2010 Nissan Frontier King Cab PRO-4X 4X4 Road Test Review

Russ Heaps - CAP staff
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Published on August 04, 2010

Years ago Nissan referred to its compact pickup as a Hardbody because of its tough-as-nails capability, and the same holds true today. (Photo: Nissan)

Published on August 04, 2010

Well made interior is also wee laid out for ease of use. (Photo: Nissan)

Published on August 04, 2010

The King Cab's rear jump seats are anything but comfortable... only fit for a deposed king. (Photo: Nissan)

Published on August 04, 2010

Crew Cab's bench is much more accommodating. (Photo: Nissan)

Published on August 04, 2010

The Frontier will get you almost anywhere! (Photo: Nissan)

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Published on August 04, 2010

Published on August 04, 2010

Published on August 04, 2010

Published on August 04, 2010

Published on August 04, 2010

As a mere statement of image, compact pickup trucks make more sense than larger, more expensive to buy and operate full-size pickups. If what you are trying to say is, "I'm a rugged, adventurous individual," a compact pickup speaks just as loudly as a full-size pickup, and for less cash. Of course size and work capability are compromised with the choice of a compact pickup, but for an owner who doesn't need to tow a battleship or cart masses of supplies to the job, a compact pickup may be the more sensible choice. It certainly is if urban commutes will comprise the bulk of its duties.

A variety of manufacturers offer smaller pickups. The pacesetters in the segment, however, are Toyota's Tacoma and Nissan's Frontier. I recently spent a week with a $28,510 Nissan Frontier King Cab PRO-4X 4X4.

You can spend as little as $24,098 on the base price of a Frontier or as much as $34,683. This is a big pricing spread influenced by cab configuration, engine, transmission, the number of drive wheels and trim level. Full-size pickups have nothing on their smaller competitors when it comes to the brain-taxing volume of choices to be made. Trying to sort it all out could make Gandhi buy a gun.

Nissan simplifies it somewhat by eliminating a regular-cab configuration from its grocery list of choices, but what remains to consider is too extensive to itemize here. So here's the CliffsNotes version:

Frontier is available as an extended cab (King Cab) or four-door cab (Crew Cab). Either a four-cylinder (not available in the Crew Cab) or V6 engine powers it. Transmissions include a five-speed manual, six-speed manual, five-speed automatic and a six-speed automatic. Four-wheel drive is offered in addition to rear-wheel drive. Four trim levels (XE, SE, PRO-4X and LE) provide an ever-increasing degree of technology and creature comfort. Adding to the confusion: All of these elements aren't interchangeable. There are restrictions based on cab configuration and trim level.

Clear as mud, right?

My test Frontier had the 261-horsepower 4.0-litre V6 engine. The base price listed above reflects the $1,550 cost of the five-speed automatic transmission ($1,700 with the base model, but it also includes the Appearance Package). Because it was the King Cab version, and had the trim level been XE or SE, it could have also used the 152-horsepower 2.5-litre four-cylinder to turn the wheels. In the long run that would have meant slightly better fuel economy than the 16.8 L/100km city and 12.4 highway metric equivalent of what the EPA estimates my V6-powered test truck would get.

Spending $2,950 for the PRO-4X over the cost of the SE 4x4 trim package includes skid plates, off-road rubber, Bilstein off-road shocks, locking rear differential and 16-inch alloy wheels in place of 15-inch steel ones. Other features over and above those of the SE trim include full power accessories, trip computer, remote keyless entry and a spray-on bedliner.

Even with the extra weight of the PRO4X package and 4WD hardware, the V6-equipped Frontier accelerates enthusiastically. The V6 pairs well with the five-speed automatic with smooth shifts. Choreographed by a suspension featuring an independent double wishbone setup in front and a solid live axle in the rear, the ride is somewhat stiff and bouncy over rougher surfaces. If you are looking for a smoother ride, opt for any RWD model or LE trim.

Nissan has beefed up Frontier's standard safety features for 2010. Most notable among them are stability control, front-seat side-impact airbags and front/rear head curtain airbags. An antilock system supervises the four-wheel disc brakes. Traction control and electronic brakeforce distribution are also included in the base price of all Frontier versions.

No one will mistake Frontier's interior for anything but a truck. Its styling is simple and straightforward. If the Amish were to design a truck instrument panel, it would probably look like this. Yes, it's plain. Most of the controls are huddled in a group in the centre of the dashboard. The controls for the four-speaker audio system with its CD player are located above the climate controls. Other audio systems are available including a 10-speaker Rockford Fosgate system. All controls operate intuitively.

The front seats are sufficiently comfortable with plenty of leg and head room. The rear seat is actually two forward-facing jump seats accessed through a half door that opens opposite the front door in the King Cab. Providing less comfort than a funeral home folding metal chair, the jump seats can be folded out of the way to make room for cargo. The rear seat in Crew Cab models is easier to access and is an actual bench seat.

Although there are those who would argue Frontier's fuel economy isn't terrific, it is more fuel efficient than a full-size pickup. And it certainly costs less at purchase than a comparably equipped full-size truck. That is to say that even in this period of unsure pump prices, there are still pickups available that won't suck you out of house and home if oil prices go through the roof again. If a compact truck is the route you decide to go, the Frontier is a good place to start your search.

©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: Pickup, Nissan, 2010, Frontier, $20,000 - $29,999, $30,000 - $39,999, Compact,

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