Nissan Frontier: 5 Things That Need Fixin'

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The mid-size Nissan Frontier is the only pickup truck sold in the U.S. that can be had for less than $20,000, and for that reason it deserves attention. At a time when some pickup truck prices are climbing into the stratosphere, it's nice that there's a pickup for buyers who simply want a no-nonsense, functional cargo hauler that doesn't swallow a bank account whole. We even did a video about all things we like about it. However, we would be remiss if we didn't also point out the trade-offs of purchasing a truck like the Nissan Frontier.

We recently spent time with a 2018 Nissan Frontier S King Cab with a 6-foot bed and a 4x2 drivetrain. Aside from the $150 floormats, the price of this base-trim Frontier was $19,965 including destination. This truck was powered by a 2.5-liter inline four-cylinder engine (making 171 pounds-feet of torque) and a five-speed manual transmission. It came with manual sideview mirrors, manual door locks and manual window cranks.

The biggest weakness of this economical pickup? It's suspension. Not only does the Nissan Frontier provide a limited payload capacity — a paltry 827 pounds, meaning around 635 pounds if I'm driving — but it also has some of the most punishing front and rear suspension jitters we've felt in a long time. On the plus side, the Frontier is probably the single best example of how far today's pickup trucks have come. That's because the Frontier is essentially unchanged since 2004 and is in desperate need of an upgrade. Thankfully, we know the all-new 2019 Nissan Frontier (based off the impressive global Nissan Navara) will be showing up next year.

Below are the top five things we hope will be fixed in the 2018 Nissan Frontier.

 

Suspension

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The front coil and rear leaf springs are fine, but we found ourselves making sure we never let the gas tank get too low because the extra weight dramatically improved the ride quality. We're guessing loading a few hundred more pounds in the bed would have done even more. Nowadays all trucks should deliver a good ride when empty and loaded — and do it with a much higher payload rating. With two smaller adults in the Nissan Frontier, we'd barely be able to legally carry 500 pounds of payload, which is roughly the same capacity as a compact crossover.

 

Rear Hinges

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We know many people still like the extended-cab option (called King Cab for Nissan) whether full-size or mid-size, but not if the rear doors open to only 90 degrees. Such an opening makes it almost impossible to access the rear in-cab storage or seating area in a tight parking lot. Larger double-jointed hinges provide more convenience and minimize the unsightly gaps that result from Nissan's old-school strategy.

 

Steering

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Whether the problem is in the joints, the rods or the full steering mechanism, the shudder and vibration transmitted through the steering column and wheel is, at times, a bit unnerving — especially with so many improvements by the Nissan Frontier's competitors. And it's hard to find another 4x2 mid-size pickup with the same amount of steering wander and numbness as the Frontier's. Whatever the issue, the Nissan Frontier's steering needs an upgrade.

 

Better Bed Tech

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Today's pickups do double duty, often serving as family hauler and work truck. No single area of the vehicle better defines how well it will tackle those tasks than the bed. With just four standard tie-down points, the Nissan Frontier's bed makes it difficult to safely strap down large or small cargo boxes. Likewise, the bed's tailgate is heavy and lacks any kind of lift or drop assist. To make the bed more useful, more tie-down hooks and tailgate assist should be available for all trim levels, not just some trim levels.

 

Interior Upgrades

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The interior of the current Nissan Frontier is seriously dated, and this is where it's easiest for Nissan to make improvements and close the gap with competitors. Better material choices and improved multimedia technology will help but providing more standard features will help a great deal as well. Get rid of the manual mirrors, locks and window cranks, and let customers know you want to give them as much as possible for a reasonable price. They'll appreciate it.

Cars.com photos by Mark Williams

 

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Comments

The first crew cab truck in the U.S. was made by International Harvester in 1957 dubbed Travelette and later followed by Dodge in 1963, Ford in 1965 and Chevrolet in 1973. So, believe it or not, Chevrolet and sister GMC were the last to produce the crew cab model. As for the first extended cab truck available here in North America, it was manufactured by Dodge and called the Club Cab back in 1973.

more crap from the FAKE Jeff S

Fake papajim doesn't even realize what I stated above is true. If you don't believe me google it. The first crew cab was a 3 door IH Travellette in 1957 and in 1961 IH added an extra door making it a 4 door. Ford's first crew cab was actually an F-250 in 1965. The first factory built Ford truck with 4 wheel drive was an F-250 in 1959. Dodge beat both Ford and GM with the four wheel drive Power Wagon.

The world's first four-wheel drive car directly powered by an internal combustion engine, and the first with a front-engine, four-wheel-drive layout was the Dutch Spyker 60 H.P. Commissioned for the Paris to Madrid race of 1903, it was presented that year by brothers Jacobus and Hendrik-Jan Spijker of Amsterdam.

@doug--Nissan has stated that they will eventually redesign the Frontier. I believe Nissan is using a similar strategy that Ford used in the previous Ranger in that they will keep the current generation of Frontier as long as it sells well and as long as the safety and other Government regulations do not change so much that it requires Nissan to redesign the Frontier. The tooling has long since been paid off and even if the Frontier does not sell in the same volume as Tacoma and Colorado it is making enough money for Nissan. I do agree with the above article that these changes are good but as long as the Frontier has good sales then Nissan doesn't have a lot of incentive to change it. The Frontier is a very good value for the money.

If you gave fifty SAE engineers five million dollars (and six months) to design an affordable midsize pickup, it would look just like the Frontier. If you gave them 50 million dollars and 8 long years to design a midsize pickup it would be called a Ranger.

Geez I didn't realize you couldn't buy a base mid size for under 20k anymore. I just went to the toyo website to verify and the taco trucks start at $25k! Da eff?
I guess I'll wait until the next housing market collapse to buy a new truck. Luckily I have a totota so I can do that. (unless someone steals it).

Crazy. The auto cartels are really getting greedy.

the FAKE Nick O

@biggie

There are NO auto cartels.

Not in the US anyway, perhaps in the EU and Korea. Trying to manage a "cartel" is more work than trying to compete honestly.

American automakers fight it out in a very competitive marketplace, despite what some people think of the Chicken Tax.

And another thing. You might want to rethink the idea of waiting out the changing tides of the "housing" market. Housing is very much a local phenomenon. Location, location, location.

You forgot the 2 Most important things mpg and transmission.The engine tech is so old that my 2015 pro 4x can only average 16mpg on mostly (85%) highway driving !! As for the tranny, there isnt anything wrong with it, BUT a new 8 or 10 speed with the right engine would improve the mpg. Can anyone say cummins diesel with an 8 speed ?? I think Nissan can if they try !!

Can anyone say cummins diesel with an 8 speed ??
Posted by: John | Aug 18, 2018

@John

You might be missing the entire point.

Adding six (or even eight) thousand dollars to the price of a new 2018 Frontier will do absolutely NOTHING for its success in the market. Performance? Sure.

Market share? No. GM has a better midsize truck with diesel that is already proven and it only sells about five percent of the total GM midsize sales.

What a TURD!!! I'll take a new Ranger with the Taurus like front grille. It has a feminine touch to it, which draws me to it!

LOVE FORD!!!

So y'all put ked a base model to review doesn't seem fair

@Chris

Nissan doesn't really offer a competitive midsize today except as a bottom dweller, which it did pretty well during the last few years.

Whether you buy a top dollar Frontier or a base, you're getting a five-speed stick or auto. That's pathetic if you're dropping $35k for a top notch truck.

Nissan's reputation has slipped a lot in recent years too so I if wanted a truck in the high-30s, low-40s price range I doubt Nissan would be on my list except maybe a base model half ton.

We have a 2001 frontier and it has 357,000 miles on it and has been the best truck it has has 40 boxes of drywall mud in it at one time the boxes weight 40lbs each it had 20 sheets of drywall sheet on it at one time. The truck has been the best and we also have a pro4x titan and we tow a 29 foot travel trailer it tow like the trailer is not there.

We have a 2001 frontier and it has 357,000 miles on it and has been the best truck

@rena

I have a friend who owned a late 1990s Frontier and he used it to commute because it got great mileage. His Frontier died with over 300k on the clock. He bought another midsize but ended up with a different brand of midsize (rhymes with Fonda) and it's been ok except for complex electrical issues. Congrats on your Nissan.



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