2018 Nissan Frontier

2018 Nissan Frontier Crew Cab Review

Outclassed by other midsize trucks, the Frontier still delivers strong utility and off-road chops.
author
by Dan Frio
Edmunds Editor

Edmunds expert review

The midsize truck segment has undergone plenty of change in recent years. General Motors kicked off the renaissance with its redesigned Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon trucks, and new versions of the Toyota Tacoma and Honda Ridgeline soon followed. Left in the dust is the Nissan Frontier, which has loped along largely unchanged since this current generation's debut more than a decade ago.

That could change next year when an all-new Frontier is expected to arrive. But for now, the 2018 Nissan Frontier is outdated in just about every area. The interior, though certainly durable, has a low-buck look and feel to it and lets in plenty of noise. The Frontier's engines burn fuel with the abandon of a failed missile test, and technology and advanced safety features are few and far between.

On the upside, the Frontier offers a surprisingly comfortable ride, a bed with all manner of useful cleats and tie-downs, and legitimate off-road fun and capability when equipped in the Pro-4X trim. It's also relatively affordable compared to its newer rivals. As such, the 2018 Frontier could be a good pick for truck shoppers seeking simple utility and fun. For a more modern take on a midsize pickup, though, you'll want to look elsewhere.



What's new for 2018

The 2018 Nissan Frontier now includes a rearview camera on all models. Nissan has also made a few previously optional features, such as air conditioning and cruise control, standard on the base S trim level. A new Midnight Edition adds blacked-out cosmetic enhancements (wheels, grille, mirrors and body-colored bumpers).

We recommend

The Frontier is offered in five trim levels, but the Pro-4X is the one to get. It benefits from a strong V6 with loads of low-end torque and its off-road worthiness is nearly equal to that of any of its rivals. You also get maximum utility, with features such as a bed extender and spray-in liner, plus a maximum tow capacity of 6,290 pounds



Trim levels & features

The 2018 Nissan Frontier is a midsize truck offered in two body styles (the King extended cab or four-door crew cab) and with 5-foot and 6.1-foot bed lengths. Two engines are available, a 2.5-liter four-cylinder (152 horsepower, 171 pound-feet of torque) or a 4.0-liter six-cylinder (261-hp, 281 lb-ft). Both can pair to either a six-speed manual or a five-speed automatic transmission (the four-cylinder is also available with a five-speed manual). There are five trim levels: S is the base model; the SV, with an upgraded interior; the Desert Runner, which pairs off-road-oriented features with two-wheel drive; the four-wheel-drive-only Pro-4X; and the top-tier SL, which is the best optioned overall.

The base S trim starts with two-wheel drive, an extended cab, a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and a five-speed manual transmission. Standard features include 15-inch steel wheels, rear privacy glass, cloth front bucket seats, air-conditioning, cruise control, Bluetooth, a rearview camera, a 5-inch central display, steering wheel audio controls, Siri Eyes Free voice command, and a four-speaker sound system with a CD player, USB input and an auxiliary audio jack.

An optional Work Truck package adds a spray-in bedliner, bed rail caps, splash guards and rubber floor mats.

The SV builds on the above features with 16-inch alloy wheels, power accessories (windows, door locks), sliding rear window, and satellite radio. Options include a sunroof on the crew cab and a Value Truck package that adds foglights, rear parking sensors, a rearview camera, a sliding bed extender, a spray-in bedliner, adjustable cargo tie-downs, a Class IV trailer hitch, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated front seats, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, and two extra speakers on extended cabs.

The SV crew cab is also available with the Midnight Edition package, which adds blacked-out 18-inch wheels, side steps, body-colored bumpers, and side mirror housings.

The Desert Runner is a rear-wheel-drive V6 only. Available in either cab configuration, it builds on the base SV equipment list with special styling details, foglights, high-performance shock absorbers and off-road tires. The SV Value package equipment isn't available with this trim.

For serious off-roaders, there is the four-wheel-drive-only Pro-4X. This trim features knobby off-road tires, specially tuned shocks, a locking rear differential, skid plates, automatic headlights, a 5.8-inch NissanConnect touchscreen with navigation, satellite radio and voice controls, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and a first-aid kit. It includes everything in the SV Value Truck package except the trailer hitch and bed extender, which are optional. Crew cabs also get a 10-speaker Rockford Fosgate audio system.

The Pro-4X Premium package, only available on automatic-equipped crew cabs, adds a sunroof, a roof rack with crossbars, heated mirrors, leather upholstery, power-adjustable front seats and a rear-seat center armrest.

The top-level SL is only available as a crew cab with the automatic transmission. It loses the Pro-4X's off-road-oriented equipment but retains most of the items in the Pro-4X Premium package, including a sunroof for long-bed SLs. (The sunroof is a stand-alone option for short-bed SLs.) Additional standard features include 18-inch alloy wheels and side steps that ease access to the cab. The trailer hitch and bed extender remain optional on the Frontier SL.



Trim tested

Each vehicle typically comes in multiple versions that are fundamentally similar. The ratings in this review are based on our full test of the 2013 Nissan Frontier Pro-4X Crew Cab (4.0L V6 | 5-speed automatic | 4WD).

NOTE: Since this test was conducted, the current Nissan Frontier has received only minor revisions, including increased feature availability throughout various trim levels (Bluetooth, updated displays and navigation systems, for example). Our findings remain broadly applicable to this year's Nissan Frontier.

Edmunds Scorecard

Overall

Driving

3.0 / 5

Acceleration4.0 / 5
Braking2.0 / 5
Steering3.0 / 5
Handling2.0 / 5
Drivability3.0 / 5

Comfort

3.0 / 5

Seat comfort2.5 / 5
Ride comfort4.5 / 5
Noise & vibration2.5 / 5

Interior

3.0 / 5

Ease of use3.0 / 5
Getting in/getting out3.0 / 5
Roominess3.5 / 5
Visibility4.0 / 5
Quality4.0 / 5

Driving3.0

The Frontier Pro-4X sacrifices some on-road drivability for off-road performance, and for the right buyer, that's a worthwhile trade.

Acceleration4.0

With a 261-horsepower 4.0-liter V6, the Frontier accelerates quickly, especially from a stop up to 30 mph. Zero to 60 mph takes 8.2 seconds, which feels fast in a truck this size.

Braking2.0

Stopping from 60 mph takes a lengthy 134 feet thanks to big, off-road-type tires. While braking is effective enough, tons of dive and a spongy brake pedal don't instill confidence in any situation.

Steering3.0

The Frontier Pro-4X has heavy, slow steering that is cumbersome in tight situations, but it resists kickback in rough conditions. It tracks true and is easy to control at freeway speeds.

Handling2.0

On-road handling is subpar. The heavy steering doesn't return quickly, and there's a ton of understeer and truly intrusive stability control. Still, it's stable and easy to control.

Drivability3.0

The intrusive stability control and a brake differential make this truck awkward to drive at times and can overheat the brakes. The throttle is a bit touchy, but otherwise this is a fun toy.

Off-road5.0

The Pro-4X has real power, real four-wheel drive, 8.9 inches of ground clearance and Bilstein shocks. It's seriously fun off-road, where it's also highly capable.

Comfort3.0

The Frontier Pro-4X has a surprisingly plush, controlled ride that is suitable for nearly all surfaces. Points are deducted for massive wind noise and seats that lack support.

Seat comfort2.5

The front seats are short below the thighs and lack support, and there's a dearth of adjustability. The rear seats are tight, but that's to be expected in a truck this size.

Ride comfort4.5

The ride is surprisingly good. It's well controlled and even sophisticated. There are no extraneous movements or truck bounciness.

Noise & vibration2.5

There's nothing quiet about this truck. Not only are the tires loud, but there's also plenty of wind noise from the roof racks, sideview mirrors and windshield.

Interior3.0

Functional is the best word to describe the Frontier. It's overdue for an interior overhaul, but things still work acceptably well.

Ease of use3.0

Stalks and buttons are well placed, easy to use and clearly marked. They are, however, hollow-feeling and don't always provide positive tactile feedback.

Getting in/getting out3.0

The optional step rails are narrow and actually make hopping up into the Pro-4X more of a challenge. The doors have a shallow opening, and getting in and out requires some hip flexibility.

Roominess3.5

Tons of interior space and headroom for the front passengers. Legroom is a little light for the driver, and the steering wheel's reach limits it further.

Visibility4.0

Great sightlines all around and the rearview camera just makes it better. It's easy to park anywhere without hitting curbs or walls.

Quality4.0

The interior isn't stylish or full of soft-touch materials, but everything feels solid and built to last. There wasn't a rattle or shake to be found, and we drove it hard.

Utility

The Frontier gets the basics of being a work truck right. It has a clever cargo tie-down system in the bed, available spray-in liner, bed extender, and 5-foot and 6.1-foot lengths. And properly equipped, four-cylinder models can tow up to 3,500 pounds and V6s as much as 6,500 pounds.

Technology

The latest technology, including a NissanConnect touchscreen interface, Bluetooth audio connectivity, hands-free text messaging and smartphone app integration, is available on most Frontier models. But the same can be said of its competitors.

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.