The 2014 Nissan Frontier is smaller than the company's full-size Titan pickup, but it's nowhere near the shrunken dimensions that once defined the compact pickup truck. The Frontier pickup is built on a rugged platform, offers an overachieving V6 and, for owners that need it, can be equipped with off-road capability that exceeds expectations.

Available in two cab variants (King Cab and Crew), two bed lengths (4x2 or 4x4), with two powertrains and five trim levels, the Frontier can serve as a basic work truck, a near-luxury recreational platform or virtually anything in between. If you opt for the Crew Cab to use it as both a family hauler and weekend warrior, know that Nissan has paid appropriate attention to passive safety. Plus, the Frontier's Utili-track loading system is unmatched for hauling your toys. It's arguably the best thing for hauling since the invention of the pickup bed.

What's New for 2014?

Heated front seats are added to all PRO-4X models and made optional on SV trims. A sliding rear window is added to all Crew Cab models except for the S trim, while new wheels and an enhanced navigation system are optional. S trim models with the automatic transmission gain Bluetooth, air conditioning, cruise control and steering wheel audio controls.

What We Like

Bullishly built; a capable workaholic; a choice of bed lengths with some Crew Cab models

What We Don't

No 4WD offered with 4-cylinder models; lackluster fuel economy; interior materials and styling starting to feel dated

How Much?

$18,850-$36,300

Fuel Economy

The Frontier's base powerplant is a 2.5-liter inline-4 offering 152 horsepower and 171 lb-ft of torque. A 4x2 with a 4-cylinder and a manual transmission delivers 19 miles per gallon city/23 mpg hwy, while the automatic earns a slightly lower 17 mpg city/23 mpg hwy.

The 4.0-liter V6 develops 261 hp and 281 lb-ft of torque. Environmental Protection Agency estimates for this engine are 15 mpg city/21 mpg hwy (4x4) for the automatic, and 16 mpg city/22 mpg hwy (4x2) and 16 mpg city/21 mpg hwy (4x4) for the manual.

Standard Features & Options

The 2014 Nissan Frontier comes in a number of trims, cab sizes and bed configurations. The trims include S, SV, PRO-4X, Desert Runner and SL, while cab sizes include the King and Crew Cab. Some Crew Cab models can also be fitted with a 5- or 6-foot bed.

The Frontier S 4x2 King Cab ($18,850) includes a 5-speed manual transmission, cloth seats, rear jump seats, 15-inch steel wheels, a chrome rear bumper, full gauges including tachometer and temperature gauge, and front-side and side-curtain airbags. Adding an automatic transmission also brings air conditioning, Bluetooth, a sunglasses holder, cruise control and steering-wheel audio and Bluetooth controls.

The Frontier S 4x2 Crew Cab ($23,170) adds a 6-speed manual transmission, as well as the same equipment as the automatic equipped S King Cab plus 16-in steel wheels, a fold-flat front passenger seat and cloth rear bench seat.

The Frontier SV ($22,420 King Cab, $25,080 Crew Cab) brings 16-in alloy wheels, premium cloth seats, power windows, power locks, power mirrors and remote keyless entry.

The Frontier SV V6 ($24,990 King Cab, $26,310 Crew Cab) adds the more powerful V6 engine and a 6-speed manual transmission. Crew cab models gain a sliding rear window.

The Frontier Desert Runner ($24,780 King Cab, $26,100 Crew Cab) adds 16-in off-road alloy wheels, a compass, an outside temp gauge, Bilstein off-road shocks and off-road tires, plus unique Desert Runner interior and exterior treatments.

The Frontier PRO-4X ($30,700 King Cab, $31,660 Crew Cab) adds 4-wheel drive (4WD), heated cloth front seats, a spray-in bed liner, the Utili-track bed tie-down system, Bilstein off-road shocks, skid plate protection, an electronic locking rear limited-slip differential, fog lamps, 10-speaker Rockford Fosgate audio, a vehicle information system, a rearview monitor, white-faced gauges, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob.

The Frontier SL ($31,830) only comes in Crew Cab form and brings 18-in alloy wheels, auto on/off headlights, heated outside mirrors, leather seating, an 8-way power driver's seat, a 4-way power passenger seat, the Rockford Fosgate audio system and a rearview monitor.

Options vary by trim and include 4WD with Hill Start Assist and Hill Descent Control, a rear bed extender, navigation radio with NissanConnect, dual-zone automatic temperature control and a power moonroof.

Safety

In both active and passive safety, Nissan has checked most of the appropriate boxes, even though pickups aren't typically paragons of either. Active safety is augmented by capable 4-wheel disc brakes with standard ABS, and electronic traction and stability control, as well as reasonable handling coupled with a composed ride. Nissan's airbag system includes side impact supplemental bags for front seat passengers and roof-mounted curtain airbags that provide side impact and rollover head protection for outboard occupants. An available backup camera and rear parking sensors assist in low-speed maneuvering.

The only crash test the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration performed on the Frontier was the rollover test, in which it earned four out of five stars. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gives the Frontier a rating of Good in its moderate overlap front, side impact and roof strength tests, as well as an Acceptable mark for the head restraints and seats.

Behind the Wheel

With a choice of two engines combined with either of the 4x2 or 4x4 platforms, the Nissan Frontier can be most things to most people. It's not a compact pickup, though: Its platform more closely resembles Nissan's full-size Titan than Ford's now-discontinued compact Ranger. The Frontier's base 4-cylinder is lighter on its feet, but you can't disguise the sturdy, fully boxed ladder frame or the hefty curb weight. Opt for the V6 and, with 261 hp and 281 lb-ft of torque, you'll have a truck that is certainly recreational in a straight line while reasonably composed when the road throws you a curve.

We're most impressed with Nissan's Frontier PRO-4X, the dedicated off-road variant with an electronic locking rear differential and Bilstein off-road shocks. Although we might take issue with Nissan's description of it as the ultimate off-roader, those waiting for Jeep to build a pickup needn't wait. Nissan has already built it.

Other Cars to Consider

As the Ford Ranger and Dodge Dakota are no longer in production, the Frontier has very few competitors. Chevrolet and GMC will reintroduce the Colorado and Canyon later this year as 2015 models.

Toyota Tacoma -- The Tacoma is the perennial sales leader among midsize pickups, in part because of Toyota's strong reputation and in part because of robust fleet sales. Like the Frontier, the Tacoma is available in a range of cab, trim and powertrain variations.

Honda Ridgeline -- The Ridgeline is strictly a 5-passenger, 4-door pickup. A standard V6 engine, automatic transmission and 4-wheel drive make the Ridgeline a good competitor for top-trim Frontier models.

AutoTrader's Advice

Despite its age, the 2014 Nissan Frontier delivers an attractive, reliable package that can be configured just the way you want it. For light duty, the base King Cab is perfectly serviceable, while the V6 Crew Cab is an ideal family vehicle during the week or on the weekend. We'd opt for the off-road PRO-4X King Cab with a manual transmission and the Utili-track bed. Then we'd book two weeks with no map and no reservations.

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