SEE ALSO: Nissan Buyer's Guide
Nissan is a pioneer in the compact pickup truck segment. It started selling small pickups in the U.S. under the Datsun name back in 1959. It had the first long-bed compact truck in 1975. The Datsun "King Cab" (tm), the first extended-cab compact pickup, debuted in 1977. Model year 2000 sees another Nissan compact pickup first in this country -- the introduction of the Frontier 4-door Crew Cab.
Crew cab pickups, with four real doors and an ample rear seat, are nothing new, but all previously sold in this country have been full- sized models. While undeniably useful, a full-sized crew cab pickup is a bit too much truck for most people. However, smaller, compact- based crew cab pickups have been sold for years in overseas markets. The Frontier Crew Cab is the first here, and it won't be the last.
The Crew Cab is the flagship of the Frontier line. Two trim levels -- XE and SE -- are offered, with two- or four-wheel drive available for both. All are built on the extra-sturdy Frontier 4x4 chassis, and have plenty of ground clearance and a sporty-but-serious look. The only engine is the 170-hp, 3.3-liter V6 featured in other top- line Nissan pickups and SUVs. As is the case with most extended-cab trucks, but more so, the extra cab length does take space away from the cargo bed. The Crew Cab's bed is about 20 inches shorter than that of the standard Frontier, but, according to Nissan, it is only nine percent smaller in volume than many competitive extended-cab models. Factory accessories, including a bed extender, camper shell, bike rack, and ski, snowboard, and kayak carriers are available to expand its usefulness.
I recently spent a week with an SE 4x4 Crew Cab and found it to be a most interesting vehicle. Built on the same frame as Nissan's new Xterra SUV, the Crew Cab is very much like an Xterra with a cargo box instead of a covered rear area. The box is on the short side at 54 inches in length and 59 in width , so many things that traditionally fit in the back of a pickup won't fit. So? Get a small, or even medium- sized trailer and tow them. The Frontier Crew Cab can tow up to 5,000 lbs. Think of it as a sport-utility with a back porch -- pile it high with anything that gets too wet or muddy to be carried pleasantly inside -- wet camping, scuba, or ski gear, dirt and other gardening materials... be creative, there's a long list of possible uses.
APPEARANCE: The Frontier Crew Cab is different sort of pickup. It's handsome and well-proportioned, with a sporty look. With its long cab and short box, it has a definite concept-vehicle appearance, best viewed directly from the side or front quarter. From the cab forward it's a top-level Frontier, with chrome trim around the grille and headlights and real chromed steel bumpers. Tubular running boards and an optional roof rack add to its ready-for-anything look.
COMFORT: The Nissan Crew Cab has more interior space than any extended-cab compact pickup, but is not quite in the same league as a full-sized crew cab truck. That doesn't mean that it's cramped. It's much roomier than any compact extended-cab truck, and beats quite a few full-sized models as well. It's comparable to a small mid-sized sedan or compact SUV -- think of it as a Nissan Altima with a really big trunk, or an Xterra with a back porch. Access to the rear seat is as easy as in a sedan thanks to the real rear doors. Despite the 4x4 chassis, step-in is not too high, and running boards help. The rear seat is comfortably-angled, and spacious enough for two people easily, with room in the middle for a third. Buckets are found in front, separated by a console with the gear shift, 4WD lever, storage space, and cupholders for front and rear occupants. A good climate-control system is standard on all models, as are audio systems -- AM/FM/cassette for XEs and AM/FM/CD for SEs.
SAFETY: : The 2000 Nissan Frontier Crew Cab pickup has dual second-generation front air bags, side-guard door beams, and provision for a child safety seat in its rear seat.
ROADABILITY: The Frontier Crew Cab is the same length as a King Cab model, so urban maneuvers and parking are much easier than with a full-sized crew cab pickup. It's definitely a truck in the ride and handling departments, but it's a contemporary truck with low noise levels and very good ride comfort. It's never bouncy, but it is a bit smoother with four people aboard or something weighty in the cargo bed. It does have a high center of gravity and truck tires, and so, unsurprisingly, handles accordingly. It's a truck. Load it up and head for the hills. Shift-on-the-fly 4-wheel drive and automatic locking hubs will help when you get there.
PERFORMANCE: Nissan's 3.3-liter V6 powers all Frontier Crew Cab models. Its 170 horsepower and 200 lb-ft of torque is up to the task. Ninety percent of maximum torque is developed as low as 1,500 rpm for maximum towing ability and good off-road performance. Accordingly, low-speed acceleration is good, despite the two-ton weight. It's never at a loss for power. Frontier Crew Cabs with the 4- speed automatic transmission can tow up to 5,000 lbs; manual- transmission models have a 3,500 lb capacity. All versions have generous ground clearance.
CONCLUSIONS: Nissan's new Frontier Crew Cab combines SUV interior room for five with pickup versatility in a conveniently-sized package.
SPECIFICATIONS Base Price S40 $ 22,900 V40 $ 23,900 Base Price $ 22,240 Price As Tested $ 23,919 Engine Type single overhead cam V6 Engine Size 3.3 liters / 200 cu. in. Horsepower 170 @ 4,800 rpm Torque (lb-ft) 200 @ 2,800 rpm Transmission 4-speed automatic Wheelbase / Length 116.1 in. / 193.1 in. (w/o rear step bumper) Curb Weight 4.141 lbs. Pounds Per Horsepower 24.3 Fuel Capacity 19.4 gal. Fuel Requirement unleaded regular, 87 octane Tires P255/65 R16 General Grabber AW Brakes, front/rear vented disc / drum, antilock standard Suspension, front/rear independent double wishbone /solid axle with leaf springs Ground Clearance 8.9 in. Drivetrain front engine,on-demand four-wheel drive PERFORMANCE EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon city / highway / observed 15 / 19 / 16 0 to 60 mph 11.0 sec 1/4 mile (E.T.) 18.3 sec Towing Capacity up to 5,000 lbs with automatic; 3,500 with manual transmission OPTIONS AND CHARGES Power Package -- includes: power windows, mirrors, door locks, security system with remote entry, cruise control $ 1,080 Floor mats $ 79 Destination charge $ 520