7 a.m.: Cellphone alarm plays an annoying tone, and some choice words are said aloud as I start the day. The dogs come running into the room happy as can be as I roll out of bed. Half asleep, I stumble to the kitchen to make the dogs their breakfast and a bowl of Chex mix for myself. By 7:30, I'm in the shower, and by 8, makeup and hair are done. By 8:30, I'm tripping over the dogs as I stumble through the door with one shoe on, coffee, camera, and keys in hand and head off to work -- a routine to familiar to most of us.

During the next one to two hours, I'm behind the wheel of a 2012 Nissan Frontier making my way to our El Segundo headquarters. My slightly longer than average daily one-way commute of 56 miles has me traveling on two of L.A.'s most infamous freeways, the 91 and the 405. In short, I get a lot of seat time in this truck.

When Allyson Harwood, Truck Trend executive editor, told me I was going to be the chaperone of our long-term Nissan Frontier, I was more than excited. I just recently bought a 900-square-foot hillside home that was built in 1930. My weekends consist of multiple trips to the hardware store and lots of yard work just to keep things in running order. When Allison asked me what configuration I wanted, I had only two requests: I wanted the king cab, and I had to have a manual.

Why? Two reasons. First: For as long as I've been with Truck Trend, every long-term truck we've had in the fleet has been a crew cab with an automatic. I personally don't need the extra two doors and room for five as a daily driver. But as a weekend work horse, the king cab is perfect for my family of two humans and two dogs. Second: I don't have anything against automatics. They are useful and make driving a truck easier. But I'm a purest when it comes to manning my own vehicle, and prefer the extra legwork.

I've had the Frontier for only one month and have clocked over 4200 miles on the odo, though most of those were highway miles accumulated on our trip home from the factory.

The Frontier has already moved furniture, gone to the grocery store a few times, hauled bags of cement, been to the dog park, and visited the local dump for the first time. The truck's 6-speed manual transmission is easy to engage and fun to drive even on L.A. freeways. The shifter throw isn't sloppy, but a little clucky from gear to gear. It reminds me of the clunky shifter in our 2010 Dodge Challenger. The Frontier's 4.0-liter V-6 provides plenty of power on the highway when needed, and I've managed to keep my fuel economy in the 18-mpg range.

As for the interior, the PRO4X upholstered seats are attractive, and the dash isn't cluttered with unnecessary nanny-related buttons (though I'm still confused as to why we couldn't get the satellite radio package with a manual transmission). This combo is unavailable from the factory.

The king cabs's rear jump seats fold up for extra interior space, and are great when you're carrying a extra human passenger -- even though the space is rather snug -- and the reverse-opening rear doors make getting in to that space easy.

I love the absence of chrome on the truck's exterior of the truck due to the PRO4X package. The front grille, sideview mirrors, door handles, and front and rear bumpers look great in Metallic Blue.

2012 Nissan Frontier
Service life: 1 mo/4175 mi
Avg CO2: 1.09 lb/mi
Energy cons: 189 kW-hr/100mi
Unresolved problems: None
Maintenance cost: $0
Normal-wear cost: $0
EPA City/Hwy/Comb Fuel Econ: 15/20/17 mpg
Average Fuel Econ: 17.8 mpg