By KBB.com Editors
The days of the compact pickup are fast closing. Witness the 2009 Nissan Frontier, a once-compact contender that has grown in size, power and weight. Along the way, it has also grown in capability and passenger comfort, placing it in the same general category as the mid-size Dodge Dakota and Toyota Tacoma. The Frontier has much in common with its larger sibling, the Titan, offering a fully-boxed frame, Nissan's adjustable Utili-track Bed Channel System and a spray-in bed liner. With one of the most powerful V6 engines in its class, the Frontier offers superior towing with excellent acceleration. Although bargain shoppers may lament the absence of a standard-cab model, the four-cylinder King Cab is still an affordable truck, priced under $20,000.You'll Like This Car If...
If you need a truck that hauls, tows and loves to get dirty, but don't want to deal with the mass of a full-size pickup, the 2009 Nissan Frontier will impress you with its capability, utility and refined ride.You May Not Like This Car If...
Even though the Frontier's V6 is impressively smooth and powerful, if your workload – or playload –absolutely demands a big V8, then you'll have to look elsewhere. Also, the Frontier does not offer a standard-cab model.What's New for 2009
The 2009 Nissan Frontier receives a revised front end and new grille, as well as new 16- and 18-inch wheels. Also new for 2009 is a PRO-4X model on both the King and LE Crew Cab models. The PRO-4X package adds a long list of goodies including Bilstein shocks, additional skid plates, electronic rear differential locker and off-road tiresDriving It Driving Impressions
That we expected more acceleration from the Frontier's V6 says more about our imprudent expectations than it does about the engine. With 261 horsepower and 281 pound-feet of torque, this 4.0-liter variant of the acclaimed engine found in the company's 350Z, Maxima and Infiniti G37 might be the smoothest, strongest V6 engine ever put in a pickup. In addition, the 2009 Nissan Frontier handles and rides better than some sedans. Big mirrors contribute to a fair amount of wind noise, but overall the cabin is quiet and comfortable, especially for a pickup with such noteworthy capabilities. Our long test drive concluded with some serious rock-crawling on a Texas ranch, which, thanks in large part to its stiff frame and powerful engine, the Frontier negotiated effortlessly.Favorite Features
Utili-track Bed Channel System
Movable and removable cleats make it easy to transport even cumbersome cargo loads safely.
The Frontier's stiff frame provides the foundation for the pickup's sedan-like ride and handling and its sturdy off-road capability.
The Frontier's purposeful interior is defined by its flexibility. King Cab models feature smaller rear-hinged rear doors that provide access to flip-up rear seats, while Crew Cab models feature traditional rear doors and a more conventional back seat. Both models offer removable storage boxes beneath the rear seats, plus an available fold-flat front passenger seat for increased interior cargo flexibility. The Frontier's cabin features dual stacked glove boxes, multiple 12-volt power points and one-liter cup holders integrated into the front doors. Leather seating is among the Frontier's more indulgent options.Exterior
With its "angled strut" grille and sharp, pronounced fender flares, the 2009 Nissan Frontier is unmistakable as a direct descendent of the company's daunting full-size Titan pickup, although more athletic looking than its larger sibling. The Frontier offers a number of pickup-truck firsts, such as the Utili-track tie-down system that features moveable cargo hooks located in a five-rail in-bed system. Nissan also offers a spray-in bed liner as well as a number of off-road upgrades, skid plates and wheel options.Notable Standard Equipment
In base XE trim, the 2009 Nissan Frontier is equipped with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 152 horsepower and 171 pound-feet of torque, a five-speed manual transmission, four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes (ABS) with Electronic Brake force Distribution (EBD) and 15-inch steel wheels. Five and six-foot bed lengths are available on the Crew Cab, while the King Cab offers only a six-foot bed.Notable Optional Equipment
Features not included at base sticker price include the 4.0-liter six-cylinder engine, five-speed automatic or six-speed manual transmission, four-wheel drive, Utili-track Bed Channel System, factory-applied spray-on bedliner, single-CD sound system, six-disc in-dash sound system with MP3 playback, air conditioning, power door locks/windows/mirrors, keyless entry, front side-impact airbags, Dealer-installed portable navigation unit, Vehicle Dynamic Control stability control system and front and rear side-curtain airbags. The PRO-4X off-road model includes skid plates, Hill Descent Control and Hill Start Assist features, Utili-track system, an on-demand electronic locking rear differential and Bilstein performance shocks. LE trims can be outfitted with power driver's and passengers seats, leather seating surfaces and a power glass moonroof.Under the Hood
The economical four-cylinder engine is offered only on the two-wheel-drive XE King Cab, which might become an issue if gasoline prices continue to remain volatile. The V6 is plenty powerful and does offer the choice between a manual and automatic transmission, but all that power and performance comes at the expense of fuel economy.
2.5-liter in-line 4
152 horsepower @ 5200 rpm
171 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4400 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 19/23 (2WD, manual), 17/22 (2WD, automatic)
261 horsepower @ 5600 rpm
281 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 16/20 (2WD, manual), 15/20 (2WD, automatic), 15/19 (4WD)
The 2009 Nissan Frontier King Cab Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starts just over $18,000 for the base two-wheel-drive XE model and around $24,000 for the King Cab SE with four wheel drive. Crew Cab models start around $23,000 and can soar to as high as $35,000 when fully loaded. A look at the Fair Purchase Price page shows what consumers are typically paying for their Frontier trucks in your area, so be sure to check it out before you purchase. Over a five-year period, the 2009 Nissan Frontier is expected to retain a healthy portion of its original purchase price, maintaining a resale value just below the Toyota Tacoma's projected residual values, and far higher than those of the Ford Ranger, Dodge Dakota and Chevrolet Colorado.