By on April 5, 2017

2017 Nissan Frontier S

There’s something innately endearing about a small pickup truck. Like an overeager puppy who yaps and seems to bounce instead of walk, fun-sized pick-‘em-ups just appear to be excited all the time. Come on! Come on! Let’s work! Let’s play! Are you ready? Can we play? Huh? Huh? Are you ready? How about now? To me, that’s the soundtrack of a small truck.

Nissan has been a large player in the small truck market ever since Methuselah was a boy, with the Hardbody (what a great name for a truck, by the way) finding itself on the nation’s gravel roads in a whole bunch of trims. In the Great White North, they even used the fantastic Hustler name. Hardbody Hustler. Tremendous.

For 2017, the Frontier remains largely unchanged, thanks to Nissan’s glacier-like redesign cycle and by dint of having spent all its development dollars on the new Titan. No matter. The Frontier is an honest looking truck, foregoing needless design flourishes like the LED mascara that appears on some of its competitors. Fancy headlights don’t help you haul dirt in a base-model truck.

A five-speed manual is hooked to 2.5-liter inline-four making 152 horsepower and 171 lb-ft of torque. Four valves per cylinder and direct injection separate it from the agricultural power mills that were unceremoniously dumped in small base trucks for years. Airbags are nestled in the dash, roof, and seats, while anti-lock discs on all four corners help get the driver and trailer whoa’d up.

Even in base, four-cylinder, row-you-own trim, the Frontier can tow a noteworthy 3760 pounds and haul nearly 1000 pounds of payload in its bed. There is technically room for four people in a King Cab Frontier, but the two in back will either have to be small children, hobbits, or people you don’t like. At least the seats are forward-facing now, unlike the vomit inducing centre-facing seats found for years in small trucks. El cheapo 15-inch tires on steelies means you won’t break the bank at replacement time. Go for the $0 Cayenne Red paint, a luxury when buyers of most other base trucks are forced to choose between fifty shades of grey.

If I’m docking it any points, it’s for Nissan’s failing to include a radio (!!!) with the base Frontier, although I guarantee you economies of scale dictate all wiring is in place, hiding behind the blank plate waiting for a quick do-it-yourself installation. Air conditioning and cruise control are also absent. Over at the Chevy store, a base Colorado runs exactly $20,000 and includes all these features. The Nissan starts at $18,390.

So a true Ace of Base, then? Not quite, as I would definitely pop for the $1,300 Preferred Package to get tunes, cruise, and A/C. Even after adding that princely sum, the Nissan still undercuts the Chevy by $310. Now all Nissan needs to do is call it the Hardbody.

Not every base model has aced it. The ones that have? They help make the automotive landscape a lot better. Any others you can think of, B&B? Let us know in the comments. Naturally, feel free to eviscerate our selections.

The model above is shown with American options and is priced in Freedom Dollars. As always, your dealer may sell for less.

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38 Comments on “Ace of Base: 2017 Nissan Frontier S...”


  • avatar
    Zackman

    Buy the Chevy. A better use for your money all around. I’m sure the Nissan is OK, but a lot cruder. Perhaps that’s what may make it right for some.

    BUT… if I were looking for a small truck, I would not want a four-door model, just a two-door with the extended cab. Unfortunately, the GM twins only come in crew configuration. I learned that lesson the hard way when I owned a Ford Ranger. Short bed, standard cab. OK for a full-sized truck, but that thing, while an awesome truck, was cramped. It did fit in the garage, however.

    On second thought, maybe a four-door is really the way to go in a smaller pickup.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      “the GM twins only come in crew configuration”

      Not true at all Zackman, Chevy makes an extended cab, and even with a 4cyl+5spd (actually the only way to get that engine and transmission).

      • 0 avatar
        Zackman

        You are correct, Sir. When these came out, it was announced, if I recall, that they would only be built in a crew cab style. Never bothered to check it out on the website.

        Lesson learned. Thank you!

    • 0 avatar
      Higheriq

      But some of us want a regular cab, and we have to buy a full-size to get one – which is exactly what I did.

  • avatar
    RobertRyan

    Boy, this is prehistoric. 2.5litre manual? It is the 2017 model? Absolutely riveting.

  • avatar
    doublechili

    Somehow a base pickup just seems correct. No radio or a/c? I hope it also has cloth seats and crank windows.

  • avatar
    Ltd1983

    If you can stay away from options when buying new, the resale on these is pretty phenomenal. A family member got a good deal on a new 2012 Extended cab, 2wd V6 Frontier SV (midlevel trim) for a little over $21k.

    75k miles later, and it’s resale value is, even conservatively, about $16-18k. Plenty of comparable for sale listed at $19-20k.

    It’s not as refined as the GM’s, but I’m guessing it’ll cost a little more than $3-5k in depreciation to put 75k miles on one of them.

  • avatar
    zoomzoomfan

    I can’t imagine dealers keeping many (if any at all) Frontiers in stock without that preferred package. People who don’t want A/C and a radio are few and far between nowadays.

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    Exactly the same options of my 89′ izuzu space cab pick up almost 30 years later: No radio, ac.

    Heater and a key, i did have the advanced option of the sliding rear window though, which should be standard on small trucks.

  • avatar
    Goatshadow

    I had the 2009 version of this, called the XE back then. It did have radio and A/C thankfully. After a short while the manual crank windows and manual door locks became the most tiresome part of it. But was fun to drive and got pretty good mpg’s.

    But if you are in the market for one.. wait a year or so for the new one, or buy the Colorado instead.

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    The first vehicle I got to drive on a regular basis was the family 1984 Nissan truck in King Cab form. I don’t know why my dad got a 2WD version for here in Michigan, but some sand in the back took care of any winter traction issues. I drove that little truck back and forth to visit my girlfriend in the city. I also took that truck to college with me.

    When I bought my first used car – with payments – it was a 1994 Nissan 2WD Hardbody with (surprise!) a king cab. It was a rugged little beast that did a lot of work and also hauled me back n’ forth to my job without issue.

    I got hammered by a Chevy Blazer in that truck, crumpling my front and ripping off one of the fenders. Even in that beaten state, I was able to drive the wreck home. It got repaired and soldiered on.

    I only sold it because it made a rotten vehicle for baby seats / family hauling duties.

  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    Love it. As the new owner of a basic rwd small pickup, I’m a total convert to having a vehicle in the family fleet with a bed.

    “haul nearly 1000 pounds of payload in its bed. ”

    Nissan’s payload ratings confuse me. I know the Xterra has a really soft leaf pack, on my test drive of a CC Frontier it seemed much better (stiffer). This Nissan has about 50% more horsepower and a more substantial frame than my little Ranger, why then was my Ranger rated at 1250lb of payload and this doesn’t break 1000lb? Modern liability concerns perhaps?

    • 0 avatar
      Drzhivago138

      What’s the respective curb weight of each pickup? (I dunno if that’s the deciding factor here, but it might be.)

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        Base frontier is 3700lb, my Ranger checks in closer to 3100 I think. Still, I’d be way more comfortable with a cubic yard of gravel in a new Frontier with 152hp based on the oversized Titan frame, than in my 110hp Ranger. It could be a very soft leafpack in the Frontier that kills it though, who knows.

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      Payload ratings in small trucks come down to mostly leaf spring and brake sizing. The old Toyota “1 ton” trucks upsized both versus the regular pickups, but they bounced around a lot unloaded.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    My friend, his mother and I went to Denver a couple of years ago. Our first rental, a 2015 Jeep Cherokee, overheated its transmission going down the mountains on a day trip—even though we operated it properly. When we took it back, Hertz was so apologetic, they were willing to rent us an S-Class or XJ; however it was the Fourth of July, and almost everything was booked. They did manage to dig up a 2015 Nissan Frontier King Cab. I’m not sure which engine it had, but I’d venture to say it was the I4.

    It was, of course, a champ in the mountains. It didn’t feel cramped in the rear seat, either. The only drawback was that we couldn’t hide our luggage in the trunk on the way to the airport. I was rather attached to it when we had to give it back, just because it was so honest, and the perfect size for maneuvering Denver’s more-narrow streets and alleys.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      “I’m not sure which engine it had, but I’d venture to say it was the I4.

      It was, of course, a champ in the mountains.”

      Definitely sounds like you had the burly 4.0L V6 then, I really doubt an almost 4000lb truck with a 2.5L 152hp engine and an automatic would be a “champ” in the mountains, unless you’re referring to it being a champ in a different sense (offroad?)

  • avatar
    JimC2

    Slightly off topic, yesterday I saw one of these on the road. Notably, it was accessorized in a strange way: truck nutz dangling from the trailer hitch and an Apple computer sticker in one of the windows. The dissonance!!

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    I’ve always thought base 2wd compact trucks have been overpriced and unappealing. Cheap looking, cheap feeling, cheaply equipped, but with a dear price tag and surprisingly poor fuel economy. These things are like those micro cargo vans, a spartan tool that is difficult to be interested in. From a business TCO perspective they make sense, but as a personal daily driver there are other ways I would personally spend $20-24K, including massive capital reduction on a nicer vehicle.

    The saddest of them all may be the base SR Tacoma. Google it and gawk in amazement at the black plastic front bumper that clashes so disgracefully with the body color. Toyota will make you part with $24K to drive a vehicle that should embarrass both you and the automaker.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      “Google it and gawk in amazement at the black plastic front bumper that clashes so disgracefully with the body color.”

      Call me weird but I love that look. Black plastic bumper, steel wheels, in UN-white. Certainly poor value in the sense that you can get a lightly used, luxed-up V8 fullsize domestic for the same money. But strictly on aesthetics I think they are neat. And again, the TCO is freaky-low thanks to insane resale value. If I had money to burn, a manual, 2.7L 4cyl 4wd access cab Tacoma with the black bumper and steel wheels would be a perfect daily driver and hauler.

      • 0 avatar
        30-mile fetch

        You are weird, but that is to your credit. I like the unadorned UN-white look as well, (one of my dream trucks is a base 2.7L Ecoboost F150 short cab 4×4 in white: https://tinyurl.com/lk9ll3g) but my problem with the Tacoma’s implementation is that the black bumper climbs vertically up the outside of the grill and meets the colored body panels with odd angles. To me it looks like the front end paint is in the process of delaminating and chipping off. The F150 and the Nissan pictured above are much cleaner.

        • 0 avatar
          gtemnykh

          Yeah I saw a lot of stripped down Toyotas and other makes in Costa Rica, Mexico and Russia with that very blatant and poorly integrated application of unpainted bumpers, and have acquired a tasted for them for some reason.

          goo.gl/images/ZWVWBK

          goo.gl/images/c3KAxS

    • 0 avatar
      CobraJet

      I did google the base Tacoma. Not sure I have ever seen one on the street. It looks like one you would see in the body shop with a replaced bumper in black primer, waiting to go into the paint booth for the color coat.

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    The smallest of the modern mid-sizers but still larger than I want on the outside. I’ve had two long-running complaints about this truck and one of them is stated in the third paragraph, “For 2017, the Frontier remains largely unchanged…” It’s dated on the inside and just plain ugly on the outside. People I know who own them like them for their smaller size but even in a pickup-truck-heavy community like where I live, they’re scarce. One of those owners only has it because she inherited it from her husband on his passing but again, likes it because it’s an almost ideal size for her with her charity work and other needs where the open bed is an advantage. But even she tells me she wishes it were smaller. Even discounting the fact that hers is a crew cab model, she says she’d rather have one the size of my older Ranger and won’t even consider the bigger Toyota, Chevy or Honda models.

    No, I’m not one to settle for second-best when there’s a chance for something better on the horizon. I’ve got a couple years or so before I’m really ready to buy a new truck…the Ranger meets my needs for now, though admittedly I still want an extended cab where mine is standard cab. Modern engines and transmissions also offer a little better performance than the 2.3L, dual-ignition rated at 135 horses with 5-speed stick, too. The 2.4 Tigershark engine, by comparison, offers 50 more horses without boosting with a turbo. For a light truck like the old Ranger that’s a massive upgrade. But that will never happen on this Ranger. But then, that’s the point. The potential for an economical, truly mid-sized (or compact, if you’d rather call it that) is obvious and such trucks already exist–just not in the US.

    • 0 avatar
      Drzhivago138

      “but still larger than I want on the outside”

      I didn’t realize 2″ of OAL, 1.5″ of width, and 1″ of height vs. a SuperCab Ranger made all that much difference. :P

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        Which “Supercab Ranger” are you comparing it to, the 2011 or the 1997?

        The current Frontier LOOKs larger, at least in part to the fattening wheel arches and, as some would put it, gumball shape. Putting my Ranger next to my acquaintance’s Frontier and it’s visibly taller and longer despite having a shorter bed. Width… I admit I didn’t pay a whole lot of attention to it.

        Still, the Frontier comes closest in a CURRENT pickup truck to what I’m looking for. But I still believe better is coming.

        • 0 avatar
          gtemnykh

          Yeah the Rangers can vary quite a bit in terms of measured dimensions even when the body stayed basically the same. A later 4WD FX4 trim truck with the bigger A/T tires and fender flares looks pretty imposing. A basic reg cab rwd truck without any of that physically looks smaller.

          I really quite liked test driving a ’16 SV trim CC 4wd Frontier, it had the 4.0L and automatic and was really quite refined to drive, comparable to a Tacoma but with a more chairlike seating position down a bit lower to the ground. The interior seemed perfectly adequate and reasonable for a compact/midsize utility vehicle (had heated cloth seats!). The problem was the price. Without much attempt at haggling, the price stood at about $26k. Unless you really want the smaller size, a non-trivial consideration no doubt, a lightly used crew cab 4wd fullsize truck would literally do everything better in an objective sense (ignoring fun to drive and mental stress of worrying about dimensions in tight quarters). A 4.0L+auto Frontier 4wd probably even gets worse MPG than some of the more optimized fullsize options.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      IIRC if you have a “dual ignition” 2.3L in a ranger that makes it an 8 valve SOHC Lima motor, which only had 112hp. The 135hp rating was on the Mazda-sourced 2.3L DOHC chain driven Duratec on 2001+ trucks

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        Won’t argue that, gtem, though I can’t remember where I came up with that 135hp number. All I know is that it’s weaker than I like and would love to improve it without going nuts on cost. It just ‘feels’ like it runs out of power at higher rpm and I’m wondering if a more open exhaust system wouldn’t help it.

        Ah! Found it! 112hp, 135 lb-ft torque.

  • avatar
    Drzhivago138

    Is this the last vehicle in the US market to not have a radio?

  • avatar
    Dan

    If a base F-150 actually sells for $18,000, and it does, then the only way that this 15 year old penalty box is an ace of anything besides bad judgement is if Nissan is discounting them to 13 flat.

  • avatar
    NN

    Nissan is dumping Frontiers on rental fleets new (crew cab, 2wd, automatics). I had one last week in Florida. The guy I was with down there had a BMW 5 series that he had no idea how to use…he couldn’t figure out how to put it in park without shutting it off first, couldn’t pair the bluetooth, all the warning chimes gave him reasons to complain. His experience with the 5 series was an education in how massive over-complication can ruin our experiences with products. I nicknamed my Frontier “Analog” (It had an actual metal key you had to turn to start!), and he acknowledged that for the purpose of having a car for only a couple days–not long enough to really get to know it–Analog makes for a better rental car experience. Plus I felt like it was 1997 again driving around in that thing.

  • avatar
    TDIGuy

    While we are on the subject of base. Since my employer opted to give me more free time in the day, I’ve had more time to watch the price is right. Anyone notice the cars they give away are base models? The features list is so short they always have to list “front wheel drive” amongst them.

  • avatar
    Higheriq

    I came close to pulling the trigger on a Frontier since it has the smallest interior of ANY pickup. If it had been a true regular cab, that would have sealed the deal. I ended up with a regular-cab full-size because I absolutely did NOT want more than two doors.

  • avatar
    JGMotorsport64

    I own a 2010 SE Crew Cab with the V6. I love it. I plan on running it into the ground.

    I’ve contemplated getting a new one before it’s changed, mainly because Nissan has an acute sense of how to make a car uglier. The restrained styling on this is a last of it’s kind for Nissan.


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