2016 Nissan Frontier Pro-4X Long Term Report 3 of 4
In the months since our last long-term report on the 2016 Nissan Frontier Pro-4X, our midsize pickup has been pressed into commuting duty more frequently. Since Truck Trend Editor (and resident boonies-enthusiast) Jason Gonderman passed the keys to the Frontier to yours truly, it sees more time on the mean streets of downtown Los Angeles than the wide-open spaces of Big Bear or El Mirage.
However, it’s in those tight city confines that the Frontier starts to make sense over its Chevrolet Colorado and Toyota Tacoma rivals. Although those pickups compete in the same size class as the Frontier, Nissan’s entry in the midsize market still features nearly compact dimensions, at about 7 inches shorter and 2 inches narrower than the Colorado and Tacoma. The Frontier’s up-high driver seat and down-low windowsills further ease fitting the pickup into tight parking spaces or down narrow alleyways.
Of course, the truck’s compact size plays against it in some ways as well: the pickup box is at least an inch shorter than its competition’s and the rear seat has tighter knee room to accompany the uncomfortably low seat bottom. Your back seat passengers will be miserable within 30 minutes, a fact this author regrettably learned only after he’d stuffed his significant other’s parents back there for a one-hour trip. Were we spending our own hard-earned cash on a Frontier, we’d abandon the crew cab’s useless rear seat in favor of the King Cab’s extra bed length and occasional-use rear jump seats. Other complaints compared to the Pro-4X’s competition include its dated interior design and hard interior plastics. And while the high driver seat is nice from a visibility standpoint, it compromises headroom for passengers taller than 6 feet, and its lumbar support is far too aggressive, resulting in back pain for this driver after about three hours at the helm.
That said, the Frontier has a tough, rugged personality that’s missing in most other modern trucks, and its 4.0L V-6 has a playful, aggressive exhaust note and very impressive low-end grunt. The car-based V-6s found in the Tacoma and Colorado could learn a very good lesson in useful torque from Nissan’s VQ40DE engine.
Its do-it-yourself six-speed manual transmission is also great fun combined with the engine, resulting in some manly over-run burble with every shift. Shift feel leaves a little to be desired, with unclear shift gates and long throws, but we’ll never complain about a manually shifted, V-6–powered 4x4.
With a few camping trips and loads of daily driving under its belt, our complaints about the Frontier are few. It’s impressively quiet, even at freeway speeds, and the plasticky interior doesn’t bother us enough to complain too much. The sound system is great, and the navigation display is simple to operate and reasonably intuitive. Plus, we love its square-jawed styling; the Frontier looks like a truck ought to, with simple surfaces, big windows, and boxy lines.
Its as-tested price of $33,240 strikes us as a great bargain too, especially in a world where a similarly equipped Colorado or Tacoma would cost $36,000 or more. Indeed, the crude, muscular Frontier remains one of our favorite trucks on the market today.
Report: 3 of 4
Previous report(s): May/June 2016, Sept./Oct. 2016
Base price: $31,640
Price as tested: $33,240
Miles to date: 16,120
Miles since last report: 5,085
Average mpg (this report): 16.08
Test best tank (mpg): 19.73
Test worst tank (mpg): 13.15
Oxygen sensor replaced at 1,500 miles.
5,000-mile service, oil change, and tire rotation
10,000-mile service, oil change, and tire rotation
Handbrake adjusted at 11,200 miles
15,000-mile service, oil change, and tire rotation
Test Problem Areas:
A handbrake that failed to effectively hold the vehicle on steep hills was adjusted.
“Every automobile enthusiast I know loves hearing the Nissan VQ engine rev, and our Frontier is no exception to that burbly rule.”
“The accessory bed extender works better as a cargo divider. I positioned it against the cab and used it to keep smaller camping gear from moving around.”
“Yep. We still love the six-speed manual.”
“Every rear-seat passenger complains about the awful seat bottom. It needs to be raised at least a few inches to improve comfort.”
“I’m surprised how comfortable this 10-year-old platform is on the highway with a smooth, quiet ride.”