Used 2001 Nissan Frontier Review

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




what's new

Fresh new styling with a decidedly industrial theme injects some much needed personality into the Frontier for 2001. A supercharged V6, making 210 horsepower and 246 pound-feet of torque (231 lb-ft with a manual tranny), is available on special Desert Runner, King Cab and Crew Cab models, which get black-chrome headlight surrounds. Supercharged Frontiers come standard with 17-inch wheels and a limited-slip differential and can be equipped with leather upholstery, bundled in a package that includes a premium audio system with in-dash CD changer and steering wheel controls, plus a security system. Interiors get new fabrics, gauges and dash trimmings, as well as a new steering wheel. Tailgate locks are standard across the board, and a number of new colors, with names straight out of a J.Crew catalog, are available, like Khaki, Salsa and Denim.

vehicle overview

When Nissan redesigned its compact pickup in 1998, the company gave it a completely new look and, for the first time ever, a name: the Frontier. Unfortunately, that name was affixed to a dull, dorky truck that hardly inspired the rugged individuality of the "hardbody" model it replaced. Enter the 2001 Frontier. Sporting a reskinned body and a supercharged engine, this Frontier looks to tear the heads off its compact competitors and eat them for lunch.

Fed up with the current trend of morphing trucks into car-like mommy-mobiles, Nissan designers looked for a shape that would evoke thoughts of Black & Decker rather than Crate & Barrel. The new larger front bumper, revised grille and reconfigured headlights combine to produce a machine-like look that does away with the previous model's sedate fascia. The industrial theme continues with the Frontier's oversized fender flares, now standard even on 4x2 models, featuring visible divot holes and exposed attachment bolts. Even the tailgate received some work with a new cover plate, a more user-friendly latch handle and a standard key lock, the first ever for a compact truck.

Not content to let the designers get all the glory, Nissan engineers went to work in the engine bay and bolted on a Roots-type supercharger that pumps up the 3.3-liter V6's power to 210 hp and 245 ft-lbs of torque. Now packaged as the SC V6, the supercharger can be ordered on both King Cab and Crew Cab platforms, in either two- or four-wheel-drive configurations, including the Desert Runner off-road package. Exclusive to SCs are four-spoke 17-inch wheels wrapped in 265/55R17 off-road tires. With the added weight of larger wheels and tires, higher rate front springs are included along with revised shock valving, both front and rear.

If added power and bigger meats aren't enough, SC buyers can opt for the supercharger value package that includes leather seating with red-on-charcoal stitching, a six-disc in-dash CD changer with satellite steering wheel controls, security system, cruise control, tilt wheel and flip-up glass sunroof.

Although the cab itself is essentially unchanged from last year, subtle refinements to the interior were made to complement the radical exterior. A new instrument panel with reversible black/white gauges claims to improve legibility, while larger radio and climate control knobs should make for easier manipulation. New seat fabrics were patterned to look like woven metal to reinforce the industrial theme further, along with new fabric colors to complement the newly available exterior colors.

If bulging fenders and blown engines aren't what you're looking for, a wide range of Frontiers are available in a multitude of configurations: Regular Cab and Extended King Cab in basic XE or uplevel SE trim are powered by either a 143-horsepower, 2.4-liter inline four or normally aspirated 3.3-liter V6 (the latter available in King Cab only). A five-speed manual and four-speed automatic are the transmission choices, and all Frontiers (except Desert Runner) can be selected with two- or four-wheel drive. Four-wheel-drive systems are of the shift-on-the-fly variety on V6 Frontiers, allowing the driver to select it at speeds up to 50 mph.

Nissan scored big in 2000 with the first ever compact crew cab. This year it's faced with stiff competition from a number of competitors who either will debut or have debuted their own four-door compact trucks. We like the added convenience of the Nissan Crew Cab's four-door access, but overall room inside, especially for rear-seat passengers, is severely limited.

Nissan will also continue to offer the Desert Runner, a two-wheel-drive V6 King Cab pickup truck built on the four-wheel-drive Frontier chassis. Now available in SC trim, and weighing in 500 lbs lighter than its four-wheel drive counterpart, the Desert Runner boasts the best power-to-weight ratio of any Frontier configuration.

The supercharged engine puts the Frontier in a class by itself when it comes to compact truck power. Even if supercharging isn't on your list, Nissan offers 11 other Frontier models, making it easy to find just what you're looking for in a compact truck.

edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.