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2019 Nissan Frontier: New Car Review

The 2019 Nissan Frontier is a rugged, reasonably priced midsize pickup truck that, while growing a bit dated, still offers the basic features and abilities truck buyers need and want. The Frontier is a proven commodity, with a powerful V6 engine known for its ability to pull and haul big loads. And while the Frontier lacks the modern infotainment, safety and engine options of newer rivals like the Chevrolet Colorado and the Ford Ranger, sometimes we think simpler is better (and cheaper).

Smaller and more agile than its larger rivals, the Frontier demonstrates impressive abilities in the areas of towing, hauling and off-roading. 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 2019?

For 2019, the Frontier S and SV trims gain a 7-in touchscreen audio system and the popular Cayenne Red Metallic paint color is expanded to more models.

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

How Much?

$20,035-$36,500

Fuel Economy

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 2019 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 ($20,035) 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, a 7-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 ($25,995) 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 ($25,955) 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 ($25,665 King Cab, $27,795 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 ($26,345 King Cab, $28,775 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 ($34,475 King Cab, $34,185 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 ($35,055) 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.

The Midnight Edition package can be added to the Crew Cab model and includes gloss black grille, 18-in gloss black wheels, semi-gloss black step rails and black bumpers, door handles and mirror covers.

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).

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. The standard backup camera and available rear-parking sensors assist in low-speed maneuvering. Unfortunately, the Frontier doesn’t offer blind spot monitoring, lane-change 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 previous generation 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

2019 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.

2019 Chevrolet Colorado — The Colorado (and its twin, the GMC Canyon) is a relatively new design, offering better fuel economy, fresh styling, a roomier cab and the option of a 4-cylinder diesel engine.

2019 Ford Ranger — The popular Ranger is back this year, with a new design, powerful 4-cylinder turbo and a host of modern electronic and safety features unavailable on the Frontier. The Ranger bests the class for towing and payload, but doesn’t offer a V6 engine option.

Used Honda Ridgeline — A 2014-2017 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.

Autotrader’s Advice

Despite its age, the 2019 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 Crew Cab with the 6-speed manual and the Utili-track bed, and then we’d book two weeks with no map and no reservations.

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