2012 Nissan Frontier Review

Type:

Pros & Cons

  • Sturdy chassis
  • strong V6
  • easy-to-use cabin controls
  • comfortable front seats
  • stout bed lining and tie-down points
  • agile handling.
  • Regular cab body style not available
  • uncomfortable rear seats.
List Price Range
$15,997 - $21,998

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Edmunds' Expert Review

The 2012 Nissan Frontier is a top pick in the compact-pickup segment thanks to its brawny nature, relatively nimble handling and innovative features.

Vehicle overview

Back in the days of the Old West, the frontier was a rough-and-ready kind of place. It's also a pretty apt way to describe the 2012 Nissan Frontier.

In practical terms, that means this compact pickup can handle the rough conditions a truck owner is likely to throw at it. As for the ready part, the Frontier is offered in enough different variants that it's capable of filling a wide variety of roles: affordable work truck, tough off-road explorer and occasional family transporter.

Credit for this flexibility goes in part to the Frontier's rugged construction, powerful V6 engine and relatively agile handling. The long list of standard features and available options also makes it possible to tailor the basic vehicle to match your intended use. If there's a significant downside, it's that the rear seats are rather upright and consequently uncomfortable, especially in extended-cab versions.

Admittedly, a big reason the 2012 Nissan Frontier looks so good is the shortage of worthwhile alternatives. The Dodge Dakota has been discontinued and the current-generation Chevrolet Colorado/GMC Canyon twins leave a whole lot to be desired. The Honda Ridgeline is an intriguing choice for buyers looking for a carlike ride and a comfortable cabin, but it's less rugged and far more expensive than the Frontier. That leaves the Toyota Tacoma, which is very comparable to the Frontier but places more emphasis on style and comfort over get-'er-done capability.

Put it all together and you have a small pickup that's as well-suited to life on the frontier as it is the urban jungle.

2012 Nissan Frontier models

The 2012 Nissan Frontier is a compact pickup truck that's offered in extended-cab (King Cab in Nissan-speak) and crew cab body styles. King Cab models come with fold-down rear seats and a 6-foot cargo bed, while crew cab versions get a 60/40-split-folding rear bench and a choice of a standard 5-foot or optional 6-foot bed. There are also four trim levels available: S, SV, PRO-4X and SL.

The entry-level S is a rather bare-bones affair, with a standard equipment list that includes 15-inch steel wheels, front bucket seats and cloth upholstery. The S Preferred package adds air-conditioning and a four-speaker sound system with a CD player.

Stepping up to the SV trim level includes the Preferred package items along with 16-inch wheels (steel on models with inline-4 engines and alloy on V6-powered versions), upgraded tires, a chrome front bumper and a sliding rear window. Inside you'll find upgraded cloth upholstery, keyless entry, cruise control, full power accessories and a tilt-only steering wheel. Options for the SV include the Sport Appearance package that bundles 18-inch alloy wheels, dark grille treatment and body-colored bumpers, foglamps, eight-way manual front seats, upgraded "sport" cloth upholstery, Bluetooth and an upgraded stereo with six-CD changer, an auxiliary audio jack and steering-wheel-mounted audio controls. The Premium Utility package adds a spray-in bedliner, adjustable tie-down points, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, Bluetooth and the upgraded stereo with six speakers and satellite radio (automatic transmission only).

For those planning on taking the road less traveled, there's the PRO-4X, which features a standard V6, 16-inch alloy wheels, off-road tires, a locking rear differential, Bilstein off-road shocks and underbody skid plates, along with a body-color grille. Besides these hardware upgrades, the PRO-4X gets most of the SV's options as standard equipment, plus two-tone upholstery, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, white-faced gauges, a trip computer, a first aid kit and a Rockford Fosgate premium audio system. The PRO-4X Luxury package (crew cab models only) adds a sunroof, roof rack and cross bars, heated mirrors, leather upholstery, heated power front seats (eight-way driver, four-way passenger) and a rear-seat center armrest.

The top SL trim, which is only offered on crew cab models, loses the PRO-4X's off-road-oriented equipment but retains most of the items in the PRO-4X Luxury package except for the sunroof, which is available as an option. Additional standard features include 18-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights and side steps that make for easier access to the cab.

2012 Highlights

The 2012 Nissan Frontier SV gets a new Sport Appearance option package, while four-cylinder models get standard stability control.

Performance & mpg

The 2012 Nissan Frontier is offered with a choice of two engines. Extended-cab S and SV models come standard with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder good for 152 horsepower and 171 pound-feet of torque. A five-speed manual and rear-wheel drive are standard, and a five-speed automatic is available as an option. EPA fuel economy estimates are 19 mpg city/23 mpg highway and 21 mpg combined with the manual transmission, and 17/22/19 with the automatic.

Optional for the SV extended cab and standard for all PRO-4X and crew cab models is a 4.0-liter V6 that produces 261 hp and 281 lb-ft of torque. The S, SV and four-wheel-drive PRO-4X can be had with either a standard six-speed manual or optional five-speed automatic, while the two-wheel-drive PRO-4X and SL are automatic only. Also available is a choice of rear- or four-wheel drive. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 15/20/17 combined for two-wheel-drive automatic-transmission-equipped models, while the ratings change to 14/19/16 for four-wheel-drive models fitted with the automatic. The manual achieves 16/20/17 with rear-wheel drive and 15/20/17 with four-wheel drive.

Properly equipped V6-powered models can tow up to 6,500 pounds. In Edmunds performance testing, a V6-powered PRO-4X Crew Cab went from zero to 60 mph in 8.3 seconds.

Safety

Every 2012 Nissan Frontier comes standard with antilock disc brakes, stability control, front-seat side-impact airbags and side curtain airbags. Also, V6 models have a brake-activated limited-slip differential. Hill descent control and hill-start assist are included with the automatic-equipped two-wheel-drive SL and PRO-4X. In Edmunds brake testing, a Frontier PRO-4X came to a stop from 60 mph in 128 feet -- impressive for a truck.

The Frontier received the top rating of "Good" in frontal-offset, side-impact and roof strength tests conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Driving

The notably better fuel economy of the four-cylinder engine aside, we think more people will prefer the 2012 Nissan Frontier's gutsy V6 engine. In addition to more lively performance in everyday driving, this engine also ups the Frontier's towing capacity to a very healthy 6,500 pounds. While it's nice to see manual transmissions still offered here, the automatic transmission is a good match for this engine, delivering well-timed shifts whether you're negotiating a rugged backcountry trail or just driving home from work.

As mentioned earlier, the Frontier's precise steering and well-tuned suspension make for a satisfying driving experience by truck standards. The ride quality is also surprisingly good on most models, except for the relatively harsh ride of the off-road-oriented PRO-4X.

Interior

As with virtually all pickups, the 2012 Nissan Frontier's interior is a compromise between utility and comfort. King Cab models feature reverse-opening rear doors that offer access to a pair of fold-up jump seats behind the front buckets, although their combination of vertical seatback angles and limited legroom means they're really only useful in a pinch. Open the Crew Cab's front-hinged rear doors and you'll find a backseat that's wide enough for three adults, though it's not all that comfortable due to its upright backrests and low seat bottoms. In short, if a roomy rear seat is important to you, you might want to have a look at the Honda Ridgeline or Toyota Tacoma.

Of course pickups are all about hauling stuff, and here the Frontier gets high marks. Folding the rear seats in both body styles creates a good amount of space for items you'd rather not leave unsecured in the truck bed. Speaking of which, we'd strongly recommend crew cab buyers spring for the optional 6-foot cargo bed if they plan on transporting anything bigger than assorted beach or tailgating paraphernalia. The movable Utili-Trak tie-downs also make securing items of all sizes a good bit easier.


Consumer reviews

Read what other owners think about the Used 2012 Nissan Frontier.

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Most helpful consumer reviews

I'd Buy it Again
bansko,03/24/2012
SL 4dr Crew Cab 4WD 6.1 ft. SB (4.0L 6cyl 5A)
I've put 8,000 miles on this truck so far, including hundreds on gravel and dirt through a Wyoming winter, and I have no regrets. No warranty issues of any kind. The V6 has plenty of power and the steering and handling are excellent on and off pavement. I considered the Tacoma since I like the looks slightly better, but Toyota has had some serious quality/recall issues with the Tacoma over the last 10 years. That, and the fact that toyata wants a few thousand more for an equally equipped truck leaned me toward Nissan. The Frontier is indeed a rugged, no-nonsense truck. I expect to drive it for many years. BTW, JD Powers just ranked it the top midsize pickup for 2012.
Love this truck
pjd35,09/15/2012
SV 4dr King Cab 4WD 6.1 ft. SB (4.0L 6cyl 5A)
This truck is a nice size not as big as a Ford f150 that would not fit in my garage. Very comfortable seats. Takes road bumps pretty well for a truck. Wide turning radius. Power train is great 4x4 low take you up a 40 degree dirt road like you were on a flat surface. Nissan did cheap out with interior space and some trim. no roof seal molding and a glove box not big enough for owners manual??? Averaging 18mpg. not bad for 4x4 v6.
GreatTruck
Louis,10/02/2015
PRO-4X 4dr King Cab 4WD 6.1 ft. SB (4.0L 6cyl 6M)
This is my fourth Nissan Frontier truck. I bought the 2012 por4x and it was not a disappointment . I am going to be trading it in on a new 2016 shortly. The only thing that I don't care for is the gas mileage .I use premium Shell most of the time. I get around 15.5 mpg. But I have noticed that if I run a few highway miles on it ,it tends to get better mileage. It all depends how you treat the accelerator if mileage is in question. . You don't have to "floor it" to pass or keep up with traffic . The v6 is sensitive in that it requires only moderate acceleration. I suggest to anyone who owns one or is considering buying one that they check their tire pressure often as possible. You will get a more comfortable ride if you do.
2012 Frontier King Cab with Sports App Pkg
ravenronnie,02/07/2012
SV 4dr King Cab 6.1 ft. SB (4.0L 6cyl 5A)
Wanted a truck to pull with occasionally and carry small loads. The Sports Appearance Package is a big eye catcher and I have received lots of compliments on the wheels and overall looks. Pulls great, lots of power for getting on and off highways, mileage is ok at 19.5 with a mix of city and highway, and bluetooth works great. Backseats are not for anything more than a small child, better to use the area for storage. Handles really well, steering feels good and tight and I love the locking tailgate. Headlights and fog lights light the roads well and was very comfortable on an 8 hour road trip.

Safety

NHTSA Overall Rating

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration offers independent analysis.
  • Frontal Barrier Crash Rating
    OverallNot Rated
    DriverNot Rated
    PassengerNot Rated
  • Side Crash Rating
    OverallNot Rated
  • Side Barrier Rating
    OverallNot Rated
    DriverNot Rated
    PassengerNot Rated
  • Combined Side Barrier & Pole Ratings
    Front SeatNot Rated
    Back SeatNot Rated
  • Rollover
    Rollover3 / 5
    Dynamic Test ResultNo Tip
    Risk Of Rollover21.2%
IIHS Rating
The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety uses extensive crash tests to determine car safety.
  • Side Impact Test
    Good
  • Roof Strength Test
    Good
  • Rear Crash Protection / Head Restraint
    Acceptable
  • IIHS Small Overlap Front Test
    Not Tested
  • Moderate Overlap Front Test
    Good

More about the 2012 Nissan Frontier

Used 2012 Nissan Frontier Overview

The Used 2012 Nissan Frontier is offered in the following submodels: Frontier Crew Cab, Frontier King Cab. Available styles include SV 4dr Crew Cab 4WD 5.0 ft. SB (4.0L 6cyl 5A), SV 4dr Crew Cab 5.0 ft. SB (4.0L 6cyl 5A), PRO-4X 4dr Crew Cab 4WD 5.0 ft. SB (4.0L 6cyl 5A), SL 4dr Crew Cab 5.0 ft. SB (4.0L 6cyl 5A), SV 4dr King Cab 4WD 6.1 ft. SB (4.0L 6cyl 5A), SL 4dr Crew Cab 4WD 5.0 ft. SB (4.0L 6cyl 5A), SV 4dr King Cab 6.1 ft. SB (4.0L 6cyl 5A), S 4dr Crew Cab 5.0 ft. SB (4.0L 6cyl 5A), S 4dr King Cab 6.1 ft. SB (2.5L 4cyl 5M), S 4dr King Cab 6.1 ft. SB (2.5L 4cyl 5A), SV 4dr Crew Cab 4WD 6.1 ft. SB (4.0L 6cyl 5A), S 4dr Crew Cab 4WD 5.0 ft. SB (4.0L 6cyl 5A), SL 4dr Crew Cab 6.1 ft. SB (4.0L 6cyl 5A), SV 4dr Crew Cab 6.1 ft. SB (4.0L 6cyl 5A), SV 4dr King Cab 4WD 6.1 ft. SB (4.0L 6cyl 6M), PRO-4X 4dr King Cab 4WD 6.1 ft. SB (4.0L 6cyl 5A), SL 4dr Crew Cab 4WD 6.1 ft. SB (4.0L 6cyl 5A), SV 4dr King Cab 6.1 ft. SB (2.5L 4cyl 5A), SV 4dr King Cab 6.1 ft. SB (2.5L 4cyl 5M), SV 4dr King Cab 6.1 ft. SB (4.0L 6cyl 6M), S 4dr Crew Cab 4WD 5.0 ft. SB (4.0L 6cyl 6M), S 4dr Crew Cab 5.0 ft. SB (4.0L 6cyl 6M), PRO-4X 4dr King Cab 4WD 6.1 ft. SB (4.0L 6cyl 6M), SV 4dr Crew Cab 5.0 ft. SB (4.0L 6cyl 6M), PRO-4X 4dr Crew Cab 4WD 5.0 ft. SB (4.0L 6cyl 6M), and SV 4dr Crew Cab 4WD 5.0 ft. SB (4.0L 6cyl 6M). Pre-owned Nissan Frontier models are available with a 4.0 L-liter gas engine, with output up to 261 hp, depending on engine type. The Used 2012 Nissan Frontier comes with four wheel drive, and rear wheel drive. Available transmissions include: 5-speed automatic. The Used 2012 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 2012 Nissan Frontier?

Price comparisons for Used 2012 Nissan Frontier trim styles:

  • The Used 2012 Nissan Frontier SV is priced between $13,995 and$21,998 with odometer readings between 46378 and154114 miles.
  • The Used 2012 Nissan Frontier PRO-4X is priced between $18,491 and$24,998 with odometer readings between 69946 and126315 miles.
  • The Used 2012 Nissan Frontier SL is priced between $17,750 and$17,750 with odometer readings between 122046 and122046 miles.

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Which used 2012 Nissan Frontiers are available in my area?

Shop Edmunds' car, SUV, and truck listings of over 6 million vehicles to find a cheap new, used, or certified pre-owned (CPO) 2012 Nissan Frontier for sale near. There are currently 12 used and CPO 2012 Frontiers listed for sale in your area, with list prices as low as $13,995 and mileage as low as 46378 miles. Simply research the type of car you're interested in and then select a used car from our massive database to find cheap prew-owned vehicles for sale near you. Once you have identified a used vehicle you're interested in, check the AutoCheck vehicle history reports, read dealer reviews, and find out what other owners paid for the Used 2012 Nissan Frontier.

Can't find a used 2012 Nissan Frontiers you want in your area? Consider a broader search.

Find a used Nissan Frontier for sale - 7 great deals out of 12 listings starting at $16,344.

Find a used Nissan for sale - 12 great deals out of 16 listings starting at $22,188.

Find a used certified pre-owned Nissan Frontier for sale - 7 great deals out of 13 listings starting at $22,123.

Find a used certified pre-owned Nissan for sale - 3 great deals out of 12 listings starting at $11,625.

Should I lease or buy a 2012 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.

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Check out Nissan Frontier lease specials