If you’re looking for information on a newer Nissan Frontier, we’ve published an updated review: 2019 Nissan Frontier Review
With a slew of newer midsize pickups on or about to hit the market, one might think the 2018 Nissan Frontier is both outclassed and outdated. But, despite its aging platform, there is still a lot to be said for Nissan’s smallest pickup. Sure, it lacks the modern engine options and latest driver safety assists found on the Chevrolet Colorado, GMC Canyon and Toyota Tacoma, but when it comes down to the basics of what pickup buyers need in a small truck, the Frontier has it in spades.
Smaller and more agile than its larger rivals, the Frontier demonstrates impressive abilities in the areas of towing, hauling and off-roading. With its available V6 engine and numerous configurations, the Frontier has aged well over the years. Available in two cab variants (King Cab and Crew Cab), two bed lengths, five trim levels and with a choice of two powertrains, 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 features. Plus, the Frontier’s Utili-track loading system is ideal for securing your toys. It’s arguably the best thing for hauling since the invention of the pickup bed.
What’s New for 2018?
For 2018, Nissan adds a rearview monitor as standard equipment. The base Frontier gains updated content including standard air conditioning, Bluetooth, cruise control, a 5-inch color display and SIRI Eyes Free. New this year is a Midnight Edition featuring a gloss black grille, 18-in gloss black alloy wheels, semi-gloss black step rails, body-colored bumpers and additional black trim and badges. See the 2018 Nissan Frontier models for sale near you
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 (4×4) or Crew Cab offered with 4-cylinder models; lackluster fuel economy; interior materials and styling starting to feel dated; missing some modern safety and tech features
The Frontier’s base power plant is a 2.5-liter inline 4-cylinder offering 152 horsepower and 171 lb-ft of torque. A 2-wheel-drive (4×2) model with the 4-cylinder and 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/22 mpg hwy.
The 4.0-liter V6 develops 261 hp and 281 lb-ft of torque. Environmental Protection Agency estimates for this engine are 16 mpg city/23 mpg hwy (4×2) and 15 mpg city/21 mpg hwy (4×4) for the automatic and 16 mpg city/22 mpg hwy (4×2) and 16 mpg city/21 mpg hwy (4×4) for the manual.
Standard Features & Options
The 2018 Nissan Frontier comes in a number of trims, cab sizes and bed configurations. The trims include the 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 4×2 King Cab ($19,965) 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. Also standard are air-conditioning, Bluetooth, cruise control, a rearview monitor, 5-in color display, a USB/iPod port and SIRI Eyes Free. Adding an automatic transmission also brings an auxiliary input jack and a sunglass holder.
The Frontier S 4×2 Crew Cab ($25,275) 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 4×2 King Cab ($24,185) brings 16-in alloy wheels, premium cloth seats, NissanConnect with mobile apps, power windows, power locks, power mirrors and remote keyless entry.
The Frontier SV V6 ($25,945 King Cab, $27,075 Crew Cab) adds the more powerful V6 engine, a 6-speed manual transmission and a manual-sliding rear window with a lock.
The Frontier Desert Runner ($26,625 King Cab, $28,055 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 ($33,755 King Cab, $33,465 Crew Cab) adds 4WD, heated cloth front seats, a spray-in bedliner, 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 ($34,285) 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, a spray-in bedliner, the Utili-track adjustable tie-down cleats, a trailer hitch, navigation radio with NissanConnect, dual-zone automatic temperature control and a power moonroof (for the SL short-wheelbase trim and SV Crew Cab).
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. The standard backup camera and available rear-parking sensors assist in low-speed maneuvering. Unfortunately, the Frontier doesn’t offer blind spot monitoring, lane-assist or forward-collision avoidance systems.
The only crash test the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration performed on the Frontier was the rollover test, in which the truck earned four out of five stars. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the Frontier a rating of Good in its moderate-overlap front crash, 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 the 4×2 or 4×4 platform, the Nissan Frontier can be most things to most people. Larger than the old compact pickups of the 1980s and 1990s, the Frontier platform more closely resembles Nissan’s full-size Titan. 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’s 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
2018 Toyota Tacoma — The Tacoma remains 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 but offers standard driver-assist features unavailable on the Frontier.
2018 Chevrolet Colorado — The Colorado is a relatively new design, offering better fuel economy, fresh styling, a roomier cab and the option of a 4-cylinder diesel engine.
2018 GMC Canyon — Like its Colorado twin, the Canyon offers: a new design; far more luxury, safety and technology options; and a more upscale feel. When loaded up, however, the Canyon can run into the $50,000 range.
Used Honda Ridgeline — A 2012-2016 Honda Ridgeline is strictly a 5-passenger, 4-door pickup built from the unit-body Honda Pilot SUV platform. A standard V6 engine, automatic transmission and 4WD make the Ridgeline a good competitor for top-trim Frontier models.
Despite its age, the 2018 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 the manual transmission and the Utili-track bed, and then we’d book two weeks with no map and no reservations.