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2015 Nissan Frontier: New Car Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Autotrader November 2014

The 2015 Nissan Frontier offers all the rugged goodness of Nissan's full-size Titan pickup but in a more manageable and less fuel-thirsty midsize configuration. The Frontier pickup is built on a sturdy platform, offers an overachieving V6, and for owners that need it, can be equipped with off-road capability that exceeds expectations. Although it faces stiff new competition this year from GM's Colorado and Canyon (not to mention the venerable Toyota Tacoma), the Frontier is still a contender to be reckoned with.

Available in two cab variants (King Cab and Crew), two bed lengths (4x2 or 4x4), 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 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 2015?

Nissan makes a number of upgrades to the Froniter's upper trim levels, beginning with the addition of a moonroof as standard equipment on the Frontier SL long-wheelbase trim. NissanConnect with navigation and mobile apps is now standard on the PRO-4X, while the SV and Desert Runner trims gain a 5.0-inch color-display audio system.

What We Like

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

What We Don't

No 4-wheel drive (4WD) or Crew Cab 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-cylinder offering 152 horsepower and 171 lb-ft of torque. A 4x2 with a 4-cylinder and a manual transmission delivers 19 miles per gallon in the city and 23 mpg on the highway, 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 2015 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-in steel wheels, a chrome rear bumper, full gauges including a 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 ($23,560) adds a V6 engine, a 6-speed manual transmission and the same equipment as the automatic-equipped S King Cab, plus 16-in steel wheels, a fold-flat front passenger seat and a cloth rear bench seat.

The Frontier SV 4x2 King Cab ($22,830) brings 16-in alloy wheels, premium cloth seats, power windows, power locks, power mirrors and remote keyless entry.

The Frontier SV V6 ($24,500 King Cab, $26,720 Crew Cab) adds the more powerful V6 engine, a 6-speed manual transmission and a manual sliding real window with lock.

The Frontier Desert Runner ($25,050 King Cab, $26,370 Crew Cab) adds 16-in off-road alloy wheels, a compass, an outside-temperature gauge, and Bilstein off-road shocks and off-road tires, plus unique Desert Runner interior and exterior treatments.

The Frontier PRO-4X ($31,410 King Cab, $32,370 Crew Cab) adds 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, navigation with 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 ($34,870) 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. Long-wheelbase versions gain a power moonroof.

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 (for the SL short-wheelbase trim).

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 anti-lock brakes 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 that 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 gave 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 with 261 hp and 281 lb-ft of torque, and you'll have a truck that is certainly recreational in a straight line while staying 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

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.

Chevrolet Colorado/GMC Canyon -- The Colorado and Canyon are all new this year, offering better fuel economy, fresh styling, and later in the model year, the option of a diesel engine.

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

AutoTrader's Advice

Despite its age, the 2015 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, and then we'd book two weeks with no map and no reservations.

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2015 Nissan Frontier: New Car Review - Autotrader