Only 9 months old and our Nissan Frontier has already reached the 20,000-mile mark on the odometer. It's seen a lot of good days and survived a couple rough patches. We've had two regular scheduled maintenance visits (biased on mileage), a broken clutch sensor replaced, a shattered rear window, and a full replacement of the manual transmission. Though it isn't the biggest steed in our stable, it keeps working like a champ and stealing the hearts of staffers who overlook its flaws as part of his charm.

Many staffers like to borrow the Frontier when it's available or when they need to move some thing big. Others just like to drive it because it's fun -- and who knows when we'll ever see another manual pickup of this size in our fleet. Below are notes I've collected over the past 9 months -- some insightful and some just a little strange:

Manual Off-Roading
"Let's just face it: manual is better. Why? Because it just is. That's part of what makes driving the Frontier so rewarding; get the gear change right and you'll make it up that hill. Don't and, well, you'll be testing out the Frontier's clutch start cancel switch. Off-roading with a manual transmission may not be the easiest thing, but it's the easy thing always the best thing." - Christian Seabaugh

Size Matters
"I love a pickup truck, and every now an again get the chance to drive one of our long-termers. This is just perfect size for me. It's not so high off the ground that I need a step-stool to enter the cabin. Said cabin is cozy, but it's roomy enough for two in front. Seats in the back are adequate for one adult or some children. The interior is attractive and uncluttered, with efficient and legible instrumentation. The easy-peasy gearbox makes for seamless manual shifting and clutch engagement. I appreciate the truck's maneuverability and smooth, almost carlike driving demeanor and its bantam size that makes parking in structures a breeze -- without forcing me to exit to get the damn parking stub out of the machine and climb back in quicktime while the "entry-sentry arm" is still up. And then there's that pretty profile." - Jackie Manfredi

Cabin Space
"A full-size mattress does fit in the Frontier cabin's second row -- as long as it's a foam one." - Benson Kong

BFFs
"There is nothing quite like a stickshift pickup. It reminds me of the camp truck in which I learned to drive stick on while listening to AM radio. I want to take the Frontier home and put it in my garage. I want to buy it a good air freshener. I want to take it on trips to the far edges of the Oregonian forests. I want to forge streams. I want to share my binoculars with it so we can watch birds together. I want to buy it a hat and a good knitted sweater. I want to share a cappuccino with it and discuss the weather. I like it." - Levi Rugg

Singing in the Rain
"The Frontier V-6 is plenty fun with the automatic, but the manual really accentuates this truck's playful personality. I was handed the keys to our long-termer on one of the rare rainy days in Southern California. I quickly learned that 281 lb-ft of torque in this size truck with an unloaded bed is plenty! Even driving conservatively, it wanted to spin the tires in the wet through first and halfway through second. Once I got traction, freeway merging was a snap. Granted, the throws on the Frontier's six-speed aren't Miata-short and tight, but there's something innately satisfying about driving a truck with a manual transmission, regardless of how fast or powerful it is. Fortunately for the Frontier, the V-6 provides abundant helpings of power and torque. I was somewhat surprised at the lack of satellite radio, when the lowliest of entry-level compacts now offer it, but I tuned it to my favorite local AM talk station for the ride home. The Frontier may be showing its age a little, but the basic formula is sound: Simple, rugged, fun-to-drive." - Edward A. Sanchez

Interior Annoyances
"Driving the Nissan Frontier around town I found nothing special about it. Mechanically It drives and feels like a well-built truck. It's easy to drive, a bit slow, but not woefully underpowered, which is what I expected when I climbed in. Sitting inside though is different. I quickly found myself sitting in a cabin full of annoyances. The plastic dash is cheap, and it's just plain uncomfortable to look at. The Center console is too short to be used as an armrest, and, with the lack of a home, my right arm didn't know what to do with itself. The biggest issue I had was getting comfortable in the seat. I had to scoot my rear all the way back into the crease of the seat and sit straight up to hit the sweet spot. While I might be able to do that all the way to the store, it would be impossible for 33 miles up the 405 every morning. But, as our moms tell us, if you can't say something nice don't say anything at all. Pairing my phone was easy." - Duane Sempson


2012 Nissan Frontier
Service life: 9 mo/20,025 mi
Avg CO2: 1.14 lb/mi
Energy cons: 198 kW-hr/100mi
Unresolved problems: None
Maintenance cost: $538.15 (2-oil change, rotate tires, inspection; 1-cabin-air filter; 1-engine-air filter)
Normal-wear cost: $0
EPA City/Hwy/Comb Fuel Econ: 15/20/17 mpg
Average Fuel Econ: 17.0 mpg