Five reasons the Nissan Frontier Continues to Sell
Don't Fix What Ain't Broke
Read any automotive review, talk to any expert, and even chat with any Nissan representative and they will all say the same things about the Nissan Frontier: It’s old, outdated, and in need of a refresh. Yet, the truck continues return surprising sales results against strong competitors. How can such an “old” truck continue to sell? Here are five reasons why.
Old-School Off-Road Hardware Still Attracts Buyers
These days, new off-road midsize trucks are being equipped with all sorts of fancy electronics to handle off-road situations. For example, the new GMC Canyon has an automatic 4-Hi setting, and the new Toyota Tacoma has Crawl Control. While these features are nice, they are only useful if you remember to turn them on and use them. For many off-road hardcore fans and older truck buyers, they are often systems that are forgotten or rarely, if ever, used.
In fact, one could argue that more complex systems aren’t better. Since most drivers aren’t used to or don’t know how many of these advanced systems work in the first place, they aren’t big buying decisions.
Also, the reality is the terrain truck buyers are driving across hasn’t changed. That isn’t to say these buyers aren’t going off-road -- they are. It is simply to say the truck that worked 20 years ago on a trail will still work today. Picking on Toyota here: while the Crawl Control feature allows you to safely scale remote terrain, do you really want to?
New Midsize Fuel Economy Isn’t That Much Better
When it comes to buying a midsize truck, it has generally been the rule that smaller equals better fuel economy. With advances in different metals, improvements in engine efficiency, and fullsize truck design changes to improve aerodynamics, the fuel economy difference between a midsize and a fullsize pickup is negligible. Naturally, with these advancements, one would assume the newer midsize trucks would get a sizable advantage in fuel economy over the older Nissan Frontier. Yet, that isn’t the case.
Looking at the head-to-head numbers on a crew cab 4x4 (the most popular configuration among all truck makers), the Nissan Frontier’s efficiency isn’t that terrible.
The difference of 3 mpg highway between the Frontier and the GM twins may seem like a big deal. Yet, with gasoline prices plunging, the math shows it is closer than you think. For example, if you drove both trucks 12,000 miles a year, you woudl put in 500 gallons of gasoline into the Colorado and 667 gallons of gasoline into the Frontier. With the average fuel price at $1.85 per gallon as of this writing, the difference in fuel cost between the trucks is $308.28 each year. Keep that number in mind for our next point.
Nissan Frontiers Are Cheaper to Buy
Another reason for the Frontier holding its own in terms of sales is the price. It is simply cheaper to buy. For example, comparably equipped trucks in crew cab, 4x4 setups in the mid-level trim have the following MSRPs: Nissan Frontier ($27,630), Toyota Tacoma ($32,315), and Chevy Colorado ($32,735).
Now, arguably, the Chevy Colorado offers many more features and better styling than the Frontier. Yet, let’s say you are a truck buyer who simply wants a truck. In that case, the lower price point works in the Frontier’s favor since it helps make up for the fuel economy differences.
Grabbing our calculator, we see the price difference between the Frontier and Colorado stands at $5,105, and when you divide this number by fuel economy difference $308.28, we arrive at around 16.5 years of ownership to break even between the trucks.
Will you actually own the truck long enough to see those differences? For many lease and business customers, the answer is no since they turn over their fleets every 3 years. The average truck buyer owns their truck for about 6.5 years. This means the average Chevy Colorado owner will likely never break even versus a Nissan Frontier owner.
Nissan Frontier Continues to Do Truck Things Well
Like most people, reviewers including myself enjoy the new flashy features and gadgets found in newer vehicles. Items like heated steering wheels, massaging seats, and key-fob activated tailgates are all great features and score high in truck comparisons and award voting. Yet, for the vast amount of consumers who may not haven’t bought a truck in 6.5 years or more, many of these features seem like novelty items.
In fact, J.D. Power’s 2015 Driver Interactive Vehicle Experience Report found 20 percent of people didn’t use the majority of the cars features in the first 90 days of ownership. While the Top 5 common features ignored aren’t unique to trucks – in-vehicle concierge, mobile wireless internet, automatic parking systems, head-up displays, built-in apps – truck makers nevertheless tout these automated-type systems.
With all these features being ignored and consumers commonly looking at trucks the “old way” (price, towing, capability, fuel economy), the Frontier sizes up well against the competition. In fact, our testing found it really just lacked when comparing interiors and cargo storage. Admittedly, its short bed is a liability for work-truck owners, but many still can appreciate the Frontier’s off-road abilities and nimble size.
It is Fun To Drive
Lastly, and probably the biggest reason it still sells well, is it is just plain fun to drive. I’ve had the Frontier each of the last few years, and after spending a week with it recently, it still continues to bring a smile to my face. Sure the interior is old and the technology feels archaic, but the Frontier is fairly nimble, feels at home on dirt, and begs to go faster. With the price and ground clearance, I don’t worry about damaging this truck like I do with $60k+ luxury trucks, nor do I have a low hanging air dam to worry about.
Out of all the trucks I drive, I often tell people the Frontier is one of my top choices. Why? It does what a truck should – it turns over every day, it wants to get dirty, and it is easy to reach into and use the bed. All the extra features of other trucks are fine and dandy, but I want a truck I can beat on. The Frontier is one of those trucks.