KBB Editors' Overview
By KBB.com Editors - Updated Date: 11/4/2011
Unless you work in construction or have a need to tow massive objects, a mid-size pickup is preferable over a full-size model and will likely fill most of your moving and hauling requirements. While there are a number of options from which to choose, in the world of mid-size pickups, there is no finer example than the 2012 Nissan Frontier Pickup. As ideal for hauling a massive mulch pile as it is ferrying dirt bikes, jet skis or a single snowmobile, the Frontier Pickup is a versatile and well-rounded vehicle that is as comfortable on road as it is off. With a fully boxed frame for maximum rigidity, the Frontier feels solid and rattle-free. The available spray-in bedliner and Utili-track Bed Channel System place the Frontier a step above its competitors, as does its powerful V6 engine. Then again the Chevrolet Colorado, Toyota Tacoma and Dodge Dakota all offer a standard-cab model, whereas the entry-level cab configuration for the 2012 Nissan Frontier King Cab pickup is an extended cab. Still, as the King Cab's pricing starts well below the $20,000 mark, we don't think too many customers will complain about the extra space.
You'll Like This Car If...
If you're looking for a compact pickup with big aspirations, the 2012 Nissan Frontier Pickup makes a good choice. Able to tow up to 6,500 pounds, the Frontier Pickup is a rugged workhorse that just also happens to be rather fashion savvy around town.
You May Not Like This Car If...
If you're looking for the simplest, smallest and least expensive mid-size truck, not to mention one you won't care about if it gets beat up, the 2012 Nissan Frontier Pickup probably isn't the best choice. Those who need to tow more than 6,500 pounds should look to a full-size V8-powered truck such as the Nissan Titan, Ford F-150 or Toyota Tundra.
What's New for 2012
For 2012, Nissan adds a new Sport Appearance Package on King Cab and Crew Cab SV models; Active Brake Limited Slip (ABLS) and Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC) are made standard on Frontiers with the 4-cylinder engine.
That the 2012 Nissan Frontier Pickup's 4.0-liter V6 engine is a variation of the award-wining V6 found in the 370Z had us hoping for Z-like performance in a modern pickup. Instead, what we found was a powerful pickup geared more toward pulling, climbing and hauling, but still capable of putting down some very respectable zero-to-60 times. The 4.0-liter engine is surprisingly refined, offering plenty of power without harsh vibrations or loud mechanical gear noise. With 261 horsepower and 281 pound-feet of torque on hand, we had no problem with the chores assigned by our editor, and our fuel economy hovered between 18 and 22 mpg highway, a variation that was dependent upon speed, elevation and cargo. With the exception of the wind noise emanating from the large side mirrors, the 2012 Nissan Frontier Pickup's cabin is serenely quiet and comfortable. In day-to-day driving, Nissan's Frontier Pickup handles as well as any mid-size SUV we've driven, although the ride over rough pavement is noticeably harsher. Opt for the PRO-4X package with its big BFGoodrich Rugged Trail tires, and the Frontier becomes an off-road king. During our test, we challenged our PRO-4X-equipped Frontier Pickup to tackle some serious terrain, which, thanks in large part to its stiff frame and powerful engine, the Frontier negotiated effortlessly.
Utili-track Bed Channel System
Movable and removable cleats make it easy to transport even cumbersome cargo loads safely.
Where some pickups just look the part, the PRO-4X is the real deal, turning the 2012 Nissan Frontier Pickup from light-utility vehicle to mud-slinging weekend warrior. Toss in the PRO-4X Luxury Package, and you can pamper yourself while punishing your truck.
Inside the 2012 Nissan Frontier Pickup is a cab that is both versatile and comfortable. Clever features such as the dual-stack glove boxes and numerous 12-volt power points speak to the Frontier's pickup truck purpose, while 1-liter cup holders show a keen understanding of the Frontier's target audience. But Nissan knows a modern pickup must also be a very livable daily driver, so the Frontier can be equipped with such high-end luxury trappings as leather seats, a power glass moonroof, power and heated front seats and Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity. Crew Cab models feature a standard-size rear bench seat and full-size rear doors, while the King Cab is equipped with smaller rear-hinged half doors and a flip-up rear jump seat. Both models can be equipped with a flat-folding front passenger seat and both come standard with removable storage boxes beneath the rear seats.
With its raised fender flares, "angled-strut" grille and oversized tires, the 2012 Nissan Frontier Pickup clearly draws inspiration from its full-size big brother, the Nissan Titan. But, while the aptly-named Titan seems a colossus, the smaller Frontier has a sportier, more athletic attitude, one geared more toward play rather than work. The 2012 Frontier Pickup offers a choice of King Cab or Crew Cab configurations with a long or short bed and, to keep things looking new, an available spray-in protective bedliner. Underneath the bed and cab, factory-available skid plates protect the Frontier's most vital bits from being damaged while off-road adventuring, while the optional Utili-track bed tie-down system with five movable cargo hooks helps keep precious cargo safely in place.
Notable Standard Equipment
In base S trim, the 2012 Nissan Frontier Pickup is equipped with a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine that makes 152 horsepower and 171 pound-feet of torque, a 5-speed manual transmission, 4-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 6-foot bed lengths are available on the Crew Cab, while the Frontier King Cab offers only a 6-foot bed.
Notable Optional Equipment
Features not included at base sticker price are the 4.0-liter 6-cylinder engine, 5-speed automatic or 6-speed manual transmission, 4-wheel drive, Utili-track Bed Channel System, factory-applied spray-on bedliner, single-disc CD sound system, 6-disc in-dash sound system with MP3 playback, air conditioning, power door locks/windows/mirrors, keyless entry, and Bluetooth. The PRO-4X off-road model includes the Utili-track system, an on-demand electronic locking rear differential, skid plates and Bilstein performance shocks. The PRO-4X Luxury Package adds power driver and passenger seats, heated leather front seating surfaces, a roof rack with crossbars and a power glass moonroof. The new Sport Appearance Package includes 18-inch SL aluminum-alloy wheels in dark hyper-silver finish, dark grille treatment, body-colored front and rear bumpers, PRO-4X style seats with gray seat bolsters and stitching, foglights, body-side "Frontier" sport graphic, white-faced gauges, and Bluetooth.
Under the Hood
The economical 4-cylinder engine is offered only on the 2-wheel-drive S and SV King Cab, which might become an issue if gasoline prices start to soar again. Nissan's 4.0-liter 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 @ 5,200 rpm
171 lb-ft of torque @ 4,400 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 19/23 (2WD, manual), 17/22 (2WD, automatic)
261 horsepower @ 5,600 rpm
281 lb-ft of torque @ 4,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 16/20 (2WD, manual), 15/20 (2WD, automatic), 15/20 (4WD, manual), 14/19 (4WD, automatic)
The 2012 Nissan Frontier King Cab Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starts at about $19,000 for the base 2-wheel-drive S model, and around $25,000 for the King Cab SV with 4-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 on kbb.com shows what consumers are typically paying for the 2012 Nissan Frontier Pickup in your area, so be sure to check it out before you purchase. Over a 5-year period, the 2012 Nissan Frontier Pickup 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 Dodge Dakota and Chevrolet Colorado.