Nissan Frontier Vs. Toyota TacomaEnlarge Photo
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.
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