Have you ever heard the saying never buy the first generation or first year of production of a product as they need to work out the kinks and bugs? And to only buy it when it’s matured in the market for a year or two? Well, how about 14 years? Because that’s precisely what we have here, meet the 2018 Nissan Frontier, outselling the Titan, the Frontier is Nissan’s best selling pickup but far from the best selling one overall.
While in some other parts of the world Nissan has a newer mid-sized pickup called the Navara which shares its bases with the new Mercedes X-class, we don’t get that here in North America or at least for now as some speculate the next generation will arrive at our shores by 2020.
This particular model that we have here is the 2018 Midnight edition, what that means is mainly it’s the mid-trim model with some blacked out bits and pieces to make it look cool and help the frontier stay as fresh as possible. Frankly, I’m not a big fan of painted wheels as they can get easily damaged when driving off-road but it does make the truck look pretty sleek.
The frontier is available in two cab choices a King or a Crew; the king features two suicide doors revealing two pretty cramped back seats while the king as we have here is more SUV like with regular seat backs with adequate space. With the smaller king cab, you can even get it with a 4-cylinder if you like while the rest of the lineup uses a 4.0L V6 which is what we have here.
Inside the Frontier, it’s where it shows its age the dash and materials throughout are made from lower grade materials. Every panel that’s around is scratchy and rough, but keeping in mind this is a work truck, and it’s built for the rough and ready. That said, these panels will take more abuse than the soft plastics and leather found in its competitors.
While the infotainment system has been updated since 2004 it hasn’t been completely overhauled; there’s a low-resolution display flanked by buttons off to the sides. It is easy to use but its features are limited. There is a USB port for iPod connectivity in the centre of the dash however visually it looks like one of those $5 cigarette to USB plugs you’ll find on Amazon.
Seats wise, the front buckets are nice and wide with sufficient support. Taller and shorter drivers may have a difficult time as the chair does not offer height adjustments. Rear seat passengers have sufficient amount of space, it’s no full-size pickup in here but it’s plenty for everyday use. The seat back can also fold down for storing flat items or lift item revealing a small plastic cutout to put knickknacks in.
Power from the V6 is rated at 261 hp and 281lb-ft of torque, and this old VQ engine delivers torque the traditional way with plenty of revs, there’s none of that turbo magic here. Mated to this engine is a 5-speed automatic, yes aged. But this little combo can do some tricks, when properly equipped it can haul a payload of 1230lbs and tow up to 6210lbs. While not class-leading it’s also not the bottom of the barrel neither. Power comes in nice and strong with little to no hesitation and the transmission does a good job at keeping revs low to aid fuel consumption. That said, it’s rated for 15.8 in the city and 11.5 on the highway. Sadly without a trip computer that does the math for me, I’m unable to tell you what the truck is currently getting at any given time but during my last fill up it averaged 13.4L/100km with a bit of mixed driving.
Driving the truck is an experience, with the longer cab and bed it’s not that easy to maneuver. Wheelbase is just over 3.5M (139.9inches) and the overall length is over 5.5M (219.4inches) that’s longer than the equivalent Tacoma, the short box Colorado and Honda Ridgeline. Turning circle is a reach, but once you’re used to it, it’s livable. What some may complain about is the amount of effort needed to drive the truck, the steering is heavy, and due to the length of the truck, there’s a lot of maneuvering that’s needed. Suspension wise the truck does have leaf springs with a solid axle out back, so the ride is truck like, especially with the empty bed things can get a bit bouncy. But load it up with a few items and this truck happily goes down the highway with ease.
As tested this Midnight edition is priced at 35k and it’s equipped decently well for the price point. There are rear parking sensors, a Backup camera, dual zone climate control, and even heated seats. For a base that’s 14 years old, it’s not too shabby. For those who are looking for a fleet or even something a bit more rugged, the frontier may be a contender. Best yet with a stable platform there’s tons of aftermarket support to take your Frontier to the next level.