The 2012 Nissan Frontier competes in the dwindling mid-size pickup segment. Some manufacturers (Ford, Dodge) have killed off their mid-size trucks, and others may follow suit. Although the Frontier is smaller than the full-size pickups that dominate the market, it is still plenty of truck for most buyers. A fully boxed chassis, steel construction, and leaf-spring rear suspension mean the medium-sized Frontier can provide almost as much work capability as bigger vehicles. Ample tow ratings, a large bed, and a big interior make the Nissan a strong contender in its segment. It’s available in King Cab, with hinged rear half-doors, or four-door crew-cab configurations. There is a 152-hp four-cylinder engine for the base King Cab model, but all other trim levels receive a 4.0-liter V-6 with 261 hp and 281 lb-ft of torque. For serious work, four-wheel-drive models can be equipped with a locking rear differential, tough Bilstein shock absorbers, and skid plates. Hill-descent control, hill-start assist, and a low-range mode all help owners who take their Frontiers off the beaten track. The interior is very usable, with practical touches like dual locking glove boxes, an optional fold-flat passenger seat, and lots of cupholders. The plain design and the durable plastics look a bit dated. However, the Nissan Frontier is nearly as capable as some full-size trucks, and its tidier dimensions and lower price make it an attractive choice for buyers who need to do light towing, hauling, or off-roading.

Drive: Rear-wheel, 4-wheel

Trim levels: S, SV, PRO-4X, SL

Body style: Pickup, 4- or 5-passenger

Engines: 2.5L I-4, 152 hp, 171 lb-ft
4.0L V-6, 261 hp, 281 lb-ft

Transmissions: 5- or 6-speed manual, 5-speed automatic

Passenger volume: (King Cab/crew cab)
87.7/101.1 cu ft

Capacities: Towing 3500-6500 lb; payload
932-1486 lb

Four-cylinder models finally receive electronic stability control. A new sport appearance package for the SV includes eighteen-inch aluminum wheels, Bluetooth connectivity, foglights, body-colored bumpers, and PRO-4X bolstered seats.

Front, side, and side curtain air bags are standard, as are stability control, traction control, ABS with brake assist, and a tire-pressure monitoring system. Hill-start assist and hill-descent control are optional.

All: 14-19 mpg city/19-23 mpg highway

  • Macho looks
  • All the truck most people need
  • Good payload and towing

  • Somewhat dated interior
  • V-6 drinks like the big boys

Big-truck performance in a medium-truck package.

  • Chevrolet Colorado
  • GMC Canyon
  • Suzuki Equator
  • Toyota Tacoma

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