The 2018 Nissan Frontier is a good, basic truck, but there are far more modern options for not too much more.
The 2018 Nissan Frontier is a mid-size pickup that fits like a pair of our favorite jeans in the back of our closet—and the Frontier is just as old.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but you have to dig deep to see the 2018 Frontier’s strengths. This truck has been on the market since late 2004 and has seen few changes, which is partly why we’ve rated it 4.0 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
The Frontier is back for 2018 in S, SV, Desert Runner, SL, and Pro-4X trim levels. This year, the Frontier S now comes standard with air conditioning and a rearview camera. A Midnight Edition package spices up the Frontier’s exterior with black wheels, but things are otherwise the same today as they were when George W. Bush was beginning his second term.
Underneath the Frontier’s hood sits either an overworked 2.5-liter inline-4 or a robust 4.0-liter V-6; the latter is far more popular and it’s easy to see why. Power shuttles through a 5-speed automatic, a 5-speed manual (inline-4), or a 6-speed manual (V-6) to either the rear or all four wheels.
Extended cab (“King Cab” in Nissan-speak) and four-door crew cab configurations are available. Extended cabs all have a 73.3-inch bed, while crew cabs are offered with that or a shorter 59.5-inch bed.
Inside, the Frontier’s blocky dash is functional but hardly sexy. Audio controls are up high and there’s a thumping optional Rockford Fosgate stereo with a relatively small 5.8-inch touchscreen navigation system on SL and Pro-4X trim levels. The front seats are thickly padded but light on adjustment on S and SV grades; higher-spec versions have a height-adjustable driver’s seat. Extended cabs barely have room for fido and your tool box in the back, but crew cabs are decently roomy—albeit with a very upright, thinly padded backrest.
No advanced safety features are on offer and the Frontier’s so-so crash-test ratings are a reminder that it first hit the market nearly 15 years ago and hasn’t been substantially updated since.
Two off-roady versions of the Frontier extend this truck’s capability. The rear-wheel-drive Desert Runner has a tall suspension with Bilstein shocks and all-terrain tires, while the four-wheel-drive Pro-4X builds on that with a proper transfer case and an electric locking rear differential. With nearly nine inches of ground clearance and decent approach and departure angles, the Frontier makes a decent exploration vehicle if you like that new truck smell and a full warranty.
Otherwise, the Frontier is decidedly dated against the Chevrolet Colorado, GMC Canyon, and Toyota Tacoma. At least it’s cheaper; a Frontier SV with a package that adds automatic climate control, heated seats, a bedliner, and a host of other items runs around $32,000 with four-wheel drive.