think the us will recognize ECE standards. Seems everybody is on board with this in the EU US free trade deal.

          So in time if thats the case US standards will just fall to the way side. Some stuff like pickup trucks will still be made to our standards. But, things like cars will not.

          • 0 avatar
            Scoutdude

            I highly doubt that the US bureaucracy will back down one bit on any significant safety or emissions standards. Too much of a threat to their jobs as regulators.

  • avatar
    poltergeist

    Like someone else mentioned, my 2000 Fronty V-6 M/T fits in my garage. A new “gigantasarous” full-sized truck wont. It hauls what I need to haul, tows what I need to tow, and is relatively easy to park. Yes it doesn’t get great mileage, but it’s “just-enough” truck for my uses.

  • avatar
    mkirk

    We beat the crap out of a 4 door 2.5 Diesel Navarra (The Frontier outside North America) in Kandahar and it gave us no issues. My only complaint was the manual shifter felt like it belonged in a Chevy Cavalier from the 80′s. It only vaguely felt like it was connected to anything but it worked and it was better than the shifters on the new Defenders we got on occasion. Again, show mw a full size truck with 4 doors that I can get for 20ish. 4-5 year old full size extended cabs were still around 20 and while wider the back seat wasn’t really useful for hauling kids. The 4 doors were considerably more. Anyway, I think this is the Nissan and Toyota’s niche, though I had less luck finding stripped 4 door Tacomas. That and crew cab full size trucks are huge to the point I hate driving them.

    Anyway, so far I have really only 3 beefs with the truck. 1. The turning circle feels huge but I may just be used to a shorter wheelbase vehicle and 2. The angle the radio sits at makes the display hard to read in bright sun on my aftermarket stereo. The second wasn’t an issue with the stock unit and all but the basic “S” trim models like mine get a different center stack with more upscale HVAC controls and the radio at a different angle. And Lastly it has steel wheels and a fullsize spare tire with the same type tire as the other 4, but a different style and color steel wheel. It would be nice to do a 5 tire rotation Not a huge deal though and I’ll likely remedy that in the junkyard.

    My Ideal truck would be a 4 door 70 series Land Cruiser with a tray on the back, but i need that capability as much as I need a ginormous fullsize so the Frontier works fine.

  • avatar
    mkirk

    And I don’t know about Canadian pricing, but this is about 16-17k in Louisville, KY as of 3 weeks ago.

  • avatar
    Summicron

    “…the fairly long bed.”

    Today that’s true. How low we’ve fallen.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      An 8′ bed used to be the rule, not the exception, for most contractors. My work truck is a 4X4 regular cab with an 8′ bed. I don’t know if its possible to buy such a truck anymore.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      Ford sells such a truck, but at over $30K with the V6. Its a better deal to buy the Supercrew V8 STX with a 6.5′ box for just a couple grand more.

  • avatar

    I have a loaded 2012 Nissan Pathfinder LE. It’s got the same bank of switches – and one of them is a blank. The funny thing is that I looked in the owner’s manual, and didn’t see that last button as listed as controlling anything, so I think there is at least one blank on EVERY Pathfinder. I guess they must use the same switch bank in a bunch of vehicles, and there must be one that needs another button.

    They are usually pretty good about design, so I’m kind of surprised they cheaped out on that.

  • avatar
    Broo

    My Ranger is quite basic, manual windows, no power locks, no cruise, crappy radio, cloth bench seat, plastic door panels and vinyl/rubber interior, no carpet anywhere. Front grill and bumper cover are unpainted black plastic. Rough ride and zero comfort seats.

    The options the original owner wanted were : auto transmission and AC. The one option he took that I really wanted and therefore the reason I bought this one : 7′ bed.

    I’d like to get a full size with a 8′ bed, however their height makes them unusable for me. I’m quite sure the current full sizes’ basic engine gets better MPGs than my dated 3.0L V6, but I’m absolutely not considering them. Now if only Toyota or Nissan would release a longer bed version of their smaller trucks like they did many years ago, I’d be tempted.

  • avatar
    klossfam

    After driving a Nissan Frontier SV 4 x 4 Crew Cab from Buffalo to Montreal, I know one thing…I appreciate my Honda Ridgeline A LOT more. Still no comparison between a unibody truck/SUT with cross members vs a body on frame truck like the Frontier.

    The Honda is like a Porsche 911 vs the Frontier in handling and I have the same load rating more or less. The Frontier DEFINITELY gets no better mileage that a modern FULL size truck as well. Probably worse. The best on the trip with the 4.0 V6 Nissan was 18.6 mpg. The Ridgeline would get 21-22 mpg on the same haul and a new RAM 1500 with the V6 Pentastar would do the same or better than the Ridgeline.

    I did the same Montreal run in a RAM 1500 with the 4.7 L ‘antique’ V8 and got over 19 mpg.

    • 0 avatar
      mkirk

      The Frontier is rated to tow 6500 pounds to the Ridgeline’s 5000. I considered the Ridgeline and while I felt it would tow what I need there are no “worktruck trim” Ridgelines. Additionally In 2013 they changed some things on the 4.0 in the name of fuel economy (supposedly reduced friction pistons or something) and it must have been somewhat effective as I have yet to be under 20mpg in my Crew Cab.

  • avatar
    84Cressida

    A Tacoma and Frontier, especially 2WD model, is still significantly smaller than a fullsize. Can someone please tell me where this tired notion that they’re not much smaller than a fullsize comes into play? They certainly are a lot easier to drive and park than any fullsize.

    And using the Frontier’s paltry sales as proof that nobody wants a small truck is a weak argument. So is using the sales figures for the Dakota, a turd, and the GM twins, which weren’t competitive from the get go. Toyota sells almost 100K more Tacomas than Nissan did Frontiers and last year moved 141,000 and is on track to move even more this year. The market for these vehicles, at least as far as Toyota is concerned, is still very much alive.

    • 0 avatar
      RobertRyan

      Toyota is on a winner there. Why people feel full Sizers are much bigger than midsize pickups? I would say perception, more than reality.
      Generally Global midsize Pickups are about 90% of the size of a basic Full size in the US.
      As a commercially based vehicle in Australia,US Full size Pickups the are tiny.A Lot of gargantuan behemoths dwarf them on the road

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al from Oz

      @84Cressida
      Like I stated before, if the US had a reasonable range of midsizers there would be more interest in them.

      But all you have to choose from are ‘old’ vehicles. They are performing exceptionally well if you take that into view. If you guys also had what could be termed the ‘HD’ version of midsizers like we have then they would be very attractive, especially as a alternative for fleet buyers.

      Why not have a 2.2-2.5 litre diesel that can get 35mpg on the highway and tow over 7 000lbs and carry over 2 800lbs.

      I hope GM hasn’t altered the Colorado, to reduce its chance of competing against the larger pickups.

      The problem the big three have is not to produce a competitive midsizer. So what has the UAW/US government/Big 3 done to protect their nest egg? It’s called the Chicken Tax and other technical barriers.

      Also, at the moment the most competitive Detroit pickup is the Ram. It’s is usless for most business applications Ram with its 6.5′ bed, low payload and tow ability for $27 000. And that’s the best you got. We have small diesel midsizers that are chassis on frame getting 10mpg better. Well also are paying less than what that Ram costs.

    • 0 avatar
      rickentropic

      Want another Cressy…5 spd ? See my ad. Near Baltimore.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    Here is why the ‘compact’ pickup as you guys call them are dying. Read this link and look at what you are missing out on. Then make a comparison to a Taco or Frontier.

    Like I’ve stated in the past the Chicken Tax/EPA and other technical barriers are preventing these from coming into the NA market. They would remove some sales from full size trucks. But full size trucks will dominate the US market at least into the mid term.

    http://www.carsguide.com.au/news-and-reviews/car-reviews-road-tests/ute_comparison

  • avatar
    Instant_Karma

    In 2007 we paid $14k and some change for a new style Silverado W/T, single cab, 8″ bed, acres of cheap plastic on the dash and doors, AM/FM, manual locks and windows, 4.8 with the 4l60e. It’s black so it looks surprisingly good with the cheapo black bumpers and grille. It’s a farm truck, carries a bunch of heavy crap and pulls everything we have up to a 29″ travel trailer or a heavily loaded stock trailer no sweat. Even with that crap WT interior it has been a good truck, 120,000 miles later and it’s been mostly flawless and perfect for our towing needs. Gets about 20 mpg on the highway unloaded, not too shabby.

    But in every other task except towing, I’d rather have a smaller truck. I hate having get anything in the back of that big, tall mofo. I’m 5″8′ and I have to tiptoe to reach over the sides of the bed and even with the tailgate down the load height is damn near up to my chest. My daily driver is an Integra, my toy car is an MGBGT and my last impulse purchase was a 300SD. Even the W126 feels light and nimble compared to the Silverado. I don’t mind the huge size so much (other than load height)but it’s that immense, plodding weight that gets to me when I drive it anywhere without about 6000 pounds behind it. I wish we still had our 92 Ram 150. It was just about the right size and it had the magnum 318 with a stickshift. Sold the Ram because the windshield frame started rusting out and the front end had worn loose yet again, even though it’s been a Texas truck all it’s life.

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al from Oz

      @Instant_Karma
      Full size pickups do tow quite well, but in the US you guys aren’t made aware of the new mid sizer’s that can almost tow the same as most half ton pickups.

      There are now mid sizer’s that are towing 30′ fifth wheel trailers. We have diesels that are putting out up to 420ftlb of torque and are getting over 30mpg on the highway. You guys just don’t get them.

      The Taco is at least two generations behind our latest pickups. Even our Hilux/Navara is a generation behind the newer pickups.

      The diesel Ram might give you an insight into the diesel performance from the wide range of 3 litre class diesels. But they are still large and not everyone wants or needs a full size, but could use a reasonable tow ability.

      The diesel Grand Cherokee is about the only ‘midsize’ vehicle you guys have with a reasonable tow capabilty. But it’s a short wheelbase and a SUV.

      • 0 avatar
        Instant_Karma

        Oh I know how ridiculous our market here is. The big 3 have an institution with full sized trucks and they don’t want that to change any time soon.

        I’d love a decent mid sized pickup with a diesel. We’ll see how the diesel ram does, I’m intrigued by it but feel that anyone looking for serious towing would just step up to a 2500 with a big Cummins in it.

        Even the last time I was abroad in the Philippines about 15 years ago I was floored by the pickup options available there. All you could get here was an compact extended cab with a thirsty 4 or a thirstier 6, meanwhile they had 4 door small pickups available with diesels.

        Then again I watch Top Gear and get upset over some of the interesting vehicles I am unable to access here in the US too.

      • 0 avatar
        DenverMike

        @BAFO – What do you consider “outdated” about the Navara and Hilux? Your Hilux still outsells all other trucks in OZ. All other cars too.

        Conspiracy theories aside, Americans were never really small truck buyers before the ’80s mini-truck ‘perfect storm’. There’s not much reason for global or domestic OEMs to chase a dying segment. I’m sure we’re missing out on a bunch of ‘world’ cars that won’t be sold in the US any time soon. Some are from Ford and GM. If you’re smarter than them, I’m sure they’d love for you to tell them how.

        If we were limit to mid-size pickups, hell yeah we’d buy a lot of them. We have choices and mid-size pickups lose.

        But what exactly is it about global trucks that has you so convinced would lure enough buyers away from US market, cars, SUVs, cross overs, full-size pickups and of course, the Frontier and Tacoma?

        30 MPG and 30′ 5th wheels might happen in OZ (obviously not at the same time), but the EPA and DOT would bring those numbers back to reality.

        But you’d have to pretend the ’80s mini-truck craze/fad/invasion never happened to believe the Chicken tax has any affect on the US truck market. Small trucks were a passing fancy. It didn’t hurt that they were offered at cut rate pricing at time when car, SUV and cross over choices weren’t anything like what they are today.

        • 0 avatar
          mkirk

          Correct me if I am wrong, but I thought the Tacoma and the HiLux weren’t particularly closely related. I know the Frontier and the Navarra are one in the same save the powertrains as I have driven both. The Taco and Hilux were quite different.

        • 0 avatar
          Big Al from Oz

          @DenverMike
          If I lived in the US I wouldn’t buy one of your midsizers, they are uncompetitive. The only fullsize pickup I would consider (if it works out) is the future Titan with the small Cummins.

          The same goes here in Australia up to 3 years ago. I actually stopped buying pickups because our SUVs were far better. Now it’s a different story as I’ve stated.

          That is also why Toyota and Nissan have a foothold here, the competition they are taking on is new, only in the past 3 years has Toyota been challenged with a far superior midsizer.

          Toyota and Nissan are losing there foothold to other manufacturers slowly. Remember we just don’t have a few pickup manufacturers like the US has, we have whatever the world offers, we don’t live in as much a controlled vehicle environment like you.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            @BAFO – What specifically makes Hilux/Tacoma or Navara/Frontier non competitive or outdated vs. global trucks? Are we still talking about trucks? The Super Duty outsells the HD GM twins with the same generation since ’99. The F-150 is basically the same since ’04. These are our best selling trucks and we don’t need 12 full-size choices. Or any size.

            Yes, you guys have more choices in trucks. But you also have more choices in cars and SUVs too. So what? Does the Chicken tax kill our car and SUV choices too? I want more cars choices like Peugeot, Seat and Chery. I’m not saying I would buy any of them. I just want more choices.

          • 0 avatar

            DenverMike

            The Toyota and Nissan are more truck-like in their ride so they’re that much more uncomfortable. They are of course much better than the trucks of the 70s and 80s of course, but then again, the new Ranger and Amarok, you almost forget you’re in a truck.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            Marcelo, can you have a softer ride without losing capacity? Can you have your cake and eat it too?

          • 0 avatar

            DenverMike, by the numbers it wouldn’t seem so, but the reality is that they don’t seem all that good for real work. I haven’t driven the strippers but makers promise they’ll be better than the ones aimed at those who want to use thr truck like a car.

            The new ones also look and feel like a car inside. The weight of the commands, ergonomics, design are all very car like. Good or bad? Depends on what you want.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            Marcelo,

            Trucks are more like cars than ever before, and anyone not satisfied or think they don’t go far enough, don’t sound like true fans of, or actual buyers of trucks. The only thing that reminds me, I’m not in a car is the live axle and leaf springs going over potholes. That’s fine with me.

            We only have Nissan and Toyota small trucks, but buyers in OZ don’t seem too concerned if these trucks are outdated and lack the refinement of cars. They demand choices, but still overwhelmingly favour Nissan and Toyota.

            Then again, the Ridgeline is a option for those that want a more car-like experience.

          • 0 avatar

            I know DenverMike. It’s pretty amazing actually how the new global trucks are even more car-like. I guess there’ll be a point when the approximation of car and truck will be so complete, that truck buyers will be turned off. Your absolutely right on that one.

            In Brazil Chevy is the leader. Price, tradition. It’s also the most truck-like of the new trucks. They’re followed closely by Ford and Toyota. VW is gaining some ground on them.

            Here the Nissan is an also ran as is the Mitsubishi L200. BTW, that last one is sold in 2 generations. One newer and more expensive, sold to urban dwellers mostly. The other much, much older, agricultural really. Sold to mining companies, farms etc. Even that one though is losing ground to the new ones in their more basic forms.

        • 0 avatar
          Summicron

          “Americans were never really small truck buyers before the ’80s mini-truck ‘perfect storm’.”

          What small trucks were available to be bought before then?

          It’s not like the Big 3 plus Studebaker, IH, Jeep or anyone else had kept introducing them only to have them ignored.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            Yeah the small truck market existed before the ’80s mini-truck craze, but nowhere near the up to a million small trucks per year market, at the height of the mini-truck movement. And people make the assumption it was traditional full-size truck buyers that had switched over to small trucks. Really the craze pulled in buyers from most other auto segments. Some segments were dead or dying, at the time. We were done with muscle cars, molester/custom vans, big (Starsky & Hutch) coupes, Rancheros/EL Caminos and other gas guzzlers.

            Cut-rate small trucks came at a perfect time in automotive history. They were just what we needed at the time and the price was right. But it was just a passing trend.

          • 0 avatar
            Summicron

            You still haven’t cited any small trucks extant before the 70′s/80′s that were presumably ignored in droves. I *was* around back then in a truck-centric family and would be interested to know what I missed.

            But at least you’re not stretching to call El Caminos and Rancheros “trucks”.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            I’m not sure what you’re asking, but if one specific small truck was ignored in droves, it probably disappeared because of it. Do you mean the VW trucklet? Or Plymouth Rampage?

          • 0 avatar
            Summicron

            You said:

            “Americans were never really small truck buyers before the ’80s mini-truck ‘perfect storm’.”

            My question is: How could we have been? There weren’t any to buy until the mid-70′s.

            So we started buying them then, ramping up to whatever you mean by the ‘perfect storm’ of the 80′s.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            We’ve had Datsun and Toyota pickups around since the ’60s, for those that wanted them. It was a small market until the mid ’70s and thanks to the Oil Embargo and CAFE, the small truck market picked up dramatically. Still nothing like the ’80s mini-truck craze, but again, we weren’t naturally drawn to smaller trucks.

            Then came the Voluntary Restraint Agreement of 1981 and Japanese OEMs dumped millions of cut-rate small trucks on the US market. There were no import quotas on trucks so OEMs took full advantage. Cheap small trucks were well received by Americans and they became as hot as any automotive trend that came before it. Hotter actually, and except for the SUV craze that followed it (and really replaced it), no other auto trend has since matched it.

            All the things that lead us to and pushed small truck sales are gone and equilibrium is slowly being restored.

          • 0 avatar
            Summicron

            Denver Mike,
            Thanks for your answers and patience in hanging with this thread. I’m just putting down the disparity in our long-ago awareness of small trucks to regional differences.

            I’m from the cornbelt, Indiana, and trucks were an everyday part of life for my family and all our cohort. To us, “small truck” meant half-ton with a short bed.

            We owned/drove/worked and played in every kind of pickup that we thought existed and they were never smaller than half-ton or made anywhere but the US until around 1975 when the Datsuns, VWs, and Toyotas began dribbling in.

  • avatar
    mkirk

    I don’t think there is any conspiracy here. Most Americans, when given the choice go bigger no matter if it is a truck or an order of French Fries. Those of us that want a small truck are cheapskates by and large. All those little diesels would push the cost up. Small truck buyers tend to want pretty basic vehicles so the choices we have work. Those little diesels are cool but I really like the Nissan 4.0 as well.

  • avatar
    thelaine

    It sounds to me like the US regulations on diesels and diesel fuel are more of an impediment to US mid-size pickups than the chicken tax (although there is absolutely no purpose for the chicken tax other than corruption.)

    Without an affordable, reliable, powerful small diesel which gets good mileage, the mid-sizer cannot compete, or so it seems to me from listening to Big Al and others. Diesel regs in the US appear to have made this impossible up to now. Therefore, the value proposition compact pickups is just not there, unless you just want small for the sake of small.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      The EPA regulations have no more affect on mid size trucks than they do on full size trucks, nor on trucks built here vs ones that would be imported. They all have to meet the same regulations.

  • avatar
    sgtyukon

    I own one of these, a 2008. I agree about the radio and I replaced mine first thing. Makes it much nicer. I don’t have brake problems, so maybe that’s the maintenance of that truck. I wouldn’t own a pickup whose bed wasn’t lined and mine is.

    One thing you didn’t mention is the Frontier has a very wide turning circle, especially since it’s not a huge vehicle. That took some getting used to.

    I live in a very flat area and getting on a limited access highway is still a 5,000 rpm experience. If I lived somewhere mountainous or even hilly, I would own something else. Even with light loads you occasionally notice that this truck is under-powered and the V-6 uses hi-test gas, so if I needed more power, I’d buy something else.

  • avatar
    fincar1

    The other day I was parked beside a 4×4 Toyota Tacoma pickup that was longer, higher, and had bigger tires than my full-size short box, regular cab 2003 Silverado. It seems that a fairly high percentage of Tacomas I see are like that – enough of them to make me call bull- on the “full-size trucks are too big” argument.

    • 0 avatar
      NoGoYo

      To be fair, there’s a marked size difference between 2wd and 4wd trucks nowadays…

      Ever see a 2wd V6 Tundra vs a 4wd V8 Tundra? The 2wd practically looks like a different truck. Granted, this was the older generation of Tundra with the 4.7 V8.

    • 0 avatar
      Dan

      Yep. Internet clamor for small trucks is like internet clamor for diesel hatchbacks with three pedals. Coming from a handful of skinflints who have never bought a new car in their life yet know exactly what other people need.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        I was looking for some information on pickup engines the other day and stumbled on a couple pickup blogs. The same arguments taking place here were taking placed there. Does this mean that there are more people that care about this? I doubt it, seeing as the usernames were the same there that they are here.

  • avatar
    Summicron

    @Dan

    We’re all just expressing what *we’d* like to have.

    And I’m sure you can gauge our level of concern for whatever you want/like/do.

  • avatar
    rickentropic

    I have 2 1984 Nissan 720′s, both over 200K, doesn’t anybody posting know how to maintain a vehicle?

    • 0 avatar
      Summicron

      I’m guessing you don’t own a snow-blower.

      Edit…. saw your above post…Maryland. So you probably can’t imagine how fast heavy road salt destroyed 80′s sheet metal.


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