- Sharp pickup looks
- Potent V-6 engine option
- Hauling and towing strength (V-6)
- Spacious Crew Cabs
- Among the safest small trucks
- Busy, choppy ride
- Interior design showing its age
- Maximum bed length is only six feet
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.
The compact pickup segment has shrunk severely over the last decade, with few truly compact pickups left. Even those names which once rode on small trucks are up-sizing, including the Chevy Colorado. The Ford Ranger is gone. But the 2014 Nissan Frontier remains, though it too has grown over its lifespan.
Other than the Frontier and GM's new offering, the main alternative is the Toyota Tacoma. While the much newer Colorado offers many upgrades to the Frontier's capabilities and feature set, the Frontier remains a comfortable, traditional take on the segment. The Frontier is showing its age, however, having seen only minimal updates since 2005. Improvements for the 2014 model year help recalibrate its comfort and convenience, but the style remains the same.
The 2014 Nissan Frontier gets a range of upgrades and trim changes to improve over the value of last year's model, including heated front seats with the SV VTP package; heated cloth front seats are now standard on PRO-4X models and optional on SV models. Bluetooth phone and audio is standard on S models; navigation enhancements including smartphone integration and improved voice recognition; and NissanConnect Apps functionality.
Under the hood, there's a choice of a 261-horsepower, 281-pound-foot 4.0-liter V-6 engine or a 152-horsepower, 2.5-liter four-cylinder. The V-6 is the star of this show, with pep and pulling power that's almost equal to some smaller V-8s. Improvements to the engine's internal components last year reduced friction and boosted gas mileage slightly (along with minor aerodynamic improvements), helping to keep the V-6 competitive. The four-cylinder is fine for the commuter who occasionally needs a pickup, but it's ill-suited to heavier duty. Both 4x2 (rear-wheel drive) and 4x4 drivelines are available as well.
In 4x2 guise, four-cylinder models offer a choice of five-speed manual transmission or five-speed automatic; V-6 models can choose between a six-speed manual or five-speed automatic. If you want a 4x4 Frontier, the V-6 engine is your only option, mated to either a six-speed manual or five-speed automatic.
Two cabs are offered, the King Cab and the Crew Cab. With four doors and good rear seat space, the Crew Cab is the clear choice for Frontier shoppers who need to transport more than two people regularly. For the driver, a comfortable, upright seating position is comfortable for most; taller drivers may find the high floor level requires a legs-out seating position. As with most pickups, especially shorter-wheelbase models, the Frontier's ride can get choppy when the road--paved or unpaved--turns rough.
When it's the work that's rough, the Frontier has some handy factory features: a sprayed-in bedliner, available Utili-Track cargo tie-down system, and a Value Truck Package that bundles a trailer hitch, dual-zone climate control, a bed extender, and more.
Four core trim lines are offered on the Frontier: S, SV, SL, and PRO-4X. The Frontier S is the entry point, with equipment and options increasing as you move up through SV and SL trims. The PRO-4X model has features and options selected with an eye for off-road suitability as well as on-road daily driving.
The 2014 Nissan Frontier hasn't been officially rated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), but the structurally identical 2013 model earned top marks of "good" in moderate overlap front-impact, side-impact, and roof strength tests.
Despite the available four-cylinder engine and lack of a V-8 offering, the Frontier doesn't get much better gas mileage than many new full-size trucks. Ranging from as low as 15 mpg city and 21 mpg highway (4x4 V-6 automatic models) to as much as 19 mpg city and 23 mpg highway (4x2 four-cylinder manual models), the Frontier isn't an ideal commuter vehicle in any form--but then no truck is.