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2019 Toyota Tacoma vs. 2019 Nissan Frontier: Which Is Better?

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author photo by Eric Brandt October 2018

The midsize pickup truck segment has been heating up over the past few years. With new and refreshed offerings from the likes of Toyota, Chevy and even Honda, this segment has been getting a lot of attention. However, there's one outlier that has gone a strangely long time without any significant updates. I'm talking about the Nissan Frontier, which has been in its current generation since way back in 2005.

The Toyota Tacoma, however, just entered its current generation in 2016 with a major overhaul from its predecessor. It's a modern, capable pickup that holds its value extremely well and is traditionally held onto for a long time by its owners.

But just because the Tacoma is the newer truck, doesn't necessarily mean it beats the aging Frontier in every category. Let's take a look at whether the 2019 Nissan Frontier is competitive with the 2019 Toyota Tacoma.

Exterior

It's fairly obvious by looking at it that the Nissan Frontier hasn't had a big update in more than a decade. It received a facelift in 2009, which helped freshen it up a bit, but it still just looks like an old truck, especially compared to the newer Tacoma. See the 2019 Nissan Frontier models for sale near you

The 2019 Toyota Tacoma has an appearance that's rugged, yet not intimidating. It's modern, but not futuristic. It's a handsome truck that looks just as at home on a worksite, on a trail or in the city.

The Tacoma and the Frontier are both available with either an extended cab with a tiny back seat or a crew cab with four doors and a much more usable back seat. Nissan calls the Frontier's extended cab the "King Cab," and Toyota calls it the "Access Cab." See the 2019 Toyota Tacoma models for sale near you

Both trucks are available in a wide variety of trims for both cab styles, and they're both available with a 5- or 6-foot bed. Exterior dimensions for these two trucks are pretty similar when they have the same cab/bed configurations.

We prefer the look of the much more recently restyled Tacoma over the Frontier's aging aesthetic.

Interior

You won't find much luxury or premium design in either of these pickups, except maybe way in the upper trims. They both rely pretty heavily on hard plastics for a lot of their interior materials, and the interior designs of both just look dated. This is especially true in the Frontier, which has a very old-looking interior that's truly from another era. Granted, the Tacoma doesn't look all that much more modern on the inside.

As for interior space, the dimensions inside of both trucks are very similar. They're both toward the bottom of their class for interior space in the crew cab models, so if you're looking for a midsize pickup to use as a family car, you may want to look elsewhere.

Interior options are pretty sparse in both trucks. They are both available with leather seats (heated in front) which is a nice touch, but neither are available with cooled seats, wireless charging or a heated steering wheel. Surprisingly, the Tacoma isn't offered with power-adjustable front seats, but the Frontier is. We don't expect a ton of luxury options in midsize trucks, but these two are still lacking in available features.

Mechanicals

The Tacoma and the Frontier both have a base 4-cylinder engine and can be upgraded to a stronger V6. Let's take a look at the details.

2019 Nissan Frontier Engines

  • 2.5-liter inline four; 152 horsepower, 171 lb-ft of torque; 19 miles per gallon in city driving and 23 mpg on the highway; maximum towing capacity: 3,810 pounds

  • 4.0-liter V6; 261 hp, 281 lb-ft of torque; 16 mpg city/23 mpg hwy; maximum towing capacity: 6,690 pounds

2019 Toyota Tacoma Engines

  • 2.7-liter inline four; 159 hp, 180 lb-ft of torque; 20 mpg city/23 mpg hwy; maximum towing capacity: 3,500 pounds

  • 3.5-liter V6; 278 hp, 265 lb-ft of torque; 19 mpg city/24 mpg hwy; maximum towing capacity: 6,800 pounds

You can see by the numbers that these engines are fairly similar, with the Frontier's 4-cylinder being better for towing and the best towing engine of the bunch being the Tacoma's V6. In both trucks, we'd strongly recommend the V6 over the 4-cylinder due to much better performance with pretty minor hits to fuel economy. In the case of the Tacoma, the V6 is actually more efficient on the highway than the 4-cylinder.

Four-wheel drive is available on both trucks, which helps a lot with off-road capability but also hurts fuel economy. They are also both available with either a manual or an automatic transmission.

Neither truck has a significant mechanical advantage over the other, but we'd say the best engine available between the two trucks is the Toyota V6 for its impressive power, respectable fuel economy and strong towing rating.

Technology

Neither of these trucks are technological marvels, but they still offer some nice tech for being midsize trucks. Toyota offers an Entune touchscreen infotainment system as standard in every Tacoma, which is really nice to have. It also comes standard with the Toyota Safety Sense-P (TSS-P) safety-tech suite, which includes adaptive cruise control, automatic high beams, forward-collision warning, front automatic emergency braking and lane-departure warning.

The Frontier's infotainment system is just as dated as the rest of the truck, and a touchscreen system isn't standard on every trim like it is on the Tacoma. However, Bluetooth audio and phone connectivity are standard. The Frontier offers almost nothing in terms of safety tech. It has a standard backup camera and optional rear parking sensors, but that's it.

Both trucks are available with navigation, but unfortunately, neither of them have Android Auto or Apple CarPlay.

Pricing

Here's where the Frontier finally gets a strong advantage over the Tacoma. With a starting MSRP of just $18,990, it's by far the most affordable midsize pickup in the United States. The starting price for the Tacoma is a comparatively expensive $25,550.

However, $18,990 doesn't get you very much. It's the base S trim with a King Cab, RWD, the inline-four engine and a 5-speed manual transmission with few creature comforts. If you need a new truck and you want to spend as little as possible, this sub-$20k Frontier is your truck.

The Frontier can get up into the mid-$30k range, and the most expensive Tacomas cross the $40k mark with the TRD Pro trim. Pound for pound, the Frontier is cheaper than the Tacoma across the board, but whether or not it's a better value depends on what you're looking for in a truck.

Conclusion

You've probably already figured it out by now, but the 2019 Toyota Tacoma is clearly the better truck over the 2019 Nissan Frontier. The only way we'd recommend a Frontier instead is if a low price is your top priority. If you want a more modern, more stylish truck that's packed with safety tech, then the Tacoma is a much better truck. Find a Toyota Tacoma for sale or Find a Nissan Frontier for sale

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New 2019 Toyota Tacoma TRD Off-Road
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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.
2019 Toyota Tacoma vs. 2019 Nissan Frontier: Which Is Better? - Autotrader