Nissan Frontier Vs. Toyota TacomaEnlarge Photo
If you like your trucks small, manageable, and maneuverable, you don't have many choices left on the market. The Dodge Dakota and Ford Ranger are now gone—both without successors—and the Chevrolet Colorado is merely carried through this year, on the way to a major transformation next year into a true mid-sizer.
What remains? 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.
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.
|2013 Nissan Frontier||2013 Toyota Tacoma|
|The 2013 Nissan Frontier is the best alternative to a full-size pickup: it's maneuverable, manageable, and a bit more conscious of gas mileage.||If you don't truly need a full-size truck, the Toyota Tacoma's price and simplicity could make it a viable alternative--but it can get expensive, and its ride and gas mileage will have you reconsidering your motives.|
|Read moreThe Frontier looks handsome and tough on the outside, although inside the design is showing its age.||Read moreThe Tacoma's been with us a while; the interior's shaped up with a recent reskin, but there's no drama here.|
|Read moreGo with the V-6 in the 2013 Frontier, and you'll be happy with its confident feel and maneuverability.||Read moreAcceleration is acceptable with the V-6, but not with the four--and on-road ride and handling are ponderous at best.|
|Read moreThe cabin look is more rugged than refined, but a good seating position, decent back-seat space (Crew Cab), and good cargo solutions mean it doesn't miss a beat on usability.||Read moreShort on headroom, and in need of better seat shaping, the Toyota Tacoma lacks the space and comfort even of its chief rival.|
|Read moreThe Frontier is one of the few smaller pickups to do well in roof strength; and you can now get a backup camera.||Read moreCrash-test scores haven't been that good with the current Toyota Tacoma.|
|Read moreHard-working, hardcore off-roading types have plenty of options; meanwhile navigation is now available and more models get Bluetooth.||Read moreIf you're into rock climbing and rock music, the Tacoma has the features you'll need to rock out.|
|Read moreV-6 models of the 2013 Nissan Frontier are no longer as thirsty; but even the four-cylinder Frontier isn't all that fuel-efficient.||Read moreGas mileage hasn't changed much--but the Toyota Tacoma's now not much more efficient than some full-sizers.|
|from $17,990||from $17,625|
|from $17,063||from $16,688|
|Fuel Economy - Combined City and Highway|
|Front Leg Room (in)|
|Second Leg Room (in)|
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