2005-13 Nissan Frontier WHAT?S BEST: Heavy-duty construction, low gear for goat paths, right-sized compact WHAT?S WORST: Wheezy four-cylinder, tight back seats, radiator a time bomb TYPICAL GTA PRICES: 2005 – $11,500; 2013 – $25,000
Despite odd quibble, most owners delighted though V6 fuel use hurts
My mother drives a truck. But she doesn’t wear army boots. She owns a 2010 Nissan Frontier Pro-4X Crew Cab dipped in malevolent charcoal paint. It’s a big truck for a little woman who barely tips the scales at 45 kg. As an avid gardener, she learned long ago that it?s easier to lug manure in a compact truck than in a hatchback. Fans of small trucks have slim pickings these days: the Ford Ranger and Chevy Colorado retired, while the Toyota Tacoma has ballooned and Honda’s Ridgeline is awfully broad-shouldered, too. Nissan’s compact pickup soldiers on, mercifully oblivious to the changes going on in the marketplace. CONFIGURATION Nissan redesigned the Frontier for 2005 to ride on a modified version of Nissan’s F-Alpha truck frame, which also underpinned the Titan pickup and Xterra, Pathfinder, Armada and Infiniti QX56 sport-utes. It’s no wimp: its boxed ladder frame incorporated high-strength steels, making it an especially rigid foundation. The wheelbase was stretched 25 cm to improve stability and ride comfort, and engineers pinched the Titan’s double-wishbone front suspension and leaf-spring rear setup. The Frontier offered just two variants: the extended King Cab with two full and two half doors and seating for four, and the Crew Cab with four proper doors and a full-width rear bench making room for five in total. The Crew Cab’s larger cabin bit into the box space behind, limiting it to five feet in length. The interior design was clean and straightforward; the improved ergonomics, materials and assembly quality made for a cheerful environment. Owners noted, however, that the plastics were susceptible to scratches and the armrests were too small. In the King Cab the rear jump seats faced forward, correcting the previous sideways-mounted seats that made no sense in a collision. An underwhelming 152-hp, DOHC 2.5-L four-cylinder motor powered the base King Cab model. Most Frontiers came with the 4.0-L version of Nissan?s VQ-series V6, good for 261 hp and 281 lb.-ft. of torque. Transmission choices included a conventional five-speed automatic and ? hallelujah! ? five- and six-speed manual gearboxes available with the four- and six-cylinder engines. A shift-on-the-fly four-wheel-drive system with 2Hi/4Hi/4Lo modes was optional, operated by an electronically controlled, part-time transfer case. For 2007 Nissan rectified the short box in the Crew Cab by appending the King’s 6-foot box in back. The 2009 models were refreshed with a new front fascia, headlights and instrument panel. Optional front-side airbags, curtain airbags and stability control became standard equipment in 2010. ON THE ROAD A V6-powered Frontier could sprint to highway velocity in 7.6 seconds ? hardly slower than the class-leading Tacoma. The four-cylinder model took more than 11 seconds, a number so depressing we won’t speak of it again. With its robust frame the Frontier was a heavy rig, but it felt solid on the highway and impervious to crosswinds. Towing capacity with the V6 was an impressive 2948 kg. The steering felt communicative and fairly accurate both on asphalt and in the bush. Unfortunately, the HMS Queen Mary probably could turn around more adroitly. Only real complaint is the turning radius is like driving an 18-wheeler, posted one owner online. Fuel consumption was prodigious: the V6 typically burned through 17 litres/100 km (17 mpg) in town. The happiest owners were those who had a four-cylinder King Cab with a manual gearbox. WHAT OWNERS SAY You don’t see many Frontiers around and that’s a shame, because the people who own them are very much delighted with them. They list the truck’s crisp styling, train-trestle construction, muscular V6, genuine off-road capability and great handling as benefits. On the quality side, there?s little to quibble about in these U.S.-built trucks ? with one fat asterisk. As with the Pathfinder, the Frontier’s 4.0-L V6 is plagued by a faulty radiator assembly that can lead to coolant contaminating the transmission fluid, which is a gearbox’s Kryptonite. The failure usually unfolds at high mileage and after the regular warranty has expired. A class-action settlement extends Nissan’s eight-year warranty (which it had raised voluntarily) to 10 years and includes a reimbursement benefit for U.S. and Canadian owners. Beyond that, there are some reports of short-lived clutches and batteries, worn timing-chain guides, faulty crankshaft position sensors and fuel sending units, and a few paint issues. Tell us about your ownership experience with these models: Dodge Ram 2500, Jaguar XJ and Acura ZDX. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.