Nissan Frontier conquers the mid-size truck segment.
Let’s face it. I’m a truck girl from Texas. When I need a truck, I need a BIG truck. So, I’ve never been in love with the small to mid-size trucks. The 2016 Nissan Frontier was so much fun to drive that I might have to change my mind. At least for camping trips.
Growing up in the foothills of the Appalachian mountain range and spending a lot of time off-roading with my oldest brother I know that the off-road enthusiast loves a smaller truck that handles rough terrain and is light enough for those muddy areas where a large truck would bog down. We were forever hauling canoes, fishing rods, and hunting gear all over the mountains and hallows of southeastern Kentucky. A small 4×4 truck or SUV was my brother’s vehicle of choice every time.
So, when Nissan sent me their 2016 Frontier PRO-4X for a week, I decided to do what my brother would do and take the truck down to the
muddiest place I could find lake. It had just rained, so there were plenty of ruts and slippery puddles on the dirt roads around the lake. I had a lot of fun and was impressed that I never even needed the four wheel drive! There’s no way I could have driven those roads with a big truck without getting myself stuck. No way. My husband took it out the following night and explored some back roads around where he works and he was equally impressed with the way this truck handles the one-lane gravel roads.
Built for Off-Road Adventure
Everything about the exterior of the Frontier PRO-4X screams off-road. Nissan knows you’ll be taking this truck places so car should go and they’ve equipped it with oil pan, fuel tank, and transfer case skid plates, a front tow-hook, and great fog lights. It also sports 16″ off-road alloy wheels, Utili-track channel system in the bed, and Nissan’s impressively tough bed liner and roof racks with cross bars.
A peek inside the 2016 Nissan Frontier
Most mid-size trucks on the market aren’t known for luxury and extreme comfort, but I feel the Frontier has a really good middle ground interior. The model I drove was neither “stock” model, nor extra fancy. It felt like a truck you could drive to work every morning, yet not worry about tossing your gear in to go fishing over the weekend. As someone with back issues I enjoyed the 8-way power heated driver seat. The leather wrapped steering wheel and gear shift added a nice touch, and the NissanConnect with its 5.8″ touchscreen display, and the Bluetooth hands-free system with steering wheel controls brought the truck into the 21st century with style. The rear sonar system and the backup camera were also super helpful when I was trying to back my way out of a too-muddy trail. *ahem*
Under the hood of the Nissan Frontier PRO-4x
If you’re the kind who likes all the neat little facts you’ll find them on a spec sheet at the dealership. I don’t talk about specs much. Usually. But, I wanted to touch on it with this truck because I actually wasn’t impressed with the fuel economy. I know this is standard for the small to mid-size truck market and has to do with gearing, but most full-size trucks these days are getting as good, or better, gas mileage than this truck. At 15-21 mpg fuel economy, I was rather depressed. I wasn’t even using the 4×4, yet I never saw over 17, even on the highway! Most all-time all-wheel drive SUVs all got this back in the late 90’s.
If Nissan could be the first to break this small truck phenomenon where the whole industry seems to be stuck, the Frontier would change the industry. It’s a fantastic little truck and I want to love everything about it, but I can’t justify 17 mpg for a daily commute.
That said, this little truck boasts a 4.0 liter DOCH V6 engine which gives you 261 horsepower and 281 lb-foot of torque. It has a 5-speed automatic transmission with a shift-on-the-fly 4WD system which allows you to shift into 4-wheel drive without stopping, putting the truck in neutral, and shifting. Some other cool off-road features include 4-wheel Active Brake Limited Slip (ABLS) which senses when a wheel isn’t gripping, then automatically applies the brakes to that wheel and directs power to the wheels with more traction to help maintain steering control for a safe ride, and the Bilstein off-road high pressure shocks for responsive handling and comfort on rough terrain.
I had a blast in this truck. It’s not something I’d buy because it doesn’t fit my daily needs, but for someone living in town where the commute isn’t long, and the parking spaces are small, or for the girl who loves to explore the great outdoors, the Nissan Frontier is an excellent choice. It is tough to its core and beautiful too!
What I Loved
- You can shift into 4WD without stopping first
- 8-way power heated driver seat
- Leather wrapped steering wheel and gear shift
- Rear sonar system
What You Need to Know
- Base price: $32,000; price for the model I drove, with luxury package, $35,810
- Fuel economy: 15 mpg in the city, 21 on the highway and 17 combined
- Takes regular gasoline
- Not yet rated for safety
Note: Nissan loaned me the truck for the purposes of this review: opinions and adventure are all my own.