- Hauling and towing strength (V-6)
- Potent V-6 engine option
- Sharp pickup looks
- Among the safest small trucks
- Spacious Crew Cabs
- Maximum bed length is only six feet
- Interior design showing its age
- Busy, choppy ride
The 2015 Nissan Frontier is one of your best bets if you don't quite need a full-size pickup, but maneuverability and functionality are high on your priority list.
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?
2015 Nissan Frontier
As far as trucks go, the Nissan Frontier's one of the more stylish efforts, though the cockpit's aged more quickly than the body.
The Nissan Frontier is nearly as content functioning as a daily commuter vehicle as it is living on the work site or out on the farm. Fortunately, it looks rugged enough for that, too.
Function-first design dominates the Frontier's lines, inside and out. It's buff and brawny for its size, and it's easily the coolest-looking of the smaller trucks--though the Chevy Colorado and its GMC Canyon are new for this year. Carlike fenders swell and curve at the wheel wells, separated at the nose by a grille that, while attempting to blend into its surroundings, comes off as a bit of an afterthought.
While the interior is simple and clean, it's certainly not charming or warm. If anything, the cabin feels as old as it is--nearing a decade. Compared to full-size trucks, there's more plastic and less substantial feel--but the Frontier is less expensive, too
2015 Nissan Frontier
Stick with the V-6 Frontier with four-wheel drive for the best performance, on and off road.
The 2015 Nissan Frontier remains a potent, gutsy performer with its optional V-6 engine, even as it ages.
Many mid-size truck buyers aren't just looking for better gas mileage or lower prices--they often need better maneuverability as well. With the Frontier, you'll get it, but only up to a point; steering is good and the suspension controls the body well, but it can get choppy and harsh over broken surfaces. Both 4x2 and 4x4 drive options are available, though 4x4 is limited to V-6-powered models.
The four-cylinder base model offers an economy-car-like 152 horsepower from its 2.5 liters, and performance reflects that: it's wheezy, weak, and strains under any sort of load. Because it's barely up to the task, gas mileage isn't much better than the V-6, either--it maxes out at 19 mpg city and 23 mpg highway.
Step up to the 4.0-liter V-6, however, and the Frontier does a 180, providing 261 horsepower and 281 pound-feet of torque that makes it feel downright quick when unloaded, and easily up to the task of its working side. The V-6 Frontiers are rated for up to 6,500 pounds of towing capacity when appropriately configured. The V-6 is also available with a choice of manual or automatic transmissions. Most will opt for the automatic, and the five-speed gearbox (six-speed on SV, SL, and PRO-4X models) does a fine job matching the Frontier's power, torque, and use.
2015 Nissan Frontier
Comfort & Quality
Rear-seat space is fair, but the Frontier puts the emphasis on ruggedness, not refinement.
There are five versions of the 2015 Nissan Frontier available, including base Frontier S and SV models–both available with the four-cylinder or V-6–, the Desert Runner, PRO-4X and the SL, which is only available in Crew Cab layout.
Hauling things is a truck's job (at least in part) and the Frontier delivers with the cargo-related features. A stout frame, beds up to six feet in length, and a factory spray-in bedliner make for a rugged, if residential-sized, work space. An available Utili-Track cargo tie-down system is very handy for those regularly hauling weekend projects or outdoor gear.
King Cab Frontiers get a pair of rear-hinged doors that open up the area behind the front seats for more cargo and a pair of jump seats--but the jump seats are best reserved for kids, and small ones at that. The Crew Cab models get four full-size doors that accommodate smaller adults, with a three-across second-row bench that's only tight on elbow and shoulder room when fully loaded.
While the Frontier is mid-sized, it's certainly large enough for most folks. It's easy to enter and exit thanks to its slightly lower-than-full-size height, and the front seats are supportive and comfortable upright. Visibility is good throughout the Frontier range.
2015 Nissan Frontier
Crash-test scores on the latest Frontier are lacking.
The 2015 Nissan Frontier hasn't been officially rated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), but the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has awarded marks of "good" in moderate overlap front-impact and roof strength tests, while head restraints score "acceptable" ratings.
A backup camera and sonar parking sensors are available as part of the Value Truck Package, and hands-free Bluetooth phone connectivity is now standard on all models, including the base Frontier S.
Despite the lack of comprehensive official scores for the current model, the Frontier remains our top pick in this category for its strong history and solid list of standard safety equipment.
2015 Nissan Frontier
The PRO-4X is geared for off-roading; an updated media interface adds smartphone connectivity.
For 2015, the Nissan Frontier standardizes its NissanConnect infotainment system on SV and Desert Runner models, and navigation is standard with the PRO-4X. A moonroof is also now standard for Frontier SL models.
Five trims are available: the base Frontier S, Frontier SV, Frontier PRO-4X, Frontier SL and Frontier Desert Runner. The SL is available with a Crew Cab body only; the Frontier S and SV are the only models available with a four-cylinder engine. All trims can be ordered with the Crew Cab, but only with the V-6 engine option. Both 4x2 and 4x4 drive options are also available, but 4x4 only comes with the V-6 engine.
Frontier S models are the workhorses of the range, minimally equipped. The SV models add keyless entry and tilt steering among other features, making it a better bet for daily driving niceties. The SL is the most feature-packed, with an eight-speaker Rockford Fosgate audio system, heated leather seats, step rails, and tie-down cleats in the bed.
Off-roaders will want to look to the PRO-4X and Desert Runner versions of the Frontier. The PRO-4X is the most hardcore, with Bilstein off-road dampers, a six-speed automatic transmission, skid plates, a locking rear differential, and larger BFGoodrich trail tires. The Desert Runner is available only in rear-wheel drive, but gets the Bilstein dampers plus a few exterior appearance upgrades on top of the features of the SV package.
2015 Nissan Frontier
Skip the four-cylinder; the gas mileage doesn't improve enough for the performance given away.
Thanks to its standard four-cylinder and optional V-6 engines, the Nissan Frontier scores respectable fuel economy figures for its segment.
The V-6 engine is standard on four-wheel-drive versions of the Nissan Frontier. Manual versions score 16 mpg city, 21 mpg highway, and 18 mpg combined; with the automatic, it rates 15/21/17 mpg.
With the V-6, the 2WD Frontier rates 16/22/19 mpg city/highway/combined with a six-speed manual, or 16/22/18 mpg with the five-speed automatic. The 2WD four-cylinder Frontier rates as high as 19 mpg city and 23 mpg highway for a combined rating of 21 mpg, when equipped with the five-speed manual transmission. Opting for the five-speed automatic gearbox brings those figures down to 17/23/19 mpg.
Those figures make the Frontier more efficient than Nissan's own Titan full-size truck, but the Titan is one of the thirstiest pickups on the road. Several full-size V-6 models in their base forms do better at the pump, and should merit consideration for the truck buyer that also covers lots of miles each year--the latest Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra first and foremost among them.
Nissan has shown concept trucks with diesel engines, but so far it's only confirmed a diesel for its larger Titan pickup.