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With the new GMC Canyon and Chevy Colorado, plus the new Toyota Tacoma already on the market, the compact pickup segment is in the midst of a strong revival. The Nissan Frontier comes from a previous era, but soldiers on with a right-sized do-it-all nature that still serves well.
There are very few competitors in the market, with the Toyota Tacoma serving as the biggest competitor here. However, GM's new Canyon and Colorado compact pickups are back in the mix now, and they will soon come with a diesel option that may also come to the Frontier. Despite all of that, the Frontier remains one of the most comfortable, functional options, even as it shows its age, a full decade after its redesign. Changes for this year are minimal, with exception to the standardization of the NissanConnect with mobile apps infotainment system to upper-trim models.
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.
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.
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.
The 2015 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 2014 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, what truck is?