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Nissan Frontier Vs. Toyota Tacoma: Compare Trucks

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Nissan Frontier Vs. Toyota Tacoma

Nissan Frontier Vs. Toyota Tacoma

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You don't have many choices in today's market if you like your trucks small, manageable, and maneuverable. The Dodge Dakota and Ford Ranger are long gone, and the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon are on hiatus, to return later for 2015 as more upscale, mid-size trucks.

What remains if you want basic and compact? There's the Toyota Tacoma and Nissan Frontier, as pretty much your only compact(-ish) alternatives to today's full-size, entry-level trucks. Which of these better fits the needs to compact pickup shoppers or those seeking to cover all the versatility bases? Read on.

The winner in The Car Connection's ratings system is the Nissan Frontier. In our head-to-head ratings, it easily outpaces the Tacoma, even though the Toyota has been kept better updated.

It starts with a win in performance, where the uprated Nissan V-6 is stronger than the Tacoma's, and feels like it. The Frontier also has better (though not great) ride quality, while matching the Tacoma for ultimate towing capacity of 6,500 pounds. While we wouldn't clamor for either available four-cylinder engine, we'd point out that both trucks continue to offer them, for small gains in gas mileage.

The Frontier also has more comfortable trappings for passengers and more interesting ways to tie down cargo. Available in extended or four-door form, it lacks the regular cab offered on the Tacoma, but the Frontier's seats have more support and offer a more natural seating position, at least in front. Of the pair, the Frontier's back bench offers a little more seat comfort.

Both trucks come in short- and long-bed configurations, in rear- or four-wheel drive, though a full-size eight-foot bed is off the menu on both. Nissan antes up a spray-in bedliner and a built-in set of tie-down cleats, making it a great choice for utility buyers. With either truck, an off-road package enables Baja-style trail running that gives these trucks a tuner appeal all their own.

No truck in this class manages truly great safety ratings, but the Frontier is ahead here, too, scoring very well overall; the Tacoma lags both in the IIHS roof strength test (particularly important for rollover-prone pickups) and in federal testing.

Pickups aren't typically the first vehicles that come to mind when we think of luxury features. Yet the Tacoma now offers in-truck app connectivity for Pandora, voice commands, HD radio, and Bluetooth audio streaming—through its Entune connectivity system. On the Frontier, you'll find Bluetooth and nice-sounding audio systems, but it's not quite as technologically forward.

2014 Nissan Frontier 2014 Toyota Tacoma
2014 Nissan Frontier 2014 Toyota Tacoma
TCC Rating
7.4 The 2014 Nissan Frontier is your best bet when looking to downsize from a full-size pickup, balancing maneuverability and size with utility and comfort. 6.2 The Toyota Tacoma can make for a reasonable alternative if you don't want to deal with a full-size truck, but its ride, fuel economy and price may have you looking elsewhere.
Styling
7The Nissan Frontier is handsome and tough on the outside, but is showing its age on the inside, despite new features for the 2014 model year. Read more6Drama-free and unexciting as any pickup, the Tacoma's in dire need of a redo. Read more
Performance
7The 2014 Nissan Frontier is confident and maneuverable, but be sure to go with the V-6 engine for power and capability. Read more6Pick the V-6 for less acceleration struggle; you'll still have to deal with ponderous on-road handling. Read more
Quality
8Rugged rather than refined, the 2014 Nissan Frontier's cabin is nonetheless comfortable and even offers fair rear-seat space in Crew Cab models. Read more5There's not much headroom or seat support in the latest Tacoma. Read more
Safety
7No official crash-test scores are out for the 2014 Frontier, but it has done well in the past and offers a strong set of standard safety equipment. Read more6The Tacoma has suffered with the advance of tougher crash-testing procedures. Read more
Features
8A number of upgrades for 2014 make the Nissan Frontier a much better-equipped truck, and off-roaders will be happy with the PRO-4X. Read more8The Tacoma has features and options to suit most truck missions, but it's not big on standard equipment or luxury. Read more
Green
6The Nissan Frontier is about as thirsty as many full-size V-6 trucks, and even the four-cylinder version doesn't save much gas. Read more6You can get similar gas mileage from a full-size pickup. Read more
MSRP
from $17,990 from $18,125
Invoice
from $17,252 from $17,162
Fuel Economy - Combined City and Highway
21 (Est) 23
Front Leg Room (in)
42.4 41.3
Second Leg Room (in)
25.4
Read Full Specs
N/A
Read Full Specs
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© 2014 The Car Connection. All Rights Reserved. The Car Connection is published by High Gear Media. Stock photography by Homestar, LLC. Send us feedback.