Pre-Owned Profile: 1994-2000 Nissan Pickup

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author photo by John Rettie January 2000

Nissan called its truck the Hardbody when this model first went on sale in 1987. Its looks have remained fresh ever since.

Nissan’s compact trucks have a long history of success. Recently they have not been selling as well as other models making them scarcer to find on the pre-owned market. This is likely to change in the future as the newest model, called the Frontier, has proven to be much more popular. Indeed the Frontier was in short supply at the end of 1999 making pre-owned Nissan trucks more desirable.

Nissan trucks have a good reputation for reliability and are possibly not as likely to have been used for tough commercial work as a Chevrolet or Ford truck. This can make one a desirable purchase as a pre-owned vehicle for hauling cargo or just the groceries.

What You Need To Know:

1. Review of a 1997 Nissan Pickup

2. Summary of Good and Bad Points by Owners

3. History of Pickup

4. Review of Current Model

5. Basic Facts

6. Changes Year-to-Year

7. Safety Information

8. Value Guide

9. Option Installment Rate

10. Sales History

11. Awards and Commendations Earned

12. Other Reviews

13. Recall Information

14. Price of Spare Parts

1. Pre-Owned Vehicle Evaluation - 1997 Nissan Pickup

Likes: reliability, zippy V-6 engine option

Dislikes: truck-like ride (until 1998)

Competitors: Chevrolet S-10, Dodge Dakota, Ford Ranger, Toyota Pickup/Tacoma

Miles: 21,800

Condition: A

Price when new: $16,150 (est.)

Posted Price: $11,495 (Nov. 1999)

Judging by the nice condition of this Nissan pickup it had been used by someone who hardly ever carried anything in the bed. There was nary a scratch and no dings on the floor or the sidewalls. Likewise the inside was also very clean and free of any wear. Of course it was only two years old, but nonetheless a pickup truck that is used day in and day out in construction work would look more worn out than this truck after a week on the job.

Like most pickup trucks the Nissan comes in a variety of styles. You can find regular cab models with a short or long bed, two- or four-wheel drive, 4-cylinder or V-6 engine and manual or automatic transmission. Then there is the King Cab model with an extended cab and small jump seats in the rear for kids, which is the model I test drove. It was a two-wheel-drive model with a four-cylinder engine and manual transmission.

The extra space behind the rear seats provides valuable additional space for storing stuff with security from the elements and from theft which is not afforded by an open pickup bed. The small jump seats are adequate for small kids but are really far too small for adults unless they only need to ride a short distance.

Although the truck was only powered by a four-cylinder engine, it had adequate performance as it had a manual transmission. The gearshift is a long spindly affair but nevertheless it was precise in action. The engine was a little noisy and the truck was skittish with no load in the rear to keep the backend down. A truck rides much better and its handling improves when there is some weight in the back to improve rear end traction.

The overall look of the Nissan pickup prior to 1998 was quite angular which dates it today when trucks are looking sleeker. In contrast, the interior of this model had a little less of a truck look to it than some of its competitors with a rounded edge to the instrument panel. The gauges were easy to read and the heating and ventilation controls easy to reach. This model had an aftermarket radio installed, which was located low down and was not so easy to operate. The truck’s interior was not as spartan as a base model as it had carpets. Likewise the exterior was a notch above with a chrome bumper in the rear and a nice set of alloy wheels.

All in all a Nissan pickup makes for a good choice as a pre-owned compact truck. Unfortunately the V-6 version was dropped from the market in 1995 leaving only the four-cylinder model available. If you don’t mind using a stick shift you’ll find the vehicle is fine otherwise you might be better off looking at a competing vehicle with a V-6 if you need an automatic transmission. Obviously the majority of original buyers of Nissan pickups agreed as three quarters of them were sold with manual transmissions which is far higher than average even for entry-level vehicles.

2. Summing It Up - Owners' Views


"Nothing done beyond regular maintenance" (‘92 model)

"Mechanically sound"

"I just bought my second one so obviously I’m pleased"


"Rides like a truck"

3. History of Nissan Pickup

Nissan’s pickup has quite a history - its predecessor the Datsun 1000 was the first compact pickup truck ever sold in the US when it was introduced in 1959. From then until the mid-1970s the Datsun truck was the best selling imported pickup. It’s success spurred the domestic manufacturers to sell their own compact pickups but they were all based on Japanese trucks and many were actually imported models, such as the Chevrolet LUV truck and the Ford Courier. The fuel crisis in the 1970s made compact pickups extremely popular as the cheap "car" of choice for many.

Nissan also developed a series of breakthrough innovations that have become standard in today's marketplace. In 1969, the Datsun truck became the first half-ton compact pickup; in 1975 Datsun trucks offered the first long beds; and in 1977 the first King Cab extended cab compact truck became available. These latter two options were offered during the life cycle of the Datsun 620 pickup - the fourth generation of Datsun truck, which was in production from 1972 to 1979.

An all-new pickup - the last to carry the Datsun name - appeared in 1979 and sales continued to soar. Thanks to this success, Nissan became the first importer to manufacture pickups in the U.S. Since the first Nissan pickup rolled off of the assembly line in Smyrna, TN in 1983, almost 1.6 million Nissan trucks have been built there.

The sixth-generation Nissan truck first was unveiled in 1987 and was a hit with its uniquely styled hood. Although Nissan nicknamed it the Hardbody it never caught on as an official name, instead it just remained as the Nissan pickup.

An all-new Nissan Frontier was introduced in 1998 and it features the largest standard cargo bed of any compact pickup and a name for the first time. The Frontier could also boast another first, when a four-door crew cab version became available as a 2000 model as the first-ever compact four-door pickup truck on sale in the U.S.

4. Review of Current Nissan Frontier

The seventh-generation Nissan Frontier pickup looks quite different from its predecessor even though it sits on the same wheelbase. The body has a more appealing, sleeker look to it and once again a V-6 version is available. The interior has also been improved making it more car like. Although the new Frontier is an improvement over the old vehicle it is still not as refined or as smooth as some other vehicles in its class. The most significant model in the lineup is the Crew Cab model, which provides two proper front opening rear doors for access to a three-passenger bench seat. The rear seat is not very comfortable however as the seatback is too vertical and it also intrudes into the cargo bed making it very short at 4.5 feet. Nissan does provide an optional tubular frame extension, which can hold extra cargo with the tailgate down.

5. Basic Facts: 1994 - 1997 Pickup

Vehicle Type: Compact Pickup

No. Passengers: up to five

Origin of assembly: Smyrna, TN

Engine: (standard): 2.4-liter 134 hp I-4

(optional): 3.0-liter 152 hp V-6 (until '95)

Transmission: 5-spd manual, 4-spd automatic; rear-drive or 4WD

Length: 175 or 190 or 196 inches

Wheelbase: 100 or 116 inches

Width: 65 or 67 inches

Height: 62 or 68 inches

Curb weight: 2700-3800 lbs. (approx.)

Payload capacity: 1400 lbs.

Fuel tank capacity: 16 gals.

Fuel Economy (EPA City/Highway): 23/27 (2.4-liter, manual, 2WD); 19/23 (2.4-liter, auto, 4WD)

6. Changes in the Nissan Pickup Line 1994 - 2000

1994 Model Year


1995 Model Year

Rear wheel ABS becomes standard on all 2WD models

Center console standard on King Cab V6

Limited slip differential made standard on 4WD SE-V6

1996 Model Year

Driver’s side airbag become standard

Some interior trim changes

1997 Model Year

No changes

1998 Model Year (first year of new model)

All new truck, called the Frontier

Body is longer and wider

New interior

1999 Model Year

Optional V-6 engine available on 4WD models

Auto transmission available on 4WD models with V-6 engine

Redesigned center console

2000 Model Year

Crew Cab model with four full-size doors introduced

7. Safety Notes

NHTSA Crash rating (‘98 model year): Driver 2; Passenger 4 (5 is best)

ABS optional from 1991 to 1994, standard from 1995

Driver side air bag standard from 1996, dual air bags standard from 1998

8. Value Guide

Prices listed are for base models. Options can add considerably to the lowest price listed as these are usually "stripped" models. In many cases, very few vehicles are ever sold at the lowest price listed! Source: Kelley Blue Book

1994 Model Year

New: $9,839 to $17,859

1995 Model Year

New: $10,319 to $21,989

1996 Model Year

New: $10,319 to $21,989

1997 Model Year

New: $11,469 to $20,900

1998 Model Year (first year of new model)

New: $12,480 to $21,480

1999 Model Year

New: $12,010 to $21,760

9. Option Installment Rate

Generally, when you order a new car you have a choice of factory-installed options. When you buy a pre-owned vehicle the choice is limited to what was actually installed on vehicles sold in that model year. Use this option installment rate as a guide to the chances of finding particular options on a pre-owned vehicle. Source: Ward's Automotive Yearbooks

1994 Model Year

Installment Rate


2.4-liter 4-cyl 83%

3.0-liter V-6 17%


Auto 22%

Manual 78%

4WD: 29%

Power Steering: 85%

Air Conditioning: 79%

Cruise Control: 16%

ABS Brakes: 29%

Power Windows: 4%

1995 Model Year

Installment Rate


2.4-liter 4-cyl 78%

3.0-liter V-6 22%


Auto 25%

Manual 75%

4WD: 25%

Power Steering: 19%

Air Conditioning: 88%

Cruise Control: 15%

ABS Brakes: 100%

Power Windows: 4%

1996 Model Year

Installment Rate


2.4-liter 4-cyl 100%


Auto 22%

Manual 78%

4WD: 20%

Power Steering: 90%

Air Conditioning: 88%

Cruise Control: 16%

ABS Brakes: 100%

Power Windows: 4%

1997 Model Year

Installment Rate


2.4-liter 4-cyl 100%


Auto 21%

Manual 79%

4WD: 21%

Body Style:

2-door standard cab 58%

2-door extended cab 41%

Air Conditioning: 93%

Cruise Control: 16%

ABS Brakes: 100%

Power Windows: 3%

Remote/Keyless Entry: NA

1998 Model Year

Installment Rate


2.4-liter 4-cyl 100%


Auto 26%

Manual 74%

4WD: 25%

Body Style:

2-door standard cab 33%

2-door extended cab 67%

Air Conditioning: 74%

Cruise Control: 30%

ABS Brakes: 100%

Power Windows: 11%

Remote/Keyless Entry: 11%

10. Production/Sales Volume History

Normally a model year runs from October to September. Often though, when a new version is introduced it hits the market before October. Legally, a model year can start as early as January of the preceding year. Accurate model year sales counts are almost impossible to collect as different model year vehicles are regularly sold side-by-side for several months. Production figures, when listed, often include vehicles made for export to Canada, Mexico and overseas. Source: manufacturers/Ward's Automotive Yearbooks

1994 Model Year

Production run: Oct. 1993 through Sept. 1994

Total number produced: NA

Total no. sold in U.S.: 229,136

1995 Model Year

Production run: Oct. 1994 through Dec. 1995

Total number produced: NA

Total no. sold in U.S.: 252,394

1996 Model Year

Production run: Jan. 1996 through Sept. 1996

Total number produced: NA

Total no. sold in U.S.: 126,087

1997 Model Year

Production run: Oct. 1996 through Sept. 1997

Total number produced: 132,028

Total no. sold in U.S.: 123,619

1998 Model Year (first year of new model)

Production run: Oct. 1997 through Sept. 1998

Total number produced: 90,394

Total no. sold in U.S.: 93,362

1999 Model Year

Production run: Oct. 1998 through Sept. 1998

Total number produced: NA

Total no. sold in U.S.: 92,309

11. Awards and Commendations


"Worth a Look" - Kiplinger’s Cars annual ‘97


"Initial Quality Study - Best in Segment" - J. D. Power and Associates


"Nissan’s previous-generation pickup had some interesting styling touches that gave it a modicum of personality. But with Frontier, Nissan took no chances’ it’s flat-sided, unembellished, and strictly functional." - Car and Driver, 1998 Truck Buyers Guide

"While it seems modern-day trucks don’t see s great deal of hauling, the Nissan line is designed to handle just about any mid-duty job you can hand out. Towing capacity is as much as 3500 lb., plenty to tow Jet Skis or most boats." - Road & Track Truck and Van Buyer’s Guide 1997

13. Recalls (Only major recalls listed)

ID Number: 96V170001

Component: interior systems: active restraints: belt buckles

Year: 1994

Potential Number of Units Affected: 84,000

Manufactured From: Nov. 1993 To: April 1994

Year of Recall:'96

Summary: The latch plate used in the seat belt buckle was not manufactured according to design dimensions. If the seat belt tongue is inserted slowly at an angle into the buckle, there is a possibility of partial engagement. This condition can cause the seat belt tongue to come out of the buckle in the event of a collision or hard braking of the vehicle increasing the risk of personal injury to an occupant of the seat.

ID Number: 98V234000

Component: lighting: lamp or socket: tail lights

Year: 1995

Potential Number of Units Affected: 100,032

Manufactured From: March 1995 To: Nov. 1995

Year of Recall:'98

Summary: Vehicle Description: Light duty pickup trucks. A rear lamp will not illuminate because the metal barrel in the light bulb socket moves or separates from the plastic socket housing due to inadequate heat resistance of the plastic at the lamp operating temperature. The stop/tail combination lamp or the turn signal lamp will not function.

ID Number: 98V065000

Component: interior systems: shoulder belts

Year: 1998

Potential Number of Units Affected: 20,000

Manufactured From: Sept. 1997 To: Jan. 1998

Year of Recall:'98

Summary: Vehicle Description: Light duty passenger trucks equipped with bucket seats. In certain frontal crashes, the front seat belt can slip between the seat bottom finisher and the seat back plastic recliner handle where it can be cut by the sharp edge of the metal portion of the recliner lever. If the seat belt is completely severed, it can increase the risk of serious injury to an occupant in a crash.

14. Cost of Parts (relative to other vehicles)

Headlight unit: $96 (below average)

Side marker lamp: $30 (below average)

Door (left front): $392 (below average)

Fender (left front): $97 (below average)

Note: these are estimated retail prices for commonly replaced body parts on a 1995 model. Prices are current as of late 1999 but will vary from region to region and are subject to change at any time. Source: ADP Collision Repair Services

The Rettie Report and Pre-owned Profiles contain objective information from a variety of sources. The subjective comments are those of John Rettie.

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
Pre-Owned Profile: 1994-2000 Nissan Pickup - Autotrader