By on July 2, 2009

Once upon a time, way back in 1959, a company called Datsun imported a funny-looking pickup truck with a small bed and tiny engine, giving birth to the compact pickup market in the US. After a slow start, the market grew, as did the competition. The 70s brought onslaughts from Isuzu, Mazda, Mitsubishi, and even VW. After the dust settled, the small truck market in the US belongs basically to the Toyota Tacoma, Ford Ranger, Chevy/GMC Colorado/Canyon (for now, anyway) and Nissan Frontier—the direct descendant of the Datsun that started it all. Fifty years later, what hath Nissan wrought?

One thing they’ve wrought is a BIG truck. Even though the EPA classifies the Frontier Crew Cab as a small truck, it’s not. It sits on a 125.9″ wheelbase and at 205.5” is 3.5” longer than a 2009 Tahoe. It’s a half foot narrower, though, so don’t even think about squeezing a third person into the park-bench-like rear seat. Stretching to add that second row of seats gives it a bit of a dachshund look when viewed from the side.

The interior is refreshingly simple and there’s no doubt you’re in a truck. The windows, door locks and mirrors are electric, but the seats and steering wheel adjust via knobs and levers. The radio is an average AM/FM unit with CD player but no MP3 connection. Every surface looks and feels durable, as it they should in a utility vehicle. The instrument panel is a  jigsaw puzzle, though. I counted sixteen different plastic parts wedged together to span the space between the doors below the windshield. And that didn’t include the parts in the instrument cluster or the various black plugs that proclaim there were options you didn’t opt for.

The front seats offer little in the way of lateral support. As you’re not likely to be autocrossing the thing, just sit back and relax. The chairs are just fine for the run to the big box store or a trip to the lake with the Jet-Ski. The back seats are a different matter. The seatback is vertical and the bottom is horizontal and close to the floor.

There’s no way I’d ever consider subjecting someone I love to the torture of sitting back there. Why spend the extra money for a crew cab pickup with a cab too small for your crew? Using the extra space for cargo doesn’t work too well either. The seat backs fold down, but they have a huge gap at the rear where small objects disappear. The seat bottoms fold up but that space is eaten up by oddly-shaped shallow cargo bins.

Face it: the only real reason to buy a pickup truck is the cargo box out back. While some “small” crew cab trucks give you all of four feet for your stuff, the Frontier has a six-footer. And, yes, when it comes to pickup truck beds, size matters. You can fit big-boy-sized toys in this one with the tailgate shut and actually use it to haul the kind of stuff you’d pick up at the home improvement store. The tailgate shuts with a satisfying “chunk” that sounds better than the doors in the average car.

Our test truck came with “SE Value Truck Package” which included a sliding bed divider. It slides in tracks on either side of the bed but when it’s in the front- or rearmost position it eats up at least six inches of the bed’s length. It carries a sticker that proclaims “WARNING This is not designed as a cargo retention device.” If that’s the case, I don’t really understand what its purpose is.

The Frontier’s 4-liter V6 churns out 261 HP and 281 lb·ft of torque. I didn’t try towing anything, but it felt like there would be more than enough oomph to handle boats or utility trailers. The five-speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly and unobtrusively. The ride and handling are, well, truck-like. Even with the long wheelbase, the ride is a bit stiff over broken pavement. On the highway, though, it’s no worse than many economy cars.

The fuel economy is terrible; even a 5.3L V8-equipped Tahoe is more fuel efficient. The Heavy Chevy is rated at 15/21. The V6-equipped Frontier only manages 15/20. You don’t buy a truck for the fuel economy, but this kind of mileage from a “small” truck is ludicrous.

The Nissan Frontier comes as either an extended cab or crew cab version (the standard cab is no longer offered). Our tester stickered $25,805— a reasonable price for a crew cab pickup. As a truck, it does just fine. As a passenger car, the back seat and fuel mileage conspire to drive home the point that it IS a truck. And that’s just as it should be.

[Nissan provided the vehicle reviewed, insurance and a tank of gas.]

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50 Comments on “Review: 2009 Nissan Frontier 4×2 Crew Cab SE...”

  • avatar

    As a kid in TX who listened to the radio a lot, the jingle for the new for 1986 Nissan Hardbody pickups got drilled into my head permanently. Back then it had the most powerful motor in it’s class, a 140hp 3.0l V6. Also, it was still possible to get a stripper compact pickup for under $7k.

  • avatar

    Back in the early 1980s a friend and I both worked at an independent pharmacy that still delivered prescriptions.

    Initially we used a 1981 Civic for deliveries. About 14 seconds to 60, but nevertheless a blast to drive–they just don’t make cars that feel like that one anymore. A Miata feels heavy in comparison.

    The Civic did not hold up well to our abuse. The hood bounced furiously at highway speeds–only forward hinges kept it on the car–and there were dents all around. Finally, one day when it was parked in front of the store some tourist rear ended it at speed. The Civic was history.

    The pharmacist wasn’t about to buy another Civic for us to race around town. Instead, he bought a 1984 Nissan pickup, with automatic transmission. The main things I remember about it were a handbrake that pulled out from under the dash and an incredibly annoying seatbelt chime. Modded the latter out of existence real quick.

    The job was never the same. We treated the pickup even more badly than we had the Honda–we hated it, and wanted to kill it. But the Nissan pickup withstood our abuse without breaking a sweat.

    Would this current Nissan truck hold up as well? From the sound of this review, the Nissan hasn’t been gentrified as much as some pickups. So maybe so. Can’t say based on TrueDelta’s reliability survey–not enough of these signed up yet.

  • avatar

    Compact pickups have definitely lost the plot, I aught to know, I drive a Ridgeline because of the luxury, utility, and still fits in the garage. But I would have sprung for a decent 4cyl, awd, small pickup. And no, the Ranger and Baja don’t count.

  • avatar

    Mileage and price are the main reasons the compact trucks don’t sell better. Why buy a small truck with half the utility for 80% of the price with identical fuel economy. Makes no sense.

  • avatar

    That’s a pretty good asking price for a crew cab pickup, but I wonder how much more the actual transaction price will be for a fullsize Ford/Chevy/Dodge truck. You know, since fuel economy isn’t the key differentiator anymore.

  • avatar

    this truck is popular outside of the US in both turbodiesel and LPG form

    the normal petrol one is nice enough but really… getting a petrol motor to push 2.0 ton is never gonna result in happy times at the bowser

  • avatar

    Sheesh, with that kind of poor fuel economy and high MSRP, I hope Nissan is putting lots of money on the hood. Otherwise, there’s just no point in buying one of these over a similiarly priced/equipped full-size truck that gets the same (or better) fuel economy.

  • avatar

    You tested the wrong one. The frontier is the only one in the segment to offer a manual trans without dumping the towing capacity. A nice 6 speed at that. It is full sized, but the comparo is a 4dr short be bed to a 2dr full bed. 4 dr. full sized trucks are bus like.

  • avatar

    You can’t really buy a “compact” truck any more…. Unless you are willing to buy a Ranger, basically a 16 year old design from Ford. It’s not a bad truck, but it’s too bad that somebody doesn’t realize that not everybody wants a supposed “small” truck that has been plumped up to the proportions of a full sized one…. Personally, I would buy a 2004 or older Tacoma if I needed a “small” truck. Nothing available new even interests me…

  • avatar

    I still remember the old Nissan ads for the Frontier:

    “Dogs love trucks”

    Anyway, good review. I’m actually considering a ‘compact’ truck to use for work and it’d be great if TTAC would do some kind of truck comparison. Even the century-old Ranger is game in my book.

  • avatar

    I just turned over 29,000 miles on my ’07 Frontier SE crewcab that I bought new. My youngest child just entered the Air Force so now it’s just the wife and me.

    We went round trip from Georgia to Iowa last summer; junior had the back seat to himself but didn’t complain about the seats. Maybe because he slept most of the trip. I wouldn’t want to sit back there longer than two hours as I’m 6’2″ and 200 pounds. But kids and smaller adults fit alright. Plus, the back doors and back seat are great for Kroger or Walmart runs. I have a hard tonneau cover over the bed, so I could lock ’em back there but the groceries would still roll around. So the crewcab is much more practical for us. I can’t imagine putting $150 worth of groceries behind the seat of an extended cab Frontier.

    The ride is better than I expected for a truck. The Frontier rides smoother than the Tacoma, even the non-TRD models. The solid rear axle will let you know when you’re on uneven pavement, but on the interstates and good roads the ride is smooth. It also helps, of course, if there is some weight in the bed.

    The 10.5 inches of ground clearance is nice when we’re navigating speed bumps or washed-out dirt roads.

    Power is more than generous. It has a 6,300 lb towing capacity, and I have no doubt it could pull it. I have loaded the bed down with firewood and the 265 horses felt right at home, no sluggishness or straining at all. It was strong and confident. And quick off the green light, even loaded down.

    Speaking of the bed, I love the factory-applied spray-in liner and the Utili-track system. It has five rails and four beefy tie-down cleats which give me an almost infinite combination of tie-down points. No matter what I need to haul, I can tie it down and drive worry-free.

    My fuel economy depends on how I drive. If I’m easy on the accelerator, I get 19-20 mpg city. Lately, though, I’m getting 18-19 city because I run that excellent air conditioning. Which, by the way, will freeze your set off, even in 100 degree central Georgia heat. I get 22-23 highway; not too bad for a truck.

    The only problems I’ve had were two power window regulators were bad; the dealer replaced both under warranty.

  • avatar

    07Frontier :
    I can’t imagine putting $150 worth of groceries behind the seat of an extended cab Frontier.

    Nowadays, you could almost put $150 worth of groceries in the Frontier’s dual glove compartments!

  • avatar

    Frank Williams:
    Nowadays, you could almost put $150 worth of groceries in the Frontier’s dual glove compartments!

    Good point. Grocery store trips for us are usually $200 or more a pop. The only time I spend less than $150 is when I make a beer run.

  • avatar
    Gary Numan

    Bring back the 80’s “Hardbody”! That was a game changer for Nissan. If memory serves me right, the lead designer for the Hardbody formerly designed for Buick.

    Nissan used to also offer a cab & chassis version of their truck with a dual rear wheel configuration. Simply bolt on an aftermarket flatbed or tool box and you had a very reliable and nimble service truck. My fathers business had great luck with them.

    Agree with earlier comments, the Nissan and Toyota “compact” pick up trucks are simply too big and suck too much gas now

  • avatar

    I looked at one these before I bought my Dakota in 2002 – the problem back then was back seats were tiny, as in “might as well be an extra cab with jump seats” tiny… they were a joke. The V6 was underpowered unless your stepped up to the super charger (yes they offered one). Now this new Nissan V6 is pushing V8-like numbers, even bettering my Dakota’s 4.7 with 30 more HP while giving the same mileage figures. The price is more then reasonable to me, as my Dakota was $24K back in ’02 and its nearly worthless now (of course).

    While the back seats are rarely used in my truck even at 6′ I can fit back there in reasonable comfort. The fronts seats on the other hand are horrible: the head rest hits me at shoulder level. One nice thing is the (old school) column shift setup creates a massive storage space including not 2, but 3 Big-Gulp size-cup holders.

    Size-wise how does the Frontier compare to the Dakota? My Dodge is nearly perfect, not too big, not too small – that’s main reason I bought it! I had a Ranger (Splash extra cab) but its 4.0 V6 and short wheelbase couldn’t handle towing my boat, so I needed V8 power but didn’t want a full size beast. My brother had an F-150 and the darn thing was a monster, I don’t see how people drive 250s or 350s, but I’ve owned mostly Honda’s my whole life so view point is skewed.

    I’m still waiting for someone (anyone!?!) to come out with small-ish truck with a turbo diesel, 175HP/350TQ would be perfect for my towing needs. Size wise something between the current Ranger and Dakota would be spot on I reckon.

  • avatar

    I own a 1998 Ranger. I second the comments about not buying a new one, since the new ones appear to be the same truck that I already have, but with a different grill.

    The next compact pickup truck to offer some of the following features would be something I’d be interested in:
    1. Diesel
    2. Full hybrid, with electric-power-takeoff for power tools and backup-power for my house.
    3. Subaru-style AWD. Anyone who’s been a little sloppy with the clutch in the rain knows why.
    4. CVT. I like manuals, I like hybrids, I like CVTs. I don’t like slushboxes.
    5. Plugin Hybrid. I can dream. :-)

    I’m a compact guy (5’4″) and I only have so much driveway-space, so a big truck is a disadvantage, even if the cost is the same. I can’t wash the roof on my Ranger without a stool, as it is, so I’d really like something smaller.

    I’ve looked at some of the after-market electric conversions, but ~$40k is a little much for a truck that I have to trailer home.

  • avatar

    I’ve driven one of these for the past couple years now. It’s only real competition is the Tacoma. At the time, the Tacoma was a good $5-6k more (on a $24k truck, that’s a lot) and I wouldn’t (and still wouldn’t) touch a Dakota unless it’s a $99 lease. All the Tacoma’s had a more nervous, pitchier ride, and the only thing the Tacoma guy could sell was “Toyota reliability” and a built in AC inverter in the bed. I put up $750 for a 100k/5yr warranty (call me a sucker) and called it a day.

    People who end up in one of the above trucks gets it. Colorados and Rangers are priced the same but are 2+2’s if even that, not to mention the Colorado being a POS in general and the Ranger being (and feeling) like a 12 year old platform.

    The full size comparison is easy enough to make on costs, but the size difference is just enough to make these a lot more manageable around town. Sometimes that 12-18″ makes a big difference, and they are still at least a little bit cheaper. Rides a lot better on the highway than a compact without plodding along in the curves like a full size. It’s a compromise that either works for you or doesn’t.

    I steadily get 18-19mpg with Michigan city & 80mph highway driving, which isn’t great but the VQ engine has always been a tick behind GM in this respect. The ride and handling compromise is decent, and the cab is big enough for a 5 person lunch trip or a 4 person road trip under a few hours. Combine this with real 4wd & a real 6 foot truck bed I can throw firewood or fertilizer in, decent towing capacity, and there’s just not much else out there that compares. It’s just big/small enough to be manageable around town. Compromised as it may be, it is one of the few vehicles that can function in all the ways I need it to, and has done so well.

    I haven’t had to see my dh dealer since I bought it, 30k miles later. Though I do have to go in here soon to get the airbag sensor recall handled.

    PS. Just so I don’t sound like a fanboy, the paint is really thin/soft (a clear bra package should be considered mandatory), the turning radius is terrible, my factory carpet mat has a worse heel spot in it at 30k than my others have had at 100k. There is some SE level cheapness like gray door handles that come pre-faded and stupid looking fog light delete plates annoyed me, but I resolved those with internet OEM parts rather than plunking down 3k for the LE trim. Despite what the other guy said I don’t think the A/C is all that great, either, but I’m used to GM’s which are typically way over designed for HVAC.

    In the end, how well the paint is going to hold up is really the only concern I have with the truck.

  • avatar

    Someone mentioned the Dakota being almost perfect and I have to agree. I had a 2001 and loved the size except for ONE thing. I couldn’t lay down a sheet of drywall FLAT in the bed. That reason alone has me in a full size now, but I really miss the great proportions of the Dakota.

    The Toyota T100 was very nicely sized too, and you could lay down 4×8 sheet goods in the bed.

    The thing I hate the most about my full size is you can’t reach over the side of the bed and retrieve items. Too tall.

    Toyota should bring the T100 back and put the 5.7L in it :D

  • avatar
    Ken G

    My first vehicle in high school was a Nissan hardbody. Great little truck and bullet proof! Never had a problem. Great review! I’ve been looking into buying this exact truck but you’re right, it just doesn’t get the mileage. Might as well get the full size.

    Note: My little Nissan “hardbody” had a weird, gravity-like ability to attract small animals. I hit more suicidal animals (reptiles, mammals, birds) with that truck that with all other vehicles I’ve ever owned put together. Birds would just dive into the grill from nowhere and scare the crap out of me. It started to feel like an Animal Planet version of “Christine”. I hope Nissan fixed that problem.

  • avatar

    On the topic of fuel economy, the 2.5L 4-cylinder, 5-speed manual Frontier is rated at 19/23.

  • avatar

    These things are a tough sell when you can get a full size 4×4 diesel crewcab pickup with a nicer trim package, a usable back seat, vastly more towing and hauling capacity, and the same mileage for about $6k more.

    I’d expect to pay about $18k for this truck, maybe $20k in a 4×4 version.

    Granted $32k for the full size pickup is because of dealers and manufacturers are putting a lot of cash into it, but for someone buying today who doesn’t *need* the small size.

  • avatar

    I think you’re exactly righit. I wanted a Tacoma Double Cab, but ultimately got an F150 Supercrew. My truck gets the same mileage as my Dad’s Tacoma, and has more than enough room in the cab for my entire family.

  • avatar

    “Gary Numan : Bring back the 80’s “Hardbody”!”

    To heck with the Hardbody! Give me back my old 720 King Cab ST!! Although my dad’s 95 Hardbody is getting up there, I honestly think my old 720 will last longer as it just looked and felt more durable. Every time I fill up the 28 gallon tank in the Titan, I think back to the days when I went prerunning out in the boonies with the 720, all the while never getting less than 20mpg city and sometimes over 30mpg on the highway. Got me thinking about locating the farmer I sold it to and stealing buying it back, front end damage and all.

  • avatar
    Gary Numan


    I’m with you. I rode in and drove a few of the Datsun “Lil Hustler”s in my day. My father had a Datsun / Nissan dealership from 1969 to 1987 in the midwest. We sold a LOT of mini-trucks right in the heartland of Ford/Chevy/GMC. Dodge simply wasn’t a player then. Let’s not forget the Toyota HiLux too…..

    Also, I have a buddy in MI who has a 2002 or 2003 Frontier 2wd king cab that regularly gets mid 20’s mpg on the road. Not bad but not as good as your experience with the older ones….

    That said, the Hardbody was a game changer. Comically enough, at launch back in 86 they were not selling that great in all areas of the country but my Dad was selling the crap out of them compared to the other dealers in his region. The Nissan reps kept circling around to find out why. Basically we were accessorizing them with various configurations using neat wheels, tonneau covers and nicely done pinstripes or stipe kits.

  • avatar

    The fuel economy is terrible; even a 5.3L V8-equipped Tahoe is more fuel efficient. The Heavy Chevy is rated at 15/21. The V6-equipped Frontier only manages 15/20. You don’t buy a truck for the fuel economy, but this kind of mileage from a “small” truck is ludicrous.


    You can’t really buy a “compact” truck any more…. Unless you are willing to buy a Ranger, basically a 16 year old design from Ford. It’s not a bad truck, but it’s too bad that somebody doesn’t realize that not everybody wants a supposed “small” truck that has been plumped up to the proportions of a full sized one…. Personally, I would buy a 2004 or older Tacoma if I needed a “small” truck. Nothing available new even interests me…

    I totally agree here. The market in the US is wide open for someone to sell a cheap BOF Compact Pick-Up. Make its base Powertrain a 2.0L in the 175hp output range with a 5 Speed Manual. Make a Standard Cab/6 Ft Bed version available and price it around $15-17K.

    Of course, they’ll have to exhaust the 12 months of inventory on Full Size Pick Ups first.

  • avatar

    If you wann’a play trucks with the big boys,you buy a Siverado,Ram or a F 150. If you wann’a play with the wannabe’s go buy an import.

  • avatar

    The Toyota T100 was very nicely sized too, and you could lay down 4×8 sheet goods in the bed.

    That was a great concept for a Pick Up. I’d rather have a 2.5L I4 with a 5 Speed Manual in a Truck with a true 8ft Bed than any of these current ‘Compact’ Pick Ups.

  • avatar

    I totally agree here. The market in the US is wide open for someone to sell a cheap BOF Compact Pick-Up. Make its base Powertrain a 2.0L in the 175hp output range with a 5 Speed Manual. Make a Standard Cab/6 Ft Bed version available and price it around $15-17K.

    You’re in luck. Ford makes a compact PU they call the Ranger. It’s BOF, and priced at just over $16K (XL model) The engine is just a little larger than you want, at 2.3L, but it has class leading MPGs. The power is a bit less than your specification at 143hp. 5spd manual is the base tranny. You can have a choice of 6′ or 7′ beds. As far as I know, it’s the only compact truck offering a 7′ bed option.

    IMO the Ranger gets slammed too much. It’s a pity that Ford has neglected it all these years, but it’s still a basically sound compact PU platform. It needs to have a styling refresh, (because my ’98 looks modern – or the new Rangers look like ’98s, take your pick) but Ford doesn’t need to throw it away and start over like GM did when they replaced their S-10 with their Colorado. Refresh and improve.

    Somewhere in their word wide operations, I’d imagine Ford has a nice I4 diesel that they could start dropping in the Ranger.

    But I digress, we were talking about the Frontier.

  • avatar


    Mahandria is close to this small truck ideal size and price point. Unfortunately Depression 2.0 has delayed their entry into the US market. Right now Ford more or less has this market to itself with the base 2WD, 5 speed Ranger. For $3k more you can get a stripper F-150 with a V-6.

    My father has a 2005 4WD four door frontier. I second the observations about weak fuel economy and poor turning radius. I’ve driven class 8 tractors with better wheel cut than the Frontier. In mostly city commuting it has fuel economy in the low teens.

  • avatar

    Yeah, the Ranger fits the bill, but isn’t ford discontinuing it after 2010?

  • avatar

    Where does the Ridgeline fit into this discussion? Too pricey? Not enough power to tow?

  • avatar

    The Ranger is about perfect as an inexpensive work and utility truck, but I wouldn’t want to have one as a daily driver. While the Ranger’s benefits include low price to buy, low price to maintain, great reliability, and low prices to repair if anything does go wrong, it is about as utilitarian as pickups go. The (optional) AC is ice cold, the interior is durable, the stereo sounds decent in the small cabin, and the (optional) cloth seats are comfortable, but those are about it when it comes to comfort features. For a second (or third) vehicle used entirely for towing/hauling/mucking-about the Ranger fits the bill perfectly.

    The Ridgeline is expensive (starts at around 28K before incentives), recommends premium fuel for towing applications, and has developed a reputation for not holding together well when used hard in work truck applications. Other than that, it is comfortable, reliable when not pushed too hard, and is one of the nicest pickups to have as a daily driver car substitute.

  • avatar

    I had a lot of fun as a kid riding in the bed-seats of a Brat. That was awesome. Seats in the bed of a pickup never get old, regardless of how redneck or stupid that seems to have become nowadays.

  • avatar

    1972-1/2 Datsun Lil Hustler, the first of the “modern” itty bitty trucks by Datsun.

    A romping 1600 cc of poke-alongness but on flat land without a heavy load it accelerated fine.

    Basic and reliable, just a shame it did not have today’s reliable fuel injection so as to avoid intricate carburetors and their quirks.

    Better yet was the 1978 Toyota Hilux with the awesome 20R motorvator. Reliable as heck but mine had the rare auto tranny. Hurt the mpg but that tranny was reliable and rugged.

    Pulled a trailer with around 6,000 of metal upon it. Surprised how quickly it accelerated to 50 mph but fear and common sense had me stop at 50 mph.

    Both were reliable solid trucks but am glad I did not have to drive in the salt/rust belt with them.

    Very basic vehicles that could conceivably be sold for 10K bucks or so today, perhaps a bit more, and still provide a profit to the manufacturer.

    Of course, those early trucks did not try to emulate a decked-out upscale car.

    Might be time for a devolution.

    Toss out all the fluff and stuff and offer the masses a basic conveyance.

    Cross platform interchange would also be nice. The 20R engine was in the Celica and pick-up and the Corona, I believe. Stuff such as that helps keep costs down along with long-term cost of ownership when repair parts are needed.

  • avatar

    mikey : If you wann’a play trucks with the big boys,you buy a Siverado,Ram or a F 150. If you wann’a play with the wannabe’s go buy an import.

    Toyota and Nissan make 1/2-tons too. No wannabes there. Or are the “big boys” actually a group of fat guys you know who only like domestics and shun anyone who owns something else?

  • avatar

    The biggest problem with this Nissan is the configuration. Take any midsize truck, outfit it as a crew cab, drop in the V6 and you’re going to wind up with a truck that costs almost as much as a full size, get same or worse fuel economy, and offers less utility.

    The lesson from these reviews (I remember a similar line of complaints about the TTAC review of the Tacoma) is that if you want economy and value in a compact truck then keep it compact! Get the regular cab, or maybe the extended cab and only choose the four-cylinder engine. If you want or need more than that, including 4WD, don’t waste your time with the Frontier/Tacoma/Colorado/Ranger end of the lot. You’ll get a better deal and more for your money with a full size truck.

  • avatar

    Where does the Ridgeline fit into this discussion? Too pricey? Not enough power to tow?

    If the discussion is of BOF pickups, the Ridegeline doens’t fit. It’s basically a unit-body AWD Pilot with the roof over the cargo area chopped off.

    That makes a very comfortable, roomy truck when it comes to the passengers but not so great for cargo. It has a 5-foot bed which drastically limits what you can carry with the tailgate up (with it down it extends to about 6.5 feet).

    The “in bed” trunk they like to tout is a great idea – until you have the bed loaded with bags of mulch and need to get something out of that trunk (like, maybe, the spare tire).

    No doubt it fills a niche in the truck market for people who who want something fancy that’ll carry 5 passengers but occasionally need to carry stuff that’s too messy/stinky/tall to fit in the back of a SUV. However, the small bed and relatively high price keep it from being a serious competitor in the small/midsize pickup market.

  • avatar

    Yeah, the Ranger fits the bill, but isn’t ford discontinuing it after 2010?

    They had said that, but I thought they had reconsidered. Googling tells me the St. Paul plant is still on the chopping block for 2011.

    The thing is, this is going to be an important segment for many more years – perhaps increasingly important as gas continues to climb in price.

    Ranger sales are up 8.8% for June ’09 compared to June ’08.

  • avatar

    Cross platform interchange would also be nice. The 20R engine was in the Celica and pick-up and the Corona, I believe. Stuff such as that helps keep costs down along with long-term cost of ownership when repair parts are needed.

    From what I recall, the Nissan 240SX shared the entire Driveline with the Nissan Compact Pick Up of the day (I think that was pre-Frontier).

  • avatar


    Believe it or not, they build houses and have farms and do landscaping in other countries, too, and they don’t all have, need, or desire oversized trucks with which to do it.

  • avatar

    I have been looking at the Frontier/Equator lately primarily because Nissan and Suzuki have giant rebates on them, up to $3500. The basic 4cyl-spd models after that are around $14k which is quite reasonable for what you get.

    The model tested here is slightly ridiculous. I looked at one the other day and couldn’t believe how big it was.

    The Mahindra is more of what I want, except by all sources it will only come to the US with an automatic trans. Ugh. And speaking of which, finding any “compact” truck with a standard is impossible unless you want the most basic strippo model. I don’t want all the bling but I don’t want the rubber-mat special either.

  • avatar

    You can’t really buy a “compact” truck any more…. Unless you are willing to buy a Ranger, basically a 16 year old design from Ford

    The Ranger in its current form can really only be compared from 1998 on. To say that today’s Ranger is similar to 1993-97 one is to overlook that since 1993 the Ranger has a new frame, new engines, new transmission, new front suspension, new steering, new brakes, and a new interior.

    Otherwise, I guess it is comparable.

  • avatar

    Yeah, the Ranger fits the bill, but isn’t ford discontinuing it after 2010?

    Folks tend to forget that trucks more often than not are purchased as male enhancement. To buy a small truck is seen, fair or not, as equivalent to admitting to a small package.

  • avatar

    I am reminded of the initial introduction of the Datsun extended-cab model; the dealers in Fairbanks and Anchorage, of course, referred to it as the Alaska King Cab.

    I’m seeing a lot of sentiment here for a return to the pickups of old which were little more than motorized wheelbarrows. Sorry, never happen, they’d cost too much to get through the hoops it takes to sell a new vehicle in this over-regulated country. Go find a 67-69 Chevy short narrow box truck; there were plenty of these with sixes and three-speeds. There was nothing simpler to keep running or easier to drive, and you could probably restore one for what a new Ranger costs.

  • avatar

    Wow, I didn’t even notice this review!

    The Frontier is currently selling in fewer numbers than the Ranger, Colorado and Tacoma.

    I blame it on the base engine. It’s a great truck with a lot of good points, but 152 hp isn’t going to cut it in a 3700 pound vehicle. I calculated hp-to-weight ratings and it’s got a worse lb-hp ratio than the Ranger four. And with automatic it barely struggles 19 mpg overall- barely two mpg higher than the much nicer but more thirsty V6.

    I’ve been promised help from my mother when I go out to buy my second vehicle in 2011. Because I’m not interested in the next-gen versions of these vehicles (I don’t feel like putting up with first-year reliability issues) I’m looking at the current models. And only at the four-cylinder versions for the fuel economy. If Nissan doesn’t give the base four at least ten or twenty more horsepower and pound-feet of torque by 2010 I may just end up picking up a super-cheap base Ranger early to take advantage of the heavy rebates they’ve got right now.

  • avatar

    The Ranger is it for the compact pickup market….maaaybe the Colorado/Canyon but that’s stretching it. Fullsized trucks (F-150/Silverado/Ram) are gone and been jumbosized into obsecurity. Compact pickups are all but gone with the exception of the Ranger and have been made into the old fullsize trucks, with less bed space.

  • avatar

    I really wish there would be more reviews of base
    model trucks rather than always picking the biggest engine versions. This might go along with future trends in truck purchases too with fuel costs going up. I own a ’08 Frontier Xe, 4cylinder, 5 speed and am very satisfied with it. For my total mileage of 9,600 miles I have averaged 23 mpg in mostly highway driving. Its shortcomings are thin paint, large turning circle, and center armrest that should be a little more forward to faciltate resting one’s arm on it when seat is pulled forward.
    It has AC that works quick and is very cold as well as fast heat output in the winter with heating system. Tracks good in snow in its General Grabber tires (standard tires). Its quiet and smooth riding on the highway. Its 6 ft bed has come in handy many times. Its extended cab is great for storing items that must be inside rather than in the bed. I don’t tow anything so can’t comment on that. I think its a great truck for the $17,100.00 (includes all taxes and license fees) that I paid for it.

  • avatar

    I know I’m way late to this review, but felt like adding a word as I own an 08 Frontier SE. The review is pretty accurate in its facts (one exception noted below). It’s a big “small” truck and the fuel economy is no great shakes, though lightening up on rpms will bump you up a couple mpg. A commenter’s point about the thin paint is very true. I particularly feel this as I have an irresponsible neighbor with cats.

    Yes, as far as a truck goes, value-wise a full-sized model would be better, but a lot of us need something of a mix between a car and a truck. The Frontier is just great on that score. It rides a hell of a lot better than a Tacoma. You don’t have to climb into the cab, as you do with a Taco or the full-sizes. My 78-yr-old mother-in-law with an artificial hip can get into the front. For a truck it handles curves incredibly well and has comfortable drive, almost as good as my wife’s 2003 TL.

    It really is funny how I test drove a number of full-sized and mid-sized pickups, but this one just…FELT…right. I can’t put my finger on it, but after about a block on a back road, I found myself saying, “Yeah, this is what I need.”

    Then you have the bed. As someone else noted, the tie down tracks are great. I’ve secured all sorts of stuff with them. BTW, the plastic bins Williams mentions that are under the rear seat can be easily removed, so the back becomes a nice cargo area.

    The back seat is small, but it’s perfect for kids. It’s incredibly easy sticking my three-year-old in his car seat.

    All in all, this is the best vehicle I’ve had for what I need, and I’ve had quite a few full-sized trucks and cars. I’m not saying that it’s the car for everyone, but if you’re looking for a truck, definitely give this one a drive. That it’s priced a few grand less than the Taco should be more than enough incentive.

    On a completely superficial note, it’s sort of funny how the profile of the Frontier Crewcab with the short bed resembles the Toyota Hiluxes I see on the BBC.

  • avatar

    I’ve got an ’06 SE w/ 6spd manual but test drove the XE w/ the 5spd as well as an LE w/ automatic. I’ve had it since new and am very happy with the truck.

    The VQ (4.0 V6) is a monster engine well deserved of its reputation. The 6spd lets me image that I’m in a much sportier vehicle than traction (reality) allows. The suspension is up for some aggressive manoevering though the OEM BFG tires are garbage and are a letdown with the rest of the package. It’s quiet inside the cab and I happily take the truck for some long drives as it’s comfortable and eats up the highway miles with ease.

    Comparing to the XE (2.5L I4): the VQ stomps it everywhere. The XE could due with some additional torque or an extra cog in the transmission to give it a little more pep. It’s not as though I didn’t like driving it but back-to-back it’s not a fair fight.

    Fuel consumption on the VQ isn’t all that bad w/ the 6spd. Highway I’ve seen better than 24mpg (US) territory though winter city driving drives that figure down quickly (16-18mpg due to the A/C being on with the defrost). Even hauling motorcycles in the back through the mountains of KY: I could still hold 24mpg pretty steady and it’s not until you get ~1000lbs or more in the back that you really notice the weight.

    It’s a typical Nissan manual transmission: clutch releases at the top of its travel with a fairly abrupt engagement – I prefer this arrangement than softer clutches found in many other vehicles. It’s a nice sporty shift though the throw could be much shorter as it’s quite a reach for shorter drivers (like my wife) to get into 5th gear.

  • avatar

    Funny how people suggest buying a full size Ameri-yacht instead of those horrible little useless trucks because the 9.475 litre engine gets 1/4 MPG better than the tiny little 261 horsepower V6. Once the body hardware starts falling off your Sliverado and your Dodge is on it’s third transmission, my latest Nissan will more than likely be cruising onto another 300K on the odometer with minimal maintenance. And mine even fits into the garage…

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