The Auto Channel
The Largest Independent Automotive Research Resource
The Largest Independent Automotive Research Resource
Official Website of the New Car Buyer

New Car Review


by Tom Hagin


SEE ALSO: Nissan Buyer's Guide


Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 14,640
Price As Tested                                    $ 16,058
Engine Type              DOHC 16-valve 2.4 Liter I4 w/MPFI*
Engine Size                                 146 cid/2389 cc
Horsepower                                   143 @ 5200 RPM
Torque (lb-ft)                               154 @ 4000 RPM
Wheelbase/Width/Length                  116.1"/66.5"/196.1"
Transmission                              Five-speed manual
Curb Weight                                     3123 pounds
Fuel Capacity                                  15.9 gallons
Tires  (F/R)                                     P215/65R15
Brakes (F/R)                                Disc/drum (ABS)
Drive Train                   Front-engine/rear-wheel-drive
Vehicle Type                        Four-passenger/two-door
Domestic Content                                        N/A
Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                               N/A


EPA Economy, miles per gallon
   city/highway/average                            22/26/24
0-60 MPH                                  (est.) 11 seconds
Payload capacity                               1,400 pounds
Maximum towing capacity                        3,500 pounds
     * Multi point fuel injection

When a truck maker rolls out its first all-new pickup design in ten years, it's big news. And when the truck is larger, stronger and more comfortable than ever before, well, that's news too.

But the best news at the Nissan camp is that its all-new Frontier, the first Nissan pickup ever to wear a model name, is now on sale with only a modest jump in price. And like Nissan's cars, these trucks come well-equipped with lots of standard features. It is available in both regular and King (extended) Cab bodies, in Standard, XE and SE trim.

OUTSIDE - Frontier still uses the boxy styling of the slab-sided "Hardbody" pickups produced largely unchanged from '86 to '97, but it enjoys refinements such as a raked-back grille and slim, integrated bumpers, as well as rear side windows that don't wrap up and over the roof like the old model. The Hardbody's bulging fender wells have been replaced by a slimmer, more conservative look, and our XE King Cab tester wore a stylish set of six-spoke alloy wheels like those on Nissan's Pathfinder SUV. Tinted glass and a double-wall bed are standard on all models, while XE versions can be equipped with a sliding rear window, heavily tinted privacy glass and a set of plastic fender flares. The outside mirrors are black, and a glass sunroof is an option.

INSIDE - Our test vehicle came standard with cloth-covered front bucket seats, and a pair of small fold-down jump seats in back. These seats can be used to transport adults during emergency situations, but long trips seated in back would become brutally uncomfortable. The center console, positioned perfectly at elbow level, resides between the front seats, and features a set of recessed cupholders just ahead of a sizable storage compartment. Our XE version was loaded with options which included cruise control, tilt steering, variable speed intermittent wipers and a powerful AM/FM/CD player. Power windows, door locks and outside mirrors are part of another options package, which also adds keyless entry and a vehicle security system. Air conditioning is standard on all but the base version.

ON THE ROAD - New Frontier features continue on under the hood. It is powered by a 2.4 liter double overhead cam (the old version used a single cam design) four cylinder engine that produces 143 horsepower and 154 lb-ft of torque. It uses four valves per cylinder and a cast iron block with an aluminum cylinder head. This engine will be the sole Frontier choice through 1998, whether in 2WD or 4WD layout. A 3.3 liter version of the Pathfinder's engine should be available by the time the '99 models roll off the assembly line in Smyrna, Tennessee. For now, the four cylinder must do, but it's a hard-working, economical choice. Low-end power is excellent, perfect for towing or hauling, and torque is readily available across the rpm range. A five-speed transmission is standard equipment, while a four-speed automatic is optional.

BEHIND THE WHEEL - A full ladder-type frame extends the length of the Frontier. Its suspension layout is traditional by today's truck standards, with double wishbone/coil spring front suspension, and a solid axle with leaf springs in the rear. Our 2WD test model's suspension was tuned plush, so its ride was smooth and comfortable. With such soft springs and shocks, we were surprised at its 1400-pound payload capacity. Filling the bed with furniture proved that Nissan's claims are accurate, though when loaded to the limit, the tail of the truck sinks low and wags a bit through the turns. All models except the base version get power steering, while front discs and rear drum brakes handle stopping. Two-wheel-drive models get a rear-only anti-lock braking system (ABS), while 4X4 versions get four-wheel ABS.

SAFETY - Dual airbags, rear ABS and side-impact beams are standard, and the passenger airbag can be de-activated with the ignition key.

OPTIONS - The Comfort Package (tilt steering, variable speed intermittent wipers, tachometer, privacy glass, passenger side vanity mirror, 12-volt power outlet, low fuel warning light) adds $579. The Appearance Package (sliding rear window, fender flares, tailgate finisher, bodyside graphics, passenger assist grip) is $349 extra.