Research

2012 Nissan Frontier Review

The Car Connection Expert Rating Breakdown?

7.6
on a scale of 1 to 10
Styling
7.0
Expert Rating
Performance
7.0
Expert Rating
Comfort & Quality
8.0
Expert Rating
Safety
8.0
Expert Rating
Features
8.0
Expert Rating
Fuel Economy
6.0
Expert Rating

The Car Connection Expert Review

You may not need to go full-size--the 2012 Nissan Frontier pickup truck can cover a lot of the same ground a bigger pickup can.

Built on the same frame as the bigger Nissan Titan, the Nissan Frontier is more than a compact pickup. It's a mid-sizer in the mold of the old Dodge Dakota and today's Toyota Tacoma, and as such, it's the perfect downsize from a full-size truck when cabin room and pickup capacity are still important. And yet, the Frontier also excels when frugality's at the top of the list, since it still comes in a four-cylinder, bare-bones model.

Since it's gone almost a decade without a major redesign, the Frontier could be judged a little stale-looking. By truck standards it's still handsome, masculine and chunky, with just enough detailing to pick out a distinct Nissan identity without going to the roofline extremes you'll see on the larger Titan pickup and Armada SUV. The interior's where its age shows through: the dash is plasticky and grainy to the touch, and less fluidly shaped than the latest pickups, particularly the newest Ram 1500 and Toyota Tundra.

If you absolutely must have a V-8 engine in your truck, the Frontier's off the short shopping list. But its 4.0-liter V-6 is worth a shot for full-size fans. It makes 261 horsepower and teams up well with a five-speed automatic, twisting out plenty of torque for strong mid-range acceleration and powerful passing. There's a manual transmission available and it's fine, though the lever throws are fairly long. Properly equipped, the six-cylinder Frontier can tow up to 6500 pounds. There's a four-cylinder option as well, and it's rated higher for fuel economy, though the spec-sheet ratings could disappear as you push the 152-hp, 2.5-liter four with heavy payloads and extra passengers.

The Frontier's available in rear- or four-wheel-drive form, with either an extended "King" cab or a four-door "Crew" cab offered on most trim levels. The Crew Cab is the way to go if you regularly carry more than two front-seat passengers. The King Cab model has seats for occasional back-seat passengers, and it has a pair of rear-hinged doors to make it easier for them to get in, but in all, the space is puny and those flip-down seats are uncomfortable for even short trips. In front and in back of four-door Frontiers, the seats are supportive, and the truck has a good, upright seating position, with a somewhat high floor forcing taller drivers into a stretched-leg position. About the only down side for comfort is the Frontier's ride, which can get pretty choppy.

For hauling cargo, the Frontier has a choice of small to not quite as small beds; the longer one's still six feet long, a couple of feet shy of the usual full-size length. However, there's a stout pickup frame underneath and the Frontier's bed has some nifty features not found on other trucks in this segment. The pickup bed gets a factory-applied spray-in bedliner, and there's a system of tracks and tie-downs that helps drivers sort out gear that would otherwise roll around in back.

Safety is among the best of compact and mid-size trucks. The IIHS calls the Frontier "good" on all its tests, but since stability control at all four wheels is not standard on all models, it's not a Top Safety Pick. There are no options for features like a rearview camera, but Bluetooth is available.

The Frontier starts in very basic form, and can be trimmed out into very specific forms. The base four-cylinder Frontier S models remain very basic and go without air conditioning, power windows, and even a tilt steering wheel. SV models get more popular equipment, like larger 16-inch alloy wheels, chromed bumpers, a sliding rear window, tilt steering, cruise control, air conditioning, keyless entry, tilt steering, and power windows and locks. Top SL models, only offered in the Crew Cab body style, get a roof rack, step rails, fog lamps, tie-down cleats, the Utili-Track system, plus heated leather seats and Bluetooth hands-free, in addition to a Rockford Fosgate eight-speaker audio system. The PRO-4X remains the way to go for those who plan to need serious off-road capability; it comes with upgraded Bilstein off-road shocks plus skid plates. Options on the Frontier include a limited-slip differential, leather seats, a high-powered Rockford Fosgate audio system, and a choice of either XM or Sirius Satellite Radio. 

The Car Connection Consumer Review

Rate and Review your car for The Car Connection! Tell us your own ratings for a vehicle you own. Rate your car on Performance, Safety, Features and more.
Write a Review
Saturday, January 2, 2016
2016 Nissan Frontier 4WD King Cab Automatic SV

Everything I expected, except for fuel economy.

  • Overall Rating
  • Interior/Exterior
  • Performance
  • Comfort and Quality
  • Safety
  • Features
  • Fuel Economy / MPG
  • Reliability
Currently less than 600 miles. I Like most everything about the Frontier. Had 13" of snow recently, the 4 wheel drive really was appreciated. Got 14.8 MPG since last fill up (half city, half interstate). Drove... + More »
people found this helpful.
Was this review helpful? Yes
Wednesday, November 11, 2015
For 2016 Nissan Frontier

Second Frontier

  • Overall Rating
  • Interior/Exterior
  • Performance
  • Comfort and Quality
  • Safety
  • Features
  • Fuel Economy / MPG
  • Reliability
I recently sold my 2006 Frontier LE and bought a 2016 Pro 4X. I did not consider the GM twins, as I did not like their looks and Frontier gave more features for same or less money. I did test drive a Tacoma... + More »
people found this helpful.
Was this review helpful? Yes
Sunday, March 29, 2015
For 2005 Nissan Frontier

Drives nice when it runs

  • Overall Rating
  • Interior/Exterior
  • Performance
  • Comfort and Quality
  • Safety
  • Features
  • Fuel Economy / MPG
  • Reliability
Poorly designed cooling system it is very common to damage auto transmission also faulty designed smart fuse panel causes no start and other problems. This truck drives and looks very good.
people found this helpful.
Was this review helpful? Yes
See all user reviews »
Looking for other models of the Nissan Frontier?
Read reviews & get prices
Compare the 2012 Nissan Frontier against the competition
Compare All Cars