2013 Nissan Frontier Expert Review

3.6 Overall Score
Performance 3.4Comfort 3.2Styling 3.5Value 3.4

Editor's Overview

The Nissan Frontier is one of just two new mid-size pickups available for 2013. Against the Toyota Tacoma the Frontier more than holds its own with a more powerful V6 engine, impressive tow rating, and features that make it both a capable daily driver and eager weekend adventurer.

You'll Like The 2013 Nissan Frontier If...

If you want a tough but well-equipped truck that's smaller and more fuel-efficient than most full-size pickups, the Nissan Frontier is a solid choice. The 2013 Frontier can tow up to 6,500 pounds and tackle rugged paths while still offering good looks and a decent highway ride.

You May Not Like The 2013 Nissan Frontier If...

Those who need to tow really heavy loads will have to step up to a full-size truck like the Ford F-150, Ram 1500 or the Frontier's big brother, the Nissan Titan. If you want a basic compact truck with a regular cab, your sole option for 2013 is the Toyota Tacoma.

What's New

The NissanConnect navigation and information system is now available on Crew Cab versions of the Frontier. Top-line Crew Cab models receive a backup camera, rear parking sensors and dual-zone climate control. Desert Runner off-road editions are available, and fuel economy has increased for most models.

Interior Features

The 2013 Frontier's cabin is versatile and comfortable. King Cab models feature a pair of small, forward-facing rear seats with storage bins beneath, while Crew Cab models have a 3-row bench that's comfortable enough for adults. The King Cab has easy rear access thanks to half-size rear-hinged doors, while Crew Cabs use regular doors. All Frontiers boast storage versatility with rear seats that flip up to create open space and a front passenger seat that folds flat to become an impromptu workstation. Cloth is the standard seat material, with leather available. Lumbar support in higher trims improves driver comfort. We wish the steering wheel would telescope and not just tilt.

Exterior Features

With its raised fender flares and blocky design, the Frontier has a familiar family resemblance to Nissan's Xterra SUV and Titan full-size truck. Unlike the mammoth Titan, the smaller Frontier has a sportier, more athletic attitude. King Cab and Crew Cab models have the same overall length of 205.5 inches. A long bed is available in Crew Cabs, giving them the same 73.3-inch size of those found on King Cab models. PRO-4X models have multiple skid plates to protect vital parts from nature's jabs. Top-line Crew Cab SL trims have tubular roof rails similar to those on the Xterra.

Driving Impressions

In everyday driving, the Frontier performs as well any mid-size SUV we've tested, though the truck's ride becomes noticeably harsher over rough pavement. Paired with the refined 4.0-liter V6 engine that is standard on Crew Cab models and all but the two lowest trims of the King Cab, the Nissan Frontier has plenty of power for passing vehicles and pulling loads. With the exception of wind noise from the large side mirrors, we found the Frontier's cabin quiet and comfortable. Those who go off-roading – or just want to appear as if they do – will be interested in the Desert Runner or even more hardcore PRO-4X models. During our test with a PRO-4X 4-wheel-drive (4WD) model, the Nissan Frontier easily tackled tough terrain thanks to features like a locking rear differential and Bilstein performance shocks.

Pricing Notes

The 2013 Nissan Frontier has a Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starting at $18,815 for an S trim King Cab with a manual transmission. At the other end of the spectrum, a 4-wheel-drive Frontier Crew Cab SL starts at just over $34,000. The Toyota Tacoma's base price is a few hundred less than the Frontier's, but it's for a regular-cab model. Roomier versions of the Tacoma with rear seating are comparable in price to similarly equipped Frontiers. Before buying, be sure to check the Kelley Blue Book Fair Purchase Price below to see what others in your area are paying for the 2013 Nissan Frontier. In the battle for resale value, the Nissan holds its own, but isn't as high as that of the Toyota in this 2-horse race.

Notable Equipment

Most 2013 Nissan Frontier models are reasonably well equipped with the exception of base S trim King Cab models. Those least expensive of Frontier models lack air conditioning, power mirrors, power door locks and power windows, cruise control, and even a radio. Stepping up to SV trim adds features like an AM/FM/CD/USB audio system with color display. PRO-4X models have 4-wheel drive standard and a locking differential. Crew Cab SL models come very well equipped with leather seats, Rockford Fosgate premium audio and the NissanConnect system. Frontier King Cab models come with a 4- or 6-cylinder engine, while all Crew Cab models exclusively use the V6. Wheels range in size from 15 to 18 inches.

Notable Options

Most convenience and performance features are tied to varying trim levels of the Frontier, but some packages are available. Among them are a Preferred Package for King Cab S models that add the much-needed AM/FM/CD player and air conditioning. Higher-trim models can add features such as the Utili-track tie-down system, a rear-view monitor, a tow hitch, navigation, Bluetooth wireless streaming, and Pandora radio. Crew Cab models can substitute their roughly 5-foot-long bed for one that's just over six feet like those in King Cab models. Accessories include a bedliner, step rails and even a dome tent for the truck bed.

Favorite Features

In addition to a much-needed navigation system, NissanConnect provides information about traffic, weather and points of interest. The system takes prompts from voice command or the touch of a finger on its 5.8-inch color screen.

If you own a truck, you're more than likely to move something in it. Nissan's Utili-track makes the job easier and more secure thanks to adjustable tie-down cleats built into the bed.

Under the Hood

Two engines are offered in the 2013 Nissan Frontier: a 4-cylinder that's available in rear-wheel-drive King Cab models, or a more powerful V6 offered in all Crew Cab models and higher trims of the King Cab. Transmission choices include 5-speed and 6-speed manuals or a 5-speed automatic. Even 4-cylinder models have a respectable tow rating of 3,500 pounds, and rear-wheel-drive V6 models can tow up to 6,500 pounds. All 2013 Nissan Frontiers run on regular unleaded gasoline. The Frontier's fuel economy has improved slightly, but is still rated at only up to 23 mpg for 4-cylinder models or 22 mpg for V6 versions.

2.5-liter inline-4
152 horsepower @ 5,200 rpm
171 lb-ft of torque @ 4,400 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 19/23 mpg (2WD, manual), 17/23 mpg (2WD, automatic)

4.0-liter V6
261 horsepower @ 5,600 rpm
281 lb-ft of torque @ 4,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 16/22 mpg (2WD, manual), 16/22 mpg (2WD, automatic), 16/21 mpg (4WD, manual), 15/21 mpg (4WD, automatic)

Editors' Notes

The Nissan Frontier is one of just two mid-size pickups on the market for 2013. With the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon siblings taking a year off ahead of new model introductions, that leaves only the Toyota Tacoma as the Frontier's primary competitor. Unlike the Tacoma, the Frontier does not offer a regular-cab model, but rather the more spacious King Cab and Crew Cab setups. The Frontier makes a great alternative to a full-size truck. It is ideal for hauling everything from mulch to motorbikes, and feels solid on road or off. With a stronger V6 engine than the Tacoma and features like a navigation/infotainment system, spray-on bedliner and Nissan's Utili-track tie-down system, the 2013 Frontier remains one of the finest mid-size trucks we've seen in recent years.

Video Reviews

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2013 Nissan Frontier - Review and Test Drive
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2012 Nissan Frontier Test Drive & Truck Video Review
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WATCH before buying a Nissan FRONTIER!
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My used NIssan Frontier SV Review

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