2003 Nissan Frontier Review
Edmunds' Expert Review
- Wide variety of body configurations and trim levels, many safety and convenience features.
- No third door on King Cabs, cramped rear seats for Crew Cabs.
With a variety of body styles, engines and trims, the Frontier should cover just about every compact truck buyer's needs.
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.
2003 Nissan Frontier models
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.
Performance & mpg
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.
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.
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.
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.
Most helpful consumer reviews
Features & Specs
NHTSA Overall Rating
- Frontal Barrier Crash RatingOverallNot RatedDriver4 / 5Passenger4 / 5
- Side Crash RatingOverallNot Rated
- Side Barrier RatingOverallNot RatedDriver4 / 5PassengerNot Rated
- Combined Side Barrier & Pole RatingsFront SeatNot RatedBack SeatNot Rated
- RolloverRollover3 / 5Dynamic Test ResultNo TipRisk Of RolloverNot Rated
- Side Impact TestNot Tested
- Roof Strength TestNot Tested
- Rear Crash Protection / Head RestraintNot Tested
- IIHS Small Overlap Front TestNot Tested
- Moderate Overlap Front TestPoor
Used 2003 Nissan Frontier Overview
The Used 2003 Nissan Frontier is offered in the following submodels: Frontier Crew Cab, Frontier King Cab. Available styles include 4dr Crew Cab XE-V6 Rwd LB (3.3L 6cyl 5M), 4dr Crew Cab SC-V6 Rwd SB (3.3L 6cyl S/C 4A), 4dr Crew Cab SC-V6 4WD LB (3.3L 6cyl S/C 4A), 2dr King Cab XE Rwd SB (2.4L 4cyl 4A), 2dr King Cab XE-V6 Desert Runner Rwd SB (3.3L 6cyl 4A), 4dr Crew Cab SE-V6 Rwd LB w/Leather (3.3L 6cyl 4A), 4dr Crew Cab SC-V6 4WD SB (3.3L 6cyl S/C 4A), 4dr Crew Cab XE-V6 Rwd LB (3.3L 6cyl 4A), 2dr King Cab XE Rwd SB (2.4L 4cyl 5M), 4dr Crew Cab SVE-V6 4WD LB (3.3L 6cyl S/C 4A), 2dr King Cab XE-V6 Desert Runner Rwd SB (3.3L 6cyl 5M), 4dr Crew Cab SE-V6 Rwd SB (3.3L 6cyl 4A), 2dr King Cab SE-V6 Desert Runner Rwd SB (3.3L 6cyl 4A), 4dr Crew Cab SVE-V6 4WD SB (3.3L 6cyl S/C 4A), 4dr Crew Cab XE-V6 4WD LB (3.3L 6cyl 4A), 4dr Crew Cab XE-V6 4WD SB (3.3L 6cyl 4A), 2dr King Cab Standard Rwd SB (2.4L 4cyl 5M), 2dr King Cab SC-V6 Rwd SB (3.3L 6cyl S/C 4A), 4dr Crew Cab SE-V6 4WD LB w/Leather (3.3L 6cyl 4A), 4dr Crew Cab SE-V6 Rwd SB w/Leather (3.3L 6cyl 4A), 2dr King Cab SC-V6 4WD SB (3.3L 6cyl S/C 4A), 4dr Crew Cab XE-V6 Rwd SB (3.3L 6cyl 4A), 2dr King Cab XE-V6 4WD SB (3.3L 6cyl 4A), 4dr Crew Cab XE-V6 Rwd SB (3.3L 6cyl 5M), 4dr Crew Cab SE-V6 Rwd LB (3.3L 6cyl 4A), 2dr King Cab SC-V6 Rwd SB (3.3L 6cyl S/C 5M), 4dr Crew Cab XE-V6 4WD LB (3.3L 6cyl 5M), 2dr King Cab SVE-V6 4WD SB (3.3L 6cyl S/C 4A), 4dr Crew Cab SC-V6 Rwd LB (3.3L 6cyl S/C 4A), 2dr King Cab XE-V6 4WD SB (3.3L 6cyl 5M), 4dr Crew Cab SE-V6 4WD SB w/Leather (3.3L 6cyl 4A), 2dr King Cab SE-V6 4WD SB (3.3L 6cyl 4A), 2dr King Cab SVE-V6 4WD SB (3.3L 6cyl S/C 5M), and 4dr Crew Cab XE-V6 4WD SB (3.3L 6cyl 5M). Pre-owned Nissan Frontier models are available with a 3.3 L-liter gas engine, with output up to 210 hp, depending on engine type. The Used 2003 Nissan Frontier comes with rear wheel drive, and four wheel drive. Available transmissions include: 5-speed manual, 4-speed automatic. The Used 2003 Nissan Frontier comes with a 3 yr./ 36000 mi. basic warranty, a 3 yr./ 36000 mi. roadside warranty, and a 5 yr./ 60000 mi. powertrain warranty.
What's a good price on a Used 2003 Nissan Frontier?
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Should I lease or buy a 2003 Nissan Frontier?
Is it better to lease or buy a car? Ask most people and they'll probably tell you that car buying is the way to go. And from a financial perspective, it's true, provided you're willing to make higher monthly payments, pay off the loan in full and keep the car for a few years. Leasing, on the other hand, can be a less expensive option on a month-to-month basis. It's also good if you're someone who likes to drive a new car every three years or so.