Traditionally, the pickup truck market in Canada has been dominated by Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler….usually in that order, but not always. Honda, Toyota, and Nissan also sell trucks, but, in terms of sales numbers, they’re miles behind their domestic rivals. Not even in the top ten for light truck sales in Canada.
Nissan has two models out there: the full-size-size Titan and mid-size Frontier, which has been around since the late 1990s, and replaced the company’s Hardbody trucks.
These days, it’s available in two body configurations: King Cab and Crew Cab. The latter has seating for three in the back, with full-size doors, while the latter offers a couple of jump seats and accessory doors that can’t be accessed until the front doors have been opened.
That’s not all that sets these two apart. The smaller King Cab can be had with a 2.5 litre four cylinder engine, or Nissan’s ubiquitous Q series V6, which in this case, displaces 4.0 litre and develops some 261 horsepower (is there another manufacturer that has gotten more mileage out of one of their V6s than Nissan? I doubt it), but the Crew Cab is V6 only. Both versions can be had with or without 4WD. My tester, a fairly gussied up Crew Cab, had this, plus a shipload of extras.
There’s one transmission choice for the 4WD Crew Cab: a five-speed automatic, and 4WD is accessed via a console-located rotary switch. 2WD and high and low range are your choices here, and if you get the Pro model, there is also a locking rear diff for the rough stuff. This is definitely a truck meant to handle off-road terrain and part of its appeal is that you can take it into the wild green yonder without having to worry about it. A hill descent control feature with roll-back assist and a traction control system are also part of this package.
In fact, off-roading and weekend getaways is probably what this one is best suited for. With it’s diminutive pick up bed (1511 mm long), you can’t really carry much of a payload, as I discovered during a trip to the dump to unload some household rubbish. A couch pretty much fills this one up….with the tailgate down…..and I don’t think it’ll even take a full yard of fill/gravel. That said, you can get a long bed version of the Crew Cab, and it provides an additional 350 mm of length…..still not what you’d call huge, but more useful than the regular bed. By way of comparison, a Tacoma Access Cab has a bed length of 1866 mm, while their Double Cab is good for 1531 mm.
So what we’ve got here is a toy. Throw your kayak in the back – or on the roof, in this case – load up the camping gear and get off the beaten track. You can get into 4WD while in motion, there’s some 226 mm of ground clearance, and what you can’t carry, you can pull behind you; the V6 Frontier has a fairly healthy tow capacity of 2767 kilos. Put on a lift kit and this puppy could probably go just about anywhere. There is also an optional skid plate which protects the gas tank, oil sump, and transfer case, as well as four substantial tie-down cleats for the back.
No discomfort behind the wheel either. Standard kit includes the usual modcons, such as power door locks, one-touch down (but not up) front windows, a/c, cruise control, and a 60/40 flip-up rear seat. There’s also storage room under the back seat, so what the Frontier Crew Cab may lack in payload capacity, in makes up for in storage nooks and crannies. With the back seat folded, there’s all kinds of room back there. And, for what it’s worth, I found ingress and egress much more straightforward here than with one of the Frontier’s main competitors: the Toyota Tacoma.
My tester, with the Pro package, also included extras such as leather interior, heated front seats, power adjustable front seats, a centre armrest, and a voice-activated navi system. All of which adds $1585 to the price tag.
And one thing I noticed was the low level of NVH (noise, vibration, harshness). This is a quiet vehicle to operate, and were it not for its aggressive tires, would make a pretty decent highway rig. I’ve noticed this in other models as well….something about the pickup configuration makes for tighter body construction. You want something that offers a relatively tranquil driving experience? Consider a traditional pickup truck.
On the other hand, fuel consumption is something to think about. Equipped with 4WD, the Frontier Crew Cab delivers 14.8 L / 100 km in town and 10.4 on the highway. With its 80-litre fuel tank, at today’s prices, that’s close to $120 per fill-up where I live.
2013 Nissan Frontier Crew Cab Pro 4X
Base Price: $34,948; as tested: $38,362
Engine: 4.0 litre V6
Horsepower: 261 hp @ 4300 rpm
Torque: 281 ft. lb. @ 4000 rpm
Transmission: Five-speed automatic
Drive: 2WD / 4WD
Fuel economy: (litres/100 km): 14.8 city; 10.4 hwy. Regular gas.
Alternatives: Toyota Tacoma, Honda Ridgeline, Chev Avalanche, Ford F-150, Ram 1500.