Trucks

How the Nissan Frontier Keeps Defying the Odds

Midsize pickup trucks have recently gained popularity among consumers and automakers. If you don’t need a full-size truck, a compact pickup is often the best solution. These vehicles often have decent towing capacities and are cheaper than larger trucks.

Because of the increased demand, Ford was excited to release its newest midsize pickup offering onto the market. The Ford Ranger returned from an eight-year hiatus to sell over 30,000 units this quarter. One of its competitors, the Nissan Frontier, sold almost 10,000 more units. What’s interesting about this is that the Frontier is far from new. This truck has stayed basically the same since its first model year in 2004.

Nissan Frontier

Currently, the Nissan Frontier is powered by two engines. The standard is a four-cylinder 2.5-liter engine capable of 152 hp and 171 lb-ft of torque. For more power, drivers can upgrade to a V6 4.0-liter engine with 261 hp and 281 lb-ft of torque. Fans of the manual gearbox are in luck: a 5-speed manual transmission is standard with the option to get an automatic.

The Frontier costs notably less than some of its competitors, retailing for around $19k for a new model. The V6 engine can help the Frontier reach its maximum towing capacity of 6,720 pounds but slightly worsens its fuel economy rating. It loses points to its rivals in terms of interior space, and many of them can tow a lot more than the Frontier.

Very few updates over the years

In 2010, side airbags and electronic stability controls were made standard. The Desert Runner trim was released in 2013, and trucks from this model year got better gas mileage. In the most recent models, a 7-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth, and a rearview camera were all added as standard features. Aside from these, the Nissan Frontier has had no major updates.

Even though its sparse development hasn’t affected its sales, one point that critics have brought up many times is the Frontier’s outdated interior. In addition to being more cramped than the competition, the interior is filled with hard plastic and other cheap-feeling materials. The infotainment system is functional, but not as advanced as a lot of trucks on the current market.

Despite a few minor annoyances, the Frontier is still a capable truck. Its sales figures have managed to stay in the 70,000 range for a couple of years. The V6 engine combined with either transmission gives drivers precise shifts and ample power. Consumers have also praised the smooth handling of this truck.

Ford Ranger

The new Ranger only comes with one available engine, but it’s more powerful than the Frontier’s base offering with 270 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque. It can also up to 7,500 and gets much better gas mileage compared to the Frontier. However, it does suffer from an average interior and a cramped second row. 

It redeems itself in terms of safety features and crash test scores, which have been consistently low for the Nissan Frontier. The Ranger got a “Good” rating on almost all of the IIHS tests, while the Frontier got more “Marginal” results.

What other automakers can learn from the Nissan Frontier

For some truck drivers, simplicity is key. While it’s nice to have a cabin filled with the most high-tech equipment, these extras often raise the price of the truck and aren’t useful at all when it comes to labor tasks.

Some competitors also offer a dizzying array of powertrain and trim options, but the Nissan Frontier only has two engines and five trims to choose from. Perhaps other automakers could benefit from having a simple, cheaper truck in its lineup for those who don’t want to spend big bucks on largely unused add-ons.