SEE ALSO: Nissan Buyer's Guide
SPECIFICATIONS Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price $ 22,240 Price As Tested $ 24,647 Engine Type SOHC 12-valve 3.3 Liter V6 w/SMFI* Engine Size 181 cid/3275 cc Horsepower 170 @ 4800 RPM Torque (lb-ft) 200 @ 2800 RPM Wheelbase/Width/Length 116.1"/71.9"/193.1 Transmission Four-speed automatic Curb Weight 4167 pounds Fuel Capacity 19.4 gallons Tires (F/R) P225/65R16 all season Brakes (F/R) Disc (ABS)/drum (ABS) Drive Train Front-engine/four-wheel-drive Vehicle Type Five-passenger/four-door Domestic Content 55 percent Coefficient of Drag (Cd.) N/A PERFORMANCE EPA Economy, miles per gallon city/highway/average 15/19/18 0-60 MPH 10.5 seconds Maximum payload capacity 1100 pounds Maximum towing capacity 5000 pounds * Sequential multi-point fuel injection
The hottest trend in pickups these days is extra doors. First came a rear-hinged rear "suicide" door that opened on one side of the vehicle. Some truck makers added a pair of these doors, which greatly enhanced rear access, but the tiny rear seats made riding in back a miserable experience.
Nissan has solved that problem. By incorporating front-hinged doors to its compact pickup and installing a comfortable bench seat in back, the company's Frontier Crew Cab pickup can now haul four adults in reasonable comfort and still carry cargo in its short, stubby bed. It's available in two-or-four-wheel drive, in either base XE or uplevel SE trim. This week we test a Frontier SE 4X4.
OUTSIDE - This type of four-door pickup isn't new. Nissan has been producing them elsewhere for years, mainly for commercial markets. However, Nissan is the first to offer a compact pickup with four conventional doors in this country and other compact truck makers are expected to follow. Nissan introduced the concept of the compact pickup to the U.S. in 1959 and has offered six redesigns since then. The Frontier superseded the company's Hardbody pickup in 1998, along with its distinctive, slab-sided look. To make room for the 29-inch long rear doors, Nissan took the extended cab chassis and reduced the six-foot bed by 18 inches. An optional bed extender helps accommodate longer loads, while a lockable tonneau cover is a worthwhile extra. Our SE 4X4 test model wore body-color overfenders, door handles and outside mirrors, while its chrome grille added a bit of luxury to the package.
INSIDE - Most of the Frontier's extra size went into its cabin. And while the rear seating area is fine for two normal-sized adults, taller riders will have to duck down a bit while entering the back seat. A third rider in back will be cramped, however. The dashboard, seats and door panels are made of higher quality materials than before, and the front bucket seats are soft, wide and very comfortable. Standard SE 4X4 equipment includes air conditioning, tilt steering, twin 12-volt power ports, variable-speed intermittent wipers, sliding rear window and a six-speaker AM/FM/CD player. Our test model came with Nissan's SE Utility Package that added a tubular roof rack and a limited-slip rear differential, while its Power Package included cruise control, keyless remote entry and power windows, door locks and outside mirrors.
ON THE ROAD - While the two-wheel drive version and some King Cab models are offered with a 2.4 liter four cylinder engine, the Crew Cab uses a single-overhead-cam, 170-horse, 3.3 liter V6. Its 200 pound-feet of torque develops 90 percent of its pull at a low 1500 RPM, which helps its 5000-pound towing capacity. Our sprint to 60 MPH took just over ten seconds, which is satisfactory for merging into highway traffic. We'd like to see a bit more attention paid to noise, vibration and harshness, however, as this engine doesn't quite match the smooth response of some others in its class. More horsepower, around 200 or so, would help as well. A five-speed manual transmission is standard, with the four-speed automatic, optional in our tester.
ON THE ROAD - All Crew Cab Frontier models are built atop a rugged, truck-type four-wheel drive chassis, which is a full-frame, heavy-duty system. The front suspension is a double-wishbone setup, with tubular shock absorbers, torsion bar springs and an anti-roll bar. The conventional rear suspension uses a solid axle with leaf springs, so the ride is as smooth and comfortable as can be expected in a 4X4. The Frontier's part-time four-wheel drive system can only be engaged at low speeds, but automatic locking hubs are standard. Its recirculating ball steering system is accurate and provides plenty of road feel. Its braking system uses front disc and rear drum brakes with a standard anti-lock braking system (ABS).
SAFETY - Dual dashboard airbags, side-impact door beams and ABS are standard.
OPTIONS - Power Package: $1,080; floor mats: $79; Utility Package: $499; bed extender: $229.