2003 Nissan Frontier Review | Edmunds.com

2003 Nissan Frontier

How do you feel about these results?

Anything else you'd like to add? We're listening.

Contact Me No Thanks
Nissan Frontier Features and Specs

Features & Specs

  • Engine 3.3 L V 6-cylinder
  • Drivetrain Rear Wheel Drive
  • Transmission 4-speed Automatic
  • Horse Power 180 hp @ 4800 rpm
  • Fuel Economy 15/19 mpg
  • Bluetooth No
  • Navigation No
  • Heated Seats No

Review of the 2003 Nissan Frontier

  • With a variety of body styles, engines and trims, the Frontier should cover just about every compact truck buyer's needs.

  • Safety
  • Pros

    Wide variety of body configurations and trim levels, many safety and convenience features.

  • Cons

    No third door on King Cabs, cramped rear seats for Crew Cabs.

  • What's New for 2003

    Nissan's compact pickup rolls into 2003 with many new enhancements. Most interesting is a power-operated retractable top. The "Open Sky" top -- essentially a giant sunroof -- is optional on Crew Cab models. For safety, Nissan has added standard dual-stage front airbags for Crew Cabs, standard LATCH child seat anchors on King Cabs and Crew cabs, an optional stability control system and an optional tire pressure monitoring system. Other changes for 2003 include 10 more horsepower for normally aspirated V6 models, a driver seat-height adjuster and standard Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD). King Cabs now have standard ABS, a new storage bin and a new first aid kit (V6 only).

What Others Are Saying

Customer Reviews

  Average Consumer Rating (121 total reviews)


Avoid this lemon

by on
Vehicle: 2002 Nissan Frontier

This truck has been a lemon since the day I bought it. The knock sensor and the catalytic converters (yes, plural) go bad at 100k miles, and you're looking at 3k to fix all this, or else you can't pass emissions. I've talked to mechanics and they say that they see this all the time with Nissan frontiers. You'll need to get the Nissan parts, because aftermarket parts aren't compatible and you'll waste your money, & still not pass emissions. The AC has gone out on me twice, and even the electrical components struggle. I've only got 145k highway miles, and I've struggled mightily with the catalytic converters, knock sensors, AC unit (broken twice), electrical, tailgate handle, door handle




Old truck new love

by on
Vehicle: 2002 Nissan Frontier

I looked long and hard for the perfect truck - and I've found it. I've always driven full-size pickups but wanted better economy, 4wd, a decent cargo capacity, and room for my two big dogs for everything except hauling the big round bales of hay. Still have the 2500 Ram for the latter, but the Frontier handles everything else beautifully. Since I tend to drive my vehicles forever, I wasn't concerned about this being older and having a bit over 100k miles on it. I did have my mechanic go over it thoroughly, freshening several things that needed to be addressed, but still brought it in at my budgeted figure - and expect to drive it at least another 100k miles. Can you tell I love it??




Great truck, i'll stick with

by on
Vehicle: 2002 Nissan Frontier

8 years and still going strong. I use my Frontier for towing a motorcycle trailer and it does fine. Not any reliability problems except my A/C compressor is a bit noisy when it kicks on at highway speed. Nice and cold though. It has held up well in the body and interior department as well. The 2.4l 4 banger with the 5 speed is adequate but won't win any drag races. The gas mileage is great. Even with a raised topper, I get 25 and without the topper I average 26-28 on the highway. The ride is a bit stiff but it is a truck after all. Overall I am very satisfied and plan to keep it a LONG time.



1 of 1 people found this review helpful

Little truck, lotta truck !

by on
Vehicle: 2002 Nissan Frontier

I use the truck primarily to tow a 3000 lb camper. The 3.3 L engine in the 2002 was rated at only 170 hp but this little truck seems to use all of them as it tows the camper plus another 500 lbs of camping gear as though it is not there. That is both with power and mileage. The camper and gear doubles the weight of the truck alone with no more than a 15-20 % increase in fuel consumption. For power I'm comparing it to my old Ford full-size with a 351 V-8. Never any maintenance in nearly 8 years of use other than regular preventative maintenance. Cannot recommend this little truck too much!!




Disappointed

by on
Vehicle: 2002 Nissan Frontier

I bought the Desert Runner (100,000 miles) after owning a 97 Dodge. The heater core had to be replaced ($700), the heater controls on the dash were "stripped" out and did not work properly($250), and the air distribution box under the dash still needs to be replaced, but I won't do that for a while, if ever. I've had many small trucks, but none rode as rough as this one. I have replaced the shocks and will change tires soon. On a smooth road, it is great, but on a rough road, wow!. Steering wheel blocks the dash instruments (I am 6'3"). Truck looks great and has enough room inside for me, but I am really disappointed in the mechanical aspects of the truck, specially for a Nissan.




I'd buy again but frontier

by on
Vehicle: 2002 Nissan Frontier

Truck is babied. Other than oil and filter changes, no expense, but air went out at 45k. Still on original tires at 55k. Rear vibrated even when new, 55-65 mph. Gearing is very tall, making engine appear sluggish, took some time to get used to having to rev up to take off, but love the mpg, 24/28.



Full 2003 Nissan Frontier Review

What's New for 2003

Nissan's compact pickup rolls into 2003 with many new enhancements. Most interesting is a power-operated retractable top. The "Open Sky" top -- essentially a giant sunroof -- is optional on Crew Cab models. For safety, Nissan has added standard dual-stage front airbags for Crew Cabs, standard LATCH child seat anchors on King Cabs and Crew cabs, an optional stability control system and an optional tire pressure monitoring system. Other changes for 2003 include 10 more horsepower for normally aspirated V6 models, a driver seat-height adjuster and standard Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD). King Cabs now have standard ABS, a new storage bin and a new first aid kit (V6 only).

Introduction

Nissan has been building trucks for the U.S. market since 1958. Now in its seventh generation of pickup offerings, the company's 2003 Frontier-badged model is the result of constant improvement since the last major redesign in 1998. This year, Nissan has focused on safety, as well as fun. A stability control system is available, as is a tire-pressure monitor. Both are industry firsts for a compact pickup. A wide variety of bodies, features and trim levels are the Frontier's best attributes. The lineup ranges from a basic (and inexpensive) two-wheel drive King Cab to the supercharged Crew Cab long bed. The supercharged S/C trucks are pricey, which is perhaps why Nissan offers value versions (the SVE trim) for the King Cab and Crew Cab. If your compact pickup needs are quite specific, the Frontier might be your truck. But we certainly recommend shopping around. The Toyota Tacoma, in particular, is another compact pickup you'll want to consider.

Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options

The Frontier is highly configurable to better match your particular needs. There are two main body styles: King Cab and Crew Cab. The King Cab is Nissan's extended-cab pickup. It has front bucket seats and additional seating for two passengers in fold-down rear jump seats. Available trim levels include the no-frills standard truck and four-cylinder XE, the V6-powered XE and SE and the supercharged S/C and SVE. The S/C is the most feature-laden. Those looking for power and a smaller price tag should consider the more reasonably priced SVE. Four-wheel drive is available on most of these models, but if you just want the tough look of a 4WD, Nissan offers the Desert Runner, 2WD King Cab featuring the same heavy-duty chassis, ride height and stance as the 4WD Frontier.

Compared to the King Cab, the Frontier Crew Cab has a larger cabin with expanded rear-seat accommodations. Rear forward-hinged doors offer improved access to seats. The V6 (normally aspirated and supercharged) is the only engine available, and trim levels are the same except that there is no standard Crew Cab. In the past, the Crew Cab only came with a truncated 56.3-inch cargo bed, but last year Nissan began offering the Crew Cab Long Bed.

Powertrains and Performance

A supercharged 3.3-liter V6 is the most powerful engine, and it makes 210 horsepower and 246 pound-feet of torque when mated to the four-speed automatic transmission (the five-speed manual drops the torque rating to 231 lb-ft). There's also a normally aspirated V6 worth 180 hp and a 2.4-liter four that produces 143 hp. If you want to tow, our suggestion is either V6 and the automatic transmission. This configuration gives the Frontier its maximum tow rating of 5,000 pounds. Four-wheel drive is available on V6 trucks only.

Safety

Nissan has upped the safety ante for 2003 with the addition of optional Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC) and an optional tire-pressure monitor. ABS is standard on all trucks. The NHTSA has given the Frontier Crew Cab very good crash test scores. The IIHS, however, has indicated that the Frontier fares poorly in frontal offset crashes, as shown by its test of a 1998 Frontier regular cab.

Interior Design and Special Features

The Frontier's cabin is one of the better ones available in the compact pickup class. A common complaint for the Crew Cab since its introduction, however, has been its cramped rear seat. A shortage of rear legroom is the major culprit.

Driving Impressions

Nissan likes to tout that its supercharged V6 offers the most horsepower in any V6 compact pickup. While true, we've found that real-world results are a bit disappointing. The supercharged engine has great off-idle responses but runs out of breath quickly. Off-road performance is about average for this class of truck.

Talk About The 2003 Frontier

Gas Mileage

EPA-Rated MPG

  • 15
  • cty
/
  • 19
  • highway
Calculate Yearly Fuel Costs