By Matt Degen
KBB Expert Rating: 7.8
The 2016 Nissan Frontier is the oldest member of what has recently become a resurgent midsize-truck segment, yet it continues to hold up surprisingly well. With last year's all-new Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon siblings, and this year's revamp of the venerable Toyota Tacoma, there's no doubt the Frontier faces stiff competition from rivals that offer better fuel economy and fresher amenities. Nevertheless, Nissan's midsize pickup boasts plenty of grunt when equipped with a V6 engine, a good mix of comfort and capability, and even some features still not available in rivals, including power-adjustable front seats and rear disc brakes (both lacking in the Tacoma) and push-button start (non-existent in the GM twins). Starting at just over $19,000, the Frontier also undercuts rivals in price.
Offering one of the most comfortable driver's seats and seating positions among midsize trucks, the 2016 Frontier also boasts serious off-road chops, ruggedly handsome good looks, and the ability to tow up to 6,500 pounds.
The Frontier's aging powertrain is less efficient than those of its rivals, especially compared to the new diesel midsize pickups from GM that earn up to 31 mpg. You also won't find the latest safety and tech features such as blind-spot monitoring, forward-collision alert, wireless phone charging or in-cabin Wi-Fi.
KBB Expert Ratings
Only minor updates are in store for the 2016 Nissan Frontier. They include three new exterior colors and the availability of a moonroof on crew-cab SV models.
Most midsize-truck buyers like the smaller dimensions and easier driving manners of such vehicles compared to their full-size brethren. On this front, the Frontier is still very competent despite its...
... age. In our latest test of a Crew Cab PRO-4X model, we found the Frontier easy to maneuver and more agile and comfortable than we'd anticipated for the daily commute. On rough pavement, though, Nissan's midsize truck felt notably harsher. We were also still impressed with the power from the 4.0-liter V6 engine, but not the resulting fuel economy. We averaged 15 mpg around town, which is outmatched by full-size trucks these days. The interior is comfortable, and the dash layout is clean and simple, though dated. At speed, there's prominent wind noise from the large outside mirrors, and engine and road noise intrude as well. For those into off-roading, the PRO-4X brings additional skidplating and a locking center differential.
Like many modern systems, NissanConnect gives the Frontier's infotainment system a smartphone-like interface, complete with apps. Available with and without navigation, the Apps features allow integration with an iPhone or Android smartphone, further expanding the system’s capabilities.
UTILI-TRACK BED-CHANNEL SYSTEM
The big open bed of a pickup truck means you can haul oversize stuff, but it doesn't change the laws of physics, and stuff can still fall out. The Utili-Track system in the Frontier uses adjustable tie-down cleats built into the bed to hold all manner of cargo or equipment.
While dated and on the simple side, the 2016 Nissan Frontier offers a comfortable and versatile interior. Open the rear-hinged doors of the King Cab model and you'll find a pair of cramped seats; if you plan on carrying passengers frequently, it's best to opt for the Crew Cab model with its traditional doors and adult-sized 3-passenger bench. The rear seats on all Frontier models flip up for more space, and the front-passenger seat can fold flat, creating an impromptu workstation. Leather replaces cloth on higher trim levels, but a telescoping steering wheel isn't available on the Frontier.
We find the 2016 Nissan Frontier's looks more conservative than those of its rivals, and we don't particularly mind. So while you won't see a hulking grille or mean-looking face, Nissan's pickup retains its handsome, get-the-job done appearance. The Frontier is also versatile, with a long bed available on Crew Cab models, giving it the same bed length as the smaller-cabin King Cab. Off-road equipment like skidplates adorns the PRO-4X models, which are also available with roof racks and crossbars.
Most buyers will skip the least-expensive Frontier King Cab S model with manual transmission. That very basic truck lacks even air conditioning, power windows and a radio. Getting an automatic on the S adds A/C, cruise control, an AM/FM/CD stereo and Bluetooth. However, if you want power windows and mirrors, or a USB-equipped audio system, you'll have to move up to the more recommendable SV trims, which also include NissanConnect with mobile apps such as Facebook, and streaming audio services like Pandora and iHeartRadio. The Crew Cab SL adds leather seats, Rockford Fosgate audio and a standard V6 engine.
Frontier SV models offer a Value Truck package that includes an auto-dimming mirror, spray-in bedliner, Utili-Track tie-down system, dual-zone climate control, an upgraded audio system, an alarm and a rearview camera and sensors. The 2-wheel-drive (2WD) Desert Runner includes Bilstein off-road shocks and off-road wheels, while the 4-wheel-drive (4WD) PRO-4X models add electronic locking rear differential and protective skidplates. Crew Cab PRO-4X models offer a luxury package that includes leather seats and heated outside mirrors, while SL and SV models can be ordered with a power moonroof. Camping enthusiasts should check out the bed tent available from Nissan dealers.
Standard on the 2016 Nissan Frontier King Cab models is a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine that makes 152 horsepower. It comes with either a 5-speed manual transmission or a 5-speed automatic. Available in King Cab and standard in Crew Cab models or any 4WD Frontier is a 4.0-liter V6, with a far more robust 261 horsepower. Here, a 6-speed manual is standard, with a 5-speed automatic available. The 4-cylinder model is no slouch, offering a respectable tow rating of 3,500 pounds, and 2WD V6 models can tow up to 6,500 pounds. All 2016 Nissan Frontiers run on regular unleaded gasoline. Unfortunately, fuel economy trails far behind the new GM midsize trucks, with just 23 mpg highway for 4-cylinder models or 21/22 mpg for V6 versions.
152 horsepower @ 5,200 rpm
171 lb-ft of torque @ 4,400 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 19/23 mpg (2WD, manual), 17/23 mpg (2WD, automatic)
261 horsepower @ 5,600 rpm
281 lb-ft of torque @ 4,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 17/22 mpg (2WD, manual), 16/22 mpg (2WD, automatic), 16/21 mpg (4WD, manual), 15/21 mpg (4WD, automatic)
The stripped-down 2016 Nissan Frontier King Cab S with a manual transmission has a tempting Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of just over $19,000, but instead check out the mid-level SV trim on either King Cab or Crew Cab models. They start around $23,000 for King Cab 4-cylinder models, or about $25,000 if you want a V6-powered King Cab. The long-bed Frontier SL with 4WD starts at more than $37,000. While its starting price undercuts rivals, the Nissan's pricing becomes more in line with them as you climb trims, though it's still below that of a loaded Tacoma or diesel-powered Colorado or Canyon. Before buying, check the KBB.com Fair Purchase Price to see what others in your area are paying for their Frontier pickup truck. As the years go by, we expect the Frontier to hold its value well, but still not top that of the Tacoma.