Used Car Review

2012 Nissan Frontier: Used Car Review

RELATED INVENTORY
Saving this vehicle to yourMy Autotrader account
Are you sure you want to delete?
Used 2012 Nissan Frontier SV
Used 2012 Nissan Frontier
$17,300
Saving this vehicle to yourMy Autotrader account
Are you sure you want to delete?
Used 2012 Nissan Frontier 4x4 SV
Used 2012 Nissan Frontier
$15,490
Saving this vehicle to yourMy Autotrader account
Are you sure you want to delete?
Used 2012 Nissan Frontier PRO-4X
Used 2012 Nissan Frontier
$18,994
Saving this vehicle to yourMy Autotrader account
Are you sure you want to delete?
Used 2012 Nissan Frontier SL
Used 2012 Nissan Frontier
$18,500
RELATED READING
See all Nissan Frontier articles
RESEARCH BY MAKE
Toyota cars, trucks and SUVs Ford cars, trucks and SUVs Honda cars, trucks and SUVs Chevrolet cars, trucks and SUVs Jeep cars, trucks and SUVs Lexus cars, trucks and SUVs Volkswagen cars, trucks and SUVs BMW cars, trucks and SUVs Nissan cars, trucks and SUVs
Acura cars, trucks and SUVs Alfa Romeo cars, trucks and SUVs AMC cars, trucks and SUVs Aston Martin cars, trucks and SUVs Audi cars, trucks and SUVs Bentley cars, trucks and SUVs BMW cars, trucks and SUVs Bugatti cars, trucks and SUVs Buick cars, trucks and SUVs Cadillac cars, trucks and SUVs Chevrolet cars, trucks and SUVs Chrysler cars, trucks and SUVs Daewoo cars, trucks and SUVs Datsun cars, trucks and SUVs DeLorean cars, trucks and SUVs Dodge cars, trucks and SUVs Eagle cars, trucks and SUVs Ferrari cars, trucks and SUVs FIAT cars, trucks and SUVs Fisker cars, trucks and SUVs Ford cars, trucks and SUVs Freightliner cars, trucks and SUVs Genesis cars, trucks and SUVs Geo cars, trucks and SUVs GMC cars, trucks and SUVs Honda cars, trucks and SUVs HUMMER cars, trucks and SUVs Hyundai cars, trucks and SUVs INFINITI cars, trucks and SUVs Isuzu cars, trucks and SUVs Jaguar cars, trucks and SUVs Jeep cars, trucks and SUVs Kia cars, trucks and SUVs Lamborghini cars, trucks and SUVs Land Rover cars, trucks and SUVs Lexus cars, trucks and SUVs Lincoln cars, trucks and SUVs Lotus cars, trucks and SUVs Maserati cars, trucks and SUVs Maybach cars, trucks and SUVs Mazda cars, trucks and SUVs McLaren cars, trucks and SUVs Mercedes-Benz cars, trucks and SUVs Mercury cars, trucks and SUVs MINI cars, trucks and SUVs Mitsubishi cars, trucks and SUVs Nissan cars, trucks and SUVs Oldsmobile cars, trucks and SUVs Plymouth cars, trucks and SUVs Pontiac cars, trucks and SUVs Porsche cars, trucks and SUVs RAM cars, trucks and SUVs Rolls-Royce cars, trucks and SUVs Saab cars, trucks and SUVs Saturn cars, trucks and SUVs Scion cars, trucks and SUVs smart cars, trucks and SUVs SRT cars, trucks and SUVs Subaru cars, trucks and SUVs Suzuki cars, trucks and SUVs Tesla cars, trucks and SUVs Toyota cars, trucks and SUVs Volkswagen cars, trucks and SUVs Volvo cars, trucks and SUVs Yugo cars, trucks and SUVs
RESEARCH BY STYLE
AWD/4WD
Commercial
Convertible
Coupe
Hatchback
Hybrid/Electric
Luxury
Sedan
SUV/Crossover
Truck
Van/Minivan
Wagon
ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Joe Tralongo June 2016

The 2012 Nissan Frontier may be classified as a compact pickup truck, but it sure doesn't act like one. While it can't tow or haul the same cargo as a full-size Titan, the Frontier is far from weak. When one considers its powerful V6, its roomy cab and its impressive towing and off-road abilities, Nissan's little pickup proves to be impressively capable. Although Nissan forgoes the regular-cab option offered on the Toyota Tacoma, GMC Canyon and Chevrolet Colorado, the Frontier remains a competitive work truck that can double as a comfortable daily driver and an even more enjoyable weekend warrior.

Built on a sturdy, fully boxed frame, the Frontier is perfectly suited for towing and hauling, and its available V6 is more powerful than the 6-cylinder found in the Toyota Tacoma and Honda Ridgeline, and it also beats out the 5-cylinder offered in the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon twins.

For the 2012 model year, Nissan equipped the 4-cylinder models with Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC) and also added a new Sport Appearance package for the SV trim.

What We Like

Roomy interior; Utili-track in-bed channel system; powerful V6 engine; PRO-4X off-road ability

What We Don't

No regular-cab model; weak 4-cylinder engine; V6 can be fuel-thirsty; rear seatbacks in the crew cab are rather upright

Fuel Economy & Engine Specs

The Nissan Frontier's standard engine is a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder unit good for 152 horsepower and 171 lb-ft of torque. With the 5-speed manual, this engine achieves 19 miles per gallon in the city and 23 mpg on the highway. The 5-speed automatic earns slightly less at 17 mpg city/22 mpg hwy.

Optional on the Frontier is a 4.0-liter V6 that produces 261 hp and 281 lb-ft of torque. This engine is offered with either rear-wheel or all-wheel drive and a choice of 6-speed manual or 5-speed automatic transmissions. Rear-wheel-drive models earn 16 mpg city/20 mpg hwy with the manual and 15 mpg city/20 mpg hwy with the automatic. All-wheel-drive versions of the Frontier achieve 15 mpg city/19 mpg hwy with the manual transmission and 14 mpg city/19 mpg hwy with the automatic.

Standard Features & Options

The 2012 Frontier's trim levels include the S, SV, PRO-4X and SL. The extended-cab model, dubbed the King Cab, has a 6-foot bed, while the crew-cab model brings a 5-foot bed. Frontier Crew Cab models can be equipped with a 6-foot bed.

The Frontier S includes a 2.5-liter engine, a 5-speed manual transmission, 15-inch steel wheels, a locking tailgate, cloth bucket seats, VDC electronic stability control, a fold-flat front passenger seat and forward-facing rear flip-up seats. The optional S Preferred package adds air conditioning and an AM/FM/CD stereo.

The Frontier SV adds air conditioning, a 4-speaker AM/FM/CD stereo, chrome front and rear bumpers, a tilt steering column, a sliding rear window, rear privacy glass and front tow hooks.

The Frontier SV V6 gains a 4.0-liter V6 engine, a 6-speed manual transmission and alloy wheels. Optional on the SV V6 is the Premium Utility package, which adds Bluetooth, a 6-speaker AM/FM/CD stereo, satellite radio, an auto-dimming rearview mirror with a compass, an in-cabin microfilter, an overhead sunglass holder, a spray-in bedliner and the Utili-track system. The Sport Appearance package adds 18-in alloy wheels, a unique Dark Hyper Silver grille, body-colored bumpers, sport cloth seats, a 6-disc CD changer, Bluetooth, fog lights, white-faced gauges and an 8-way manually adjustable driver's seat.

The PRO-4X brings the 4.0-liter V6 engine, fog lights, body-color front and rear bumpers, a multifunction trip computer, a first aid kit, an 8-way manual driver's seat, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, off-road tires, a locking rear differential, Bilstein off-road shocks and additional skid plating. Optional on the PRO-4X is the Luxury package, which adds heated side mirrors, 10-speaker Rockford Fosgate audio, leather seating, an 8-way power driver's seat, a 4-way power passenger seat, heated front seats, a fold-down center armrest, a power moonroof and a roof rack with crossbars.

The Frontier SL comes only in crew-cab configuration and adds a 5-speed automatic transmission, automatic headlights, 18-in wheels, side step rails, heated side mirrors, 10-speaker Rockford Fosgate audio, leather seating, an 8-way power driver's seat, a 4-way power passenger seat, heated front seats and a fold-down center armrest. A moonroof is the only option.

Pricing

The Nissan Frontier holds good resale values, better than the Chevy Colorado and the GMC Canyon but not as good as the Toyota Tacoma. All-wheel-drive models will likely cost a bit more than their rear-drive counterparts. To get a good idea of the Frontier's price range, we suggest checking the used-car values at KBB.com. You can also search the Autotrader Classifieds to see what models are currently for sale in your area.

Recalls

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has issued the following recalls for the 2012 Nissan Frontier:

A recall was issued for a possible incorrectly installed circuit breaker that may lead to a short.

A recall was issued for rear-wheel-drive models due to a front wheel hub that does not meet design wheel-hardness specifications.

A recall was issued regarding a possible problem with the bolts connecting the engine oil cooler and oil filter to the engine block. If the bolts break, oil may leak from the attachment point, possibly leading to engine failure.

Recall repairs are required by law, even if the vehicle is out of warranty. Your dealer can check to see if the repairs were performed, and if not, they'll fix the car at no charge to you. You can also check the NHTSA website; simply enter your vehicle's identification number for a list of recall repairs performed.

Safety Ratings & Warranties

Standard safety equipment on every Nissan Frontier includes front, front-side and side-curtain airbags, as well as Nissan's Active Brake Limited Slip and electronic traction and stability control.

SV V6, PRO-4X and SL models equipped with the automatic transmission include hill-start assist and hill-descent control.

In 2010, the Nissan Frontier earned four out of five stars in NHTSA's front-end crash test, four stars in the side-impact test and four stars in the rollover test. In 2011, the government revised its crash-test rating system but didn't retest the 2012 Frontier. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the 2012 Frontier top marks in its moderate-overlap, side and roof-strength tests.

The Nissan Frontier entered service backed by a 3-year/36,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty and a 5-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty. If you can find a Frontier through Nissan's certified pre-owned (CPO) program, the vehicle will have gone through an extensive 167-point checklist and will come with a 7-year/100,000-mile extended factory warranty from the original date the vehicle entered service. To qualify for the Nissan CPO program, vehicles are typically less than 6 years old and must have fewer than 80,000 miles.

Other Cars to Consider

2012 Toyota Tacoma -- The Tacoma offers better resale value and a more powerful 4-cylinder engine, plus more trim variations. But its V6 isn't as powerful as the Frontier's, and it doesn't offer features like the Utili-track system.

2012 Honda Ridgeline -- The Ridgeline isn't a body-on-frame truck, but it does offer a roomy interior, a unique bed design with hidden storage and a smoother ride. However, the Frontier can tow up to 6,500 pounds versus the Ridgeline's 5,000-lb limit.

2012 Chevrolet Colorado -- Although the Colorado's 4-cylinder engine is more powerful than the Frontier's 2.5-liter engine, its 5-cylinder can't compete with the Frontier's V6 for power or towing ability. However, you can get a 300-hp V8 in the Chevy.

Autotrader's Advice

For the most basic needs, the SV V6 with the Premium Utility package makes the most sense. All-wheel drive is nice if you like to go camping or live where it snows on a regular basis. Those who frequent rugged trails and out-of-the-way places should look to the PRO-4X trim. No matter which Frontier you choose, we'd recommend finding one with the V6 (which excludes the entry-level S).

Find a Nissan Frontier for sale

RELATED INVENTORY
Saving this vehicle to yourMy Autotrader account
Are you sure you want to delete?
Used 2012 Nissan Frontier SV
Used 2012 Nissan Frontier
$17,300
Saving this vehicle to yourMy Autotrader account
Are you sure you want to delete?
Used 2012 Nissan Frontier 4x4 SV
Used 2012 Nissan Frontier
$15,490
Saving this vehicle to yourMy Autotrader account
Are you sure you want to delete?
Used 2012 Nissan Frontier PRO-4X
Used 2012 Nissan Frontier
$18,994
Saving this vehicle to yourMy Autotrader account
Are you sure you want to delete?
Used 2012 Nissan Frontier SL
Used 2012 Nissan Frontier
$18,500
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.
2012 Nissan Frontier: Used Car Review - Autotrader