By KBB.com Editors
The days of the compact pickup are fast closing. Witness the 2010 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 almost sports car-like 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 2010 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 2010
All 2010 Nissan Frontier models now feature front side-impact and full-length side-curtain airbags, while V6 models pick up VDC (Vehicle Dynamic Control) stability control as part of their standard equipment roster. In addition, SE and LE 4WD models are outfitted with standard Hill Decent Control and Hill Start Assist.Driving 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 370Z, Maxima and Infiniti G37 might be the smoothest, strongest V6 engine ever put in a pickup. In addition, the 2010 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.
Fitted atop the dash in its own protective pop-up enclosure, the Garmin Nuvi 750 navigation system cost less than $300 and is completely updatable via the Internet. Compared with much pricier built-in DVD-based systems, the Garmin option is clearly the winning choice.
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 2010 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 2010 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), front side-impact and full-length side-curtain airbags, 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, Bluetooth and a dealer-installed portable pop-up Garmin navigation unit, The PRO-4X off-road model includes the Utili-track system, an on-demand electronic locking rear differential, skid plates 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 start to soar again. 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, manual), 14/19 (4WD, automatic)
The 2010 Nissan Frontier King Cab Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starts just under $18,500 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 $34,500 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 2010 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.