By Scott Oldham -- Contributing Editor
KBB Expert Rating: 7.7
Starting under $20,000, the new 2017 Nissan Frontier isn’t the newest entry in the midsize-truck segment, but it’s the most affordable and it continues to hold up well. Two body styles are offered, King Cab and Crew Cab as well as 2- or 4-wheel drive. The new Frontier faces stiff competition from its rivals the Chevrolet Colorado, GMC Canyon and Toyota Tacoma, all of which offer better fuel economy, fresher styling and more amenities. However, Nissan’s midsize pickup boasts plenty of grunt when equipped with its large 4.0-liter V6 engine, which makes 261 horsepower, offering a good mix of comfort and capability, and even some features that aren’t ubiquitous in this segment, including power-adjustable front seats, rear disc brakes and push-button start.
The new 2017 Frontier boasts some serious off-road chops. Well beyond just 4-wheel drive, the Frontier offers an optional heavy-duty suspension, including available off-road-tuned Bilstein high-pressure performance gas shock absorbers, skidplates and a locking differential on the PRO-4X trim level. It can also tow up to 6,500 pounds.
The new Frontier's aging powertrain is less efficient than those of its rivals, especially the new diesel offerings from Chevy and GMC, which can deliver 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.
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As Nissan concentrates on its all-new full-size Titan pickup, the 2017 Nissan Frontier enters the new year with a new S Work Truck Package with spray-in bedliner, bed rail caps, splash guards and rubber floormats. In addition, the Frontier S switches from a chrome to a body-color rear bumper.
In our test of a Crew Cab PRO-4X model, we found the new Frontier easy to maneuver and more agile and comfortable for the daily commute. Trucks this...
... size are again gaining popularity, and the easier maneuverability in the city compared to a full-size truck is certainly one of the reasons why. On rough pavement, however, the Nissan’s PRO-4X off-road suspension could be harsh. We were impressed with the powerful 4.0-liter V6 engine, but not the resulting fuel economy. We averaged 15 mpg around town, which is outmatched by full-size trucks today. The Frontier’s outdated 5-speed automatic transmission is also at fault here. The interior offers one of the most comfortable driver’s seats and seating positions in the midsize-truck segment. We also like the dash layout, which is clean and simple, though dated. At speed, there's wind noise from around the large outside mirrors. Engine and road noise intrude as well.
NissanConnect, like many modern systems, gives the new 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. With navigation a small 5-inch touch screen is intuitive and easy to use.
UTILI-TRACK BED-CHANNEL SYSTEM
Unique and innovative when it first appeared, the Frontier’s Utili-track system uses a series of channels in the bed floor and bed side rails along with removable cleats, which slide into the channels, to provide a wide range of attach points to secure cargo. Accessories are also offered, including bed dividers.
Extremely comfortable, although dated and on the simple side, the interior of the 2017 Nissan Frontier is likable and versatile. Open the rear-hinged doors of the King Cab model and you'll find a pair of cramped seats that are useful for children and short rides. However, 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.
In the age of oversized hulking grilles and chrome galore, the new 2017 Nissan Frontier may be a little conservative-looking for some. We find it to be attractive in a handsome, get-the-job-done kind of way. It’s simple-looking, but purposeful and it has a masculine quality all trucks should possess, especially in PRO-4X trim, which wears off-road equipment like chunky tires and skidplates, as well as available roof racks and crossbars. A long bed is available on Crew Cab models, giving it the same bed length as the smaller-cabin King Cab.
Most buyers of the new Frontier will skip the least expensive King Cab S model with manual transmission. It’s a very basic truck lacking 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 civilized SV trims, which also include NissanConnect with mobile apps such as Facebook, and streaming audio like Pandora and iHeartRadio. The Crew Cab SL adds leather seats, Rockford Fosgate audio and a standard V6 engine.
For 2017, Frontier SV models offer a popular package that includes an auto-dimming mirror, spray-in bedliner, Utili-track tie-down system, dual-zone climate control, an upgraded audio system and a rearview camera and sensors. The 2-wheel-drive (2WD) Desert Runner adds attitude as well as Bilstein off-road shocks and off-road wheels and tires, while the 4-wheel-drive (4WD) PRO-4X models add an electronic locking rear differential and skidplates. Crew Cab PRO-4X models offer a luxury package with leather seats and heated outside mirrors, while SL and SV models can get a power moonroof. Campers should check out the bed tent available from Nissan dealers.
Standard on the 2017 Nissan Frontier King Cab models is a 152-horsepower 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine. It comes with a 5-speed manual or a 5-speed automatic transmission. A 4.0-liter V6 is available in King Cab and is standard in Crew Cab models or any 4WD Frontier. With a robust 261 horsepower it provides some scoot. With it, a 6-speed manual is standard and a 5-speed automatic is 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 2017 Nissan Frontiers run on regular 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)
Note: Due to changes in EPA testing to more effectively reflect real-world conditions, some 2017 models show slightly lower fuel-economy scores than their 2016 versions.
The stripped-down 2017 Nissan Frontier King Cab S with a manual transmission has a tempting Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of over $20,000, but instead check out the mid-level SV trim on either King Cab or Crew Cab models. They start around $24,000 for King Cab 4-cylinder models, or about $25,500 if you want a V6-powered King Cab. The long-bed Frontier SL with 4WD starts around $38,000. While its starting price undercuts rivals, the Nissan's pricing becomes more in line with the competition 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.