The 2013 Nissan Frontier offers plenty of power, room and ability in a package not nearly as large and cumbersome as a full-size pickup. Although the Frontier can’t match the hauling and towing abilities of its full-size sibling, the Nissan Titan, its credentials are nothing to sneeze at.
When one considers its powerful V6, roomy cab and impressive towing and off-road abilities, the Nissan Frontier pickup proves to be impressively capable. Although Nissan forgoes the regular-cab option offered on the Toyota Tacoma, 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.
For the 2013 model year, Nissan added the Desert Runner 4×2 trim, while the PRO-4X and SL trims gained a rearview monitor, dual-zone automatic climate control and rear sonar sensors. Crew cabs offered the NissanConnect navigation system, and fuel economy estimates improved for most models. See the 2013 Nissan Frontier models for sale near you
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/23 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/22 mpg hwy with the manual and 16 mpg city/22 mpg hwy with the automatic. All-wheel-drive versions of the Frontier achieve 16 mpg city/21 mpg hwy with the manual transmission and 15 mpg city/21 mpg hwy with the automatic.
Standard Features & Options
The 2013 Frontier’s trim levels include the S, SV, Desert Runner, 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 includes a 2.5-liter engine, a 5-speed manual transmission, 15-inch steel wheels, a locking tailgate, cloth bucket seats, Nissan’s Vehicle Dynamic Control electronic stability control system, 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 Value Truck package, which adds dual-zone automatic climate control, a rearview monitor, rear sonar sensors, a sliding bed extender, a trailer hitch, 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 Desert Runner (4×2 only) adds the 4.0-liter V6, an automatic transmission, 16-in off-road alloy wheels, Bilstein off-road shocks, unique cloth seats with embroidered Frontier logos, fog lights and Desert Runner decals and badges.
The PRO-4X brings the 4.0-liter V6 engine, fog lights, a satin-chrome grille, body-color front and rear bumpers, a multifunction trip computer, a rearview monitor, dual-zone automatic climate control, auto on/off headlights, two 12-volt outlets, 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, navigation, 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, navigation, 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.
The Nissan Frontier holds good resale values but not as strong 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.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has issued the following recall for the 2013 Nissan Frontier:
A recall was issued for a possible incorrectly installed circuit breaker that may lead to a short.
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 system 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 Frontier. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the 2013 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
2013 Toyota Tacoma — The Tacoma offers better resale value and a more powerful 4-cylinder engine, plus more trim and body variations. But its V6 isn’t as powerful as the Frontier’s, and it doesn’t offer features such as the Utili-track system.
2013 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 GM skipped the 2013 model year, a 2012 Colorado is still an option. The Colorado’s 4-cylinder engine is more powerful than the Frontier’s 2.5-liter engine, but 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.
For the most basic needs, the SV V6 with the Value Truck 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).