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2018 Nissan Frontier: What You Need to Know

US News & World Report - Cars logo US News & World Report - Cars 11/29/2018 U.S. News & World Report
a close up of a car: 2018 Nissan Frontier© Nissan North America, Inc. 2018 Nissan Frontier

The 2018 Nissan Frontier fails to match its rivals in several key areas, which is why it brings up the rear in our compact pickup truck rankings.

The 2018 Nissan Frontier is ranked:

Is the Nissan Frontier a Good Truck?

The Nissan Frontier isn't a good truck, but it's not a bad truck either. It's just clearly inferior to the other trucks in the class. Almost every rival has a higher towing capacity, better fuel economy, a smoother ride, or more tech features (some do all four). With 13 years since the last redesign, the 2018 Frontier looks stale compared to the competition. The front seats provide outstanding comfort, but the rear seat isn’t a great place to sit.

Should I Buy the Nissan Frontier?

The Frontier costs less than other compact pickup trucks, but that's really the only reason to buy it. Nearly every class rival is superior in many ways to the Frontier, making almost any truck a better choice. Depending on what you're looking for, the Toyota Tacoma and Chevrolet Colorado both make good options.

Compare the Frontier, Tacoma, and Colorado »

Should I Buy a New or Used Nissan Frontier?

The 2018 Frontier is part of a generation that began with the 2005 model year, and there haven't been many major changes over the years. The only notable change in recent years is the addition of new standard features – including Bluetooth, a USB port, Siri Eyes Free, a four-speaker audio system, a 5-inch display screen, and a rearview camera – in all 2018 trims.

You can potentially save thousands of dollars by purchasing a used Frontier, just know that you may miss out on some newer features. If you're interested in a used model, be sure to visit our overviews of the 2016 Nissan Frontier and 2017 Nissan Frontier. Also, check out our Used Car Deals page to learn about savings and discounts on used vehicles.

Compare the 2016, 2017, and 2018 Frontier »
We Did the Research for You: 85 Reviews Analyzed

Our car reviews include everything you need to know before heading to the dealership. We combine the opinions of the automotive press with quantifiable data like crash test results and reliability ratings to form a complete picture of every vehicle we rank.

This Nissan Frontier review uses research and data from every year of the current generation, which includes the 2005 through 2018 model years.

Why You Can Trust Us

U.S. News Best Cars has been ranking vehicles since 2007, and our team has more than 75 years of combined experience in the automotive industry. Our car reviews are objective. To keep them that way, our editorial staff doesn’t accept expensive gifts or trips from automakers, and a third party handles all the advertising on our site.

How Much Does the Nissan Frontier Cost?

The Frontier’s base price is just under $19,000, which is the lowest starting price in the class. This Nissan's top trim, which starts at about $36,000, is also less expensive than many competitor's top trims, which can go for more than $40,000.

Check out our U.S. News Best Price Program for great savings at your local Nissan dealer. You can also find excellent manufacturer incentives on our Nissan deals page.

Nissan Frontier Versus the Competition

Which Is Better: Nissan Frontier or Toyota Tacoma?

The Toyota Tacoma costs more than the Frontier, but it also provides more value. The Toyota can haul heavier payloads, has more standard features, earns higher safety scores, and has a more attractive interior than the Nissan. The Tacoma offers things like blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert, which you can't get in the Frontier. And while these trucks have similar powertrains and comparable gas mileage, the Tacoma provides a smoother ride. Lastly, the Tacoma is expected to be more reliable than the Frontier. The Tacoma is the better truck.

Which Is Better: Nissan Frontier or Chevrolet Colorado?

The Chevrolet Colorado has more powerful engines than the Frontier. Unlike the Nissan, the Chevy offers a turbodiesel engine. The Colorado gets better gas mileage and can tow and haul more. Inside, the Chevy features high-end materials and adult-friendly rear seats. It also offers features like a standard Wi-Fi hot spot and available Apple CarPlay, neither of which is available in the Frontier. To top it off, the Colorado's price is only slightly higher than the Frontier's, so you get a lot more quality for not much more money.

Compare the Frontier, Tacoma, and Colorado »

Frontier Performance

Frontier Engine: The V6 Isn’t Just for Kicks

You have two engine options in the Frontier: the base engine, which is a 152-horsepower four-cylinder, or a 261-horsepower V6. The four-cylinder is fine for daily driving activities, but the V6 provides stronger acceleration and is the better choice for towing and hauling.

Frontier Gas Mileage: Trailing the Competition

With the base engine, the Frontier earns an EPA-estimated 17 mpg in the city and 22 mpg on the highway. Fuel economy is virtually the same with the V6, which gets 16 mpg in the city and 23 mpg on the highway. These are below-average estimates for the class.

You’ll spend at least $150 more per year on gas driving the Frontier than you would driving rivals like the Toyota Tacoma and Chevrolet Colorado.

Frontier Ride and Handling: A Mixed Bag

The Frontier has a smooth ride if the pavement is smooth, but it doesn’t handle very well. The steering is heavy, and this truck doesn’t feel agile on winding roads. It’s also hard to maneuver in tight areas.

Frontier Off-Road Performance

The Frontier is an OK off-roader, but it can’t match rivals like the Toyota Tacoma in this department. The best trim for off-roading is the Frontier Pro-4X, which improves trail performance with features such as Bilstein shocks, a two-speed transfer case, and skid plates.

Frontier Towing Capacity

The Frontier's towing and hauling capacities are lower than almost every rivals’. When properly equipped, the Frontier has a maximum towing capacity of 6,710 pounds and a max payload of 1,480 pounds.

Read more about performance »

Frontier Interior

How Many People Does the Frontier Seat?

The Frontier seats four people in King Cab models and five in Crew Cab models. The front seats are among the best in the class; they’re comfortable and sit high, aiding visibility. The rear seats in King Cab models are small jump seats that are mostly for show. Crew Cab models feature a rear bench seat, but it’s not overly spacious or supportive.

Frontier and Car Seats

Crew Cab Frontier models feature two full sets of LATCH car-seat connectors, but the system isn’t easy to use. The tether anchors are difficult to find, and you may confuse other hardware for the anchors. The lower anchors are easier to get to and don't require too much force when connecting a car seat, but they're still difficult to maneuver around.

Frontier Interior Quality

The Frontier’s cabin is… not the best. Many class rivals’ interiors are quieter and more attractive and feature higher-quality materials than what you’ll get with this Nissan.

Frontier Cargo Space

As with most trucks, the Frontier offers multiple bed lengths. King Cab Frontier models feature a 6-foot-1-inch bed, and Crew Cab models feature either a 5-foot bed or a 6-foot-1-inch bed. You can add Nissan's Utili-track, which is an available system of channels in the bed floor and moveable tie-down cleats, to make hauling cargo easier.

Frontier Infotainment, Bluetooth, and Navigation

Standard features in the Frontier include Bluetooth, a USB port, Siri Eyes Free, a four-speaker audio system, a 5-inch display screen, and a rearview camera.

Available features include power windows and locks, a moonroof, satellite radio, a 10-speaker Rockford Fosgate audio system, and the NissanConnect infotainment system with a 5.8-inch touch screen, navigation, voice recognition, and smartphone app integration. Rear parking sensors are also available.

The available infotainment system is easy to use because it has a smartphone-style interface that will be familiar to most people. There are redundant physical controls for many audio and climate functions as well. While the Frontier comes with Siri Eyes Free, it doesn’t offer Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, which can be found in rival trucks.

For more information, read What Is Apple CarPlay? and What Is Android Auto? Then, see the Best Cars With Apple CarPlay and Best Cars With Android Auto.

Read more about interior »

Frontier Reliability

Is the Nissan Frontier Reliable?

The 2018 Nissan Frontier earns a three out of five for predicted reliability. That’s average for a new vehicle, though the Toyota Tacoma and Honda Ridgeline have higher ratings.

Nissan Frontier Warranty

The Frontier’s warranty terms are the same as you’ll get with most other compact pickup trucks. Nissan backs it with a three-year/36,000-mile limited warranty and a five-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty.

Read more about reliability »

Frontier Safety

Frontier Crash Test Results

The 2018 Nissan Frontier has not yet been fully crash tested. However, it earns three out of five stars in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s frontal crash test and three or four stars (depending on the model) in the rollover test.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gives the Frontier a rating of Good (the highest rating) in three categories, a rating of Acceptable (the second-highest rating) in one category, and a rating of Marginal (the second-lowest rating) in one category.

Frontier Safety Features

The Frontier comes standard with a rearview camera, and rear parking sensors are available. Most compact pickup trucks offer more active safety features than this Nissan.

Read more about safety »

Which Nissan Frontier Model Is Right for Me?

With most cars, you just choose a trim you like and you’re out the door. With trucks, it’s a little different. First, you have to find a body style that suits your needs. The Nissan Frontier gives you a choice between the four-seat King Cab (starting at $18,990) and the five-seat Crew Cab (starting at $24,550).

You also have to consider the engine and bed length. King Cab models are offered with the base four-cylinder engine or a V6, but they only come with a 6-foot-1-inch bed. Crew Cab models only come with a V6, but they give you a choice between a 5-foot bed and a 6-foot-1-inch bed.

All trims are available with four-wheel drive, but the added cost may be prohibitive because adding 4WD also requires you to upgrade to the V6 engine and – in some cases – from the King Cab to the Crew Cab. The lowest starting price for a 4WD Frontier is $28,110.

Once you’ve sorted out the above choices, then you can pick a trim that’s available in the cab/bed/engine combination you prefer. We’ve highlighted several trim options below.

With most trims, what you see is what you get, as there aren’t noteworthy option packages that add extra features. To get more features, you have to step up in trim level. That’s a real bummer because to get features like the touch-screen infotainment system and navigation, you have to step up to at least the Pro-4X, which carries a starting price of nearly $33,000. If you’re OK without those higher-end features, you should stick with the base trim and save yourself some money.

Nissan Frontier S

The Frontier S has a base price of $18,990. It comes with a 152-horsepower four-cylinder engine, a five-speed manual transmission (a six-speed manual in Crew Cab models), and rear-wheel drive. Standard features include a rearview camera, Bluetooth, a USB port, Siri Eyes Free, a four-speaker audio system, a 5-inch display screen, and cloth upholstery.

You can upgrade to a five-speed automatic transmission, but that bumps the price up to $22,660. There aren’t any other notable features you can add to this trim.

Nissan Frontier SV

The Frontier SV has a starting price of $23,460. The SV comes with the S’s features plus power windows and locks, satellite radio, and keyless entry. Upgrading to the automatic transmission costs $1,050.

There are no noteworthy option packages if you stick with the four-cylinder engine. If you upgrade to the V6, you can add the Value Truck package ($1,890), which includes rear parking sensors, heated front seats, and dual-zone automatic climate control. Crew Cab models are also available with a moonroof.

Nissan Frontier Desert Runner

The Frontier Desert Runner starts at $25,900. The Desert Runner is the lowest trim to come standard with the 261-horsepower V6 engine. A five-speed automatic transmission is standard, and it’s the only transmission offered with this trim. It also comes standard with Bilstein shocks.

Nissan Frontier Pro-4X

The Frontier Pro-4X starts at $32,740. This is the only trim that comes standard with four-wheel drive. This is the Frontier’s off-road-oriented trim. It comes standard with a V6 engine, a five-speed automatic transmission (a six-speed manual in Crew Cab models), Bilstein shocks, a two-speed transfer case, hill descent control, and skid plates.

Other standard features include dual-zone automatic climate control, heated front seats, and the NissanConnect infotainment system with a 5.8-inch touch screen, voice recognition, and navigation.

Nissan Frontier SL

The Frontier SL has a starting price of $33,560. Unlike the other trims, the SL is only offered as a Crew Cab. It comes standard with leather upholstery, power-adjustable front seats, a moonroof, the Utili-track system, rear parking sensors, and a 10-speaker Rockford Fosgate audio system.

Check out our U.S. News Best Price Program for great savings at your local Nissan dealer. You can also find excellent manufacturer incentives on our Nissan deals page.

See 2018 Nissan Frontier specs and trims »

The Final Call

The 2018 Nissan Frontier isn’t a bad truck, but it does finish at the bottom of our class rankings. While there aren’t many egregious flaws with the Frontier (other than perhaps its advanced age), it lags behind many or all class rivals in several key areas relating to capability and interior quality.

Don’t just take our word for it. Check out comments from some of the reviews that drive our rankings and analysis.

Read the full 2018 Nissan Frontier review on U.S. News & World Report for more details, photos, specs and prices.

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