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2012 Nissan Frontier

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2012 Nissan Frontier Review

A great compact truck, but not the best value.

Reviewed by Automotive on

The compact/midsize truck segment once contained a field of also-rans from Mitsubishi, Mazda, and Isuzu. Due to various import tariffs, Nissan and Toyota are the only imports standing, though they are now built in American. Toyota and Nissan dominate the light-duty segment against offerings from Ford, Dodge, and Chevy, and while the Tacoma remains the best seller-more than Ford and Nissan combined-asNissan's Frontier is still a competitive model. Nissan offers the Frontier in two cab configurations (King Cab, Crew Cab), two drivetrain layouts (2WD, 4WD), and with four trim levels: S, SV, PRO-4X, and SL (Crew Cab only). Base model Frontiers are equipped with a 2.5-liter four cylinder that makes 152 horsepower and achieves up to 19/23 mpg city/highway. The optional 4.0-liter V-6 engine is a VQ-series derivative that makes 261 horsepower and 282 lb-ft of torque, offered with five-speed and six-speed manual and five-speed automatic transmissions, depending on trim. Unlike other vehicles in its class, Frontier does not pretend to be anything other than a truck. Though it's civilized enough for city use, its rugged suspension and towing capacity beg for traditional truck uses. Base models for various trims range from about $18,500 to $28,500.

The Range

Bodystyle: Truck
Engines: 2.5L I-4, 4.0L V-6
Transmissions: 6-speed manual, 5-speed manual, 5-speed automatic
Models: S, SV, PRO-4X, SL

What's New

For the 2011 model year, the Frontier's lineup received slightly revised packaging. Little has changed for 2012, but two new additions include a limited slip and vehicle dynamic control on all four-cylinder models, and a new Sport Appearance Package on King Cab and Crew Cab SV models, which have three optional exterior colors: Brilliant Silver, Metallic Blue and Lava Red.


Frontier's signature design cues are evident in the angled strut grille, big bumpers, short overhangs, and prominent fender flares. With available 16-inch and 18-inch aluminum alloy rims, BF Goodrich rubber and Bilstein shock absorbers, the Frontier is every bit the full-size Titan's handsome younger brother, but a mature, tough-bodied one at that.


The interior is truck-like, as it should be, but modernized with up to eight beverage holders, available Bluetooth connect ability, and an optional Rockford Fosgate six-CD, in-dash audio system with auxiliary inputs for your iPod or MP3 player.

Performance & Handling

The optional V-6 has 6500-pound towing capacity, but the four-cylinder can get up to 23 mpg highway. The engine is strong and quick, but more at home in the dirt and rocks than neighborhood streets. The city engine is good for most, but is still truckish enough for backcountry roads. Otherwise, potholes and railroad crossings offer a harsh, jarring ride.


Nissan equips every Frontier with front, front-side, and side curtain airbags. The Frontier also gets front-seat active head restraints, stability and traction control, hill start and descent assist for mountain roads, and a tire pressure monitoring system.

EPA Fuel Economy

S: 19/23 city/highway (4x2 MT), 17/22 (4x2 AT)
SV4: 19/23 city highway (4x2 MT), 17/22 (4x2 AT)
SV6: 15/20 city/highway (4x2 MT and AT, 4x4 MT), 14/19 (4x4 AT)
PRO-4X: 15/20 city/highway (4x4 MT 4x2 AT), 14/19 (4x4 AT)

You'll Like

  • Best looking truck in class
  • 6500-lb towing capacity

You Won't Like

  • V-6 and 4x4 fuel consumption
  • Expensive
  • Harsh city ride

Sum Up

A great compact truck, but not the best value.

If You Like This Vehicle

  • Chevrolet Colorado
  • Ford Ranger
  • GMC Canyon
  • Toyota Tacoma

See the New 2015 Frontier.

Front & Driver Side View