What's New for 2010
For 2010, the Nissan Frontier gains a welcome supply of standard safety features, including front side airbags, side curtain airbags and stability control. Also, the price has been slashed on the optional integrated Garmin navigation system.
A compact pickup truck should be a versatile creature, in its element whether it's journeying through the Alaskan frontier or simply taking some friends out to the Frontier Steakhouse. Hauling, off-roading and around-town commuting should all be a part of its résumé. While there aren't many trucks in this segment, the 2010 Nissan Frontier is one of the two most qualified candidates.
As the Frontier is available in numerous body styles and combinations, it should be easy to find one that fits your needs. From the basic four-cylinder work truck to the luxury-lined LE and off-road-champ PRO-4X, the Frontier is capable of catering to a variety of different budgets and equipment preferences. True, many trucks also have this sort of variety. But it's the Frontier's solid build quality, potent engines, straightforward controls and relatively nimble around-town handling that help set it apart.
Pitted against the Chevy Colorado, Dodge Dakota and Ford Ranger (and their respective twin trucks), the 2010 Nissan Frontier emerges the clear victor despite its package-heavy options structure and cramped Crew Cab backseat. The only rival that should really give you pause would be the highly desirable Toyota Tacoma, which offers a bigger cabin with nicer materials, at the expense of some drivability. Still, there's no denying the Frontier's strengths. This Nissan is a capable pickup truck for work, play and journeys to the last frontier.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2010 Nissan Frontier is a compact-class pickup truck that is offered in King Cab (commonly known as extended cab) and Crew Cab (four-door) configurations. A 6-foot bed is standard for the King Cab, while the Crew Cab comes with a 5-foot bed, with the 6-footer available as an option. The entry-level Frontier is the XE, with more amenities progressively added to the SE, LE and PRO-4X trims. In typical Nissan fashion, options are only available via expensive, feature-loaded packages.
As the bare-bones model, the Frontier XE is available only as a King Cab, with a four-cylinder engine and manual transmission and very little in the way of creature comforts or accessories. Included are 15-inch steel wheels, front bucket seats and cloth upholstery. Adding the XE Preferred package gets you an AM/FM/CD audio system and air-conditioning.
The four-cylinder SE trim level has the XE's Preferred package as standard and also comes with 16-inch wheels, a chrome front bumper, a sliding rear window and a tilting steering wheel. Options for the SE include the Power package, which consists of remote keyless entry, full power accessories and cruise control. For V6-powered SE Frontiers, the SE Value Truck package is available and equivalent to the Power package, but also includes a bedliner, a tow package and 16-inch alloy wheels.
For those actually planning on taking the road less traveled, the PRO-4X is capable of tackling most off-road conditions. Upgrades include 16-inch alloy wheels with off-road tires, a locking rear differential, Bilstein off-road shocks, underside skid plates and white-faced gauges. Besides the off-road bits, the PRO-4X package shares many amenities with the LE trim level, including foglights, a spray-on bedliner, the Utili-track cargo-management system, keyless entry, full power accessories, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a trip computer and a first aid kit. However, the LE trim trades the PRO-4X's off-road equipment for 18-inch alloy wheels, body-colored side molding, chrome exterior trim, tubular step rails and a power driver seat.
Options for the PRO-4X and LE King Cab models include the Value package, which includes leather upholstery, heated front seats, power front seats, a 10-speaker Rockford Fosgate stereo with six-CD changer, Bluetooth, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls, satellite radio and an auxiliary audio jack. All Crew Cabs can be had with a sunroof, while an iPod interface, bed divider and extenders and a portable Garmin navigation system are port-installed accessories.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2010 Nissan Frontier comes with a choice of two engines. The XE and SE come standard with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder good for 152 horsepower and 171 pound-feet of torque. This engine is only available with rear-wheel drive. A five-speed manual is standard and a five-speed automatic is optional. Fuel economy with the manual is 19 mpg city/23 mpg highway and 21 mpg combined, while the automatic drops it to 17/22/19.
Optional on the SE and standard on the PRO-4X and LE is a 4.0-liter V6 that produces 261 hp and 281 lb-ft of torque. It can be had with rear- or four-wheel drive. A six-speed manual transmission is standard on the SE, optional on the PRO-4X and not available on the LE, while a five-speed automatic is optional on the SE and standard on the PRO-4X and LE. Fuel economy ranges from 16/20/17 mpg with rear-wheel drive and the manual to 14/19/16 mpg with four-wheel drive and the auto.
The four-wheel-drive system is shift-on-the-fly with 4-Hi and 4-Lo settings activated by a dash-mounted switch.
Every 2010 Frontier comes standard with stability control, antilock disc brakes, front seat side airbags, side curtain airbags and, on V6 models, Active Brake Limited Slip, which brakes individual wheels to maintain traction rather than killing power to the engine. Hill descent control and hill start assist are included with the automatic-equipped 4WD LE and PRO-4X. In brake testing, the Frontier PRO-4X came to a stop from 60 mph in 128 feet – impressive for a truck.
In government crash tests, the Frontier King Cab was awarded four out of five stars for driver protection in a frontal crash and five stars for front-passenger protection. The Frontier Crew Cab received four stars in these categories. In testing conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, both Frontier cab designs received the best rating of "Good" in the frontal-offset test.
Interior Design and Special Features
The 2010 Nissan Frontier King Cab utilizes small, reverse-opening doors to allow rear-passenger access to the fold-up jump seats. With their 90-degree seatback angles, though, these seats are recommended only as a last resort. The Crew Cab employs conventional rear doors to gain access to a more usable backseat. Still, that seatback is also rather vertical, and not as comfortable as those in the Dodge Dakota and Toyota Tacoma. Otherwise, the cabin is attractively styled for a truck, with controls that are simple to use and easy to reach. Cabin materials consist of hard plastics, but are no worse than those seen in other trucks in the segment.
Anyone planning on a fair amount of cargo hauling would be well advised to spring for the Utili-track system. Using two "C" cross-section channels running the length of the bed floor -- one channel on each side bed rail and one channel mounted on the rear of the cab -- the Utili-track tie-down system employs removable cleats and a host of accessories like dividers, trays, storage bins and bike racks.
The 2010 Nissan Frontier's four-cylinder models make it a fair choice as an inexpensive light-duty work truck, especially for businesses. However, for those seeking a pickup that delivers something more than just basic transportation, the V6 is really the only choice. Providing an abundance of low-end torque, the six-cylinder is up for almost anything, with a competent automatic transmission delivering well-timed shifts whether you're tearing up the sand dunes, hauling supplies to a work site or navigating a morning commute.
The steering is precise and offers ample feedback, contributing to a truck that is notably maneuverable around town and in parking lots. Ride quality is unexpectedly pleasant for a pickup truck; keep in mind, though, that the PRO-4X is noticeably firmer, so you should only go with that trim if you plan on off-roading. If that's the case, you'll find a truck well-suited for ruts, rocks and whatever else the good earth throws at you off the beaten path.