2010 Frontier New Car Test Drive
The Nissan Frontier is a midsize pickup truck that offers notably good power, the capability to tow a fairly good-sized trailer, and a variety of trim levels and features that should appeal to a wide range of buyers. There are two engine choices: A 2.5-liter four-cylinder of 152 horsepower that is EPA-rated at 19 mpg City, 23 mpg Highway with the manual transmission, and a quite strong 4.0-liter V6 of 261 horsepower that, with two-wheel drive, is rated at 20 mpg on the Highway.
The Frontier is available in two body styles – a King Cab with rearward-opening rear doors and flip-up rear seats, and a Crew Cab with a conventional four-door layout. Depending upon trim level, the Crew Cab is available with a short or a long cargo bed; all King Cab versions have the longer of the two cargo-bed sizes. The Frontier is available with two-wheel or four-wheel drive, has a maximum towing capacity of 6,500 pounds and a maximum payload of slightly over 1,500 pounds.
The Frontier is a stylish truck, yet clearly a truck meant for work, and in a tidy size. In front is a distinctive grille and over the tires are pronounced fender flares that give it a certain robust appeal. Inside is a continuation of the purposeful look, with all the controls in places that make them easy to reach and operate. Interior storage space is enhanced with a dual-level glove-box arrangement on the passenger's side.
We found the interior comfortable and well arranged, with good rugged standard fabric upholstery. The King Cab's wide-opening auxiliary doors give access to the two small folding seats, while the four-door Crew Cab has a three-person bench in the rear (three, that is, depending upon the sizes of the persons) that offers decent comfort but limited legroom – remember, though, this is a midsize pickup.
The ride is good with all models, and we drove them all, including the PRO-4X Crew Cab with off-road shock absorbers and rugged trail tires. The handling is tight and fairly nimble. On gravel roads, we found the 4WD works well and enhances traction and control.
For 2010 the changes are focused on standard safety and security features. Side-impact airbags and side-curtain airbags are standard on all models, and Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC), Nissan's electronic stability control that can help reduce skids on slippery surfaces, is standard on all Frontiers with the V6 engine. Other changes include the availability of a five-speed automatic transmission on XE models, the addition of two-wheel or four-wheel Active Brake Limited Slip (ABLS) as standard for all SE and LE trim-level V6 models, and the addition of Hill Start Assist and Hill Descent Control as standard on all SE and LE models with four-wheel drive and the automatic transmission. Finally, there is a new color, Night Armor.
Depending upon trim levels and other specifics, the 2010 Nissan Frontier is available two body styles, two wheelbase lengths, with two cargo-bed lengths, two engines, two-wheel or four-wheel drive and four trim levels. Within those choices are different transmissions and other features. But, of all that, not every mathematically possible version is available, as Nissan offers those combinations which are more likely to be most popular.
The Frontier King Cab XE ($17,540) is the base model, has the 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and five-speed manual transmission, and steel wheels, wind-up windows, and no air conditioning. The XE Preferred Package ($990), which includes air conditioning and an AM/FM/CD audio system, is the major option for the XE. Other options for the XE, and available either as options or standard equipment for the rest of the line, include a bed liner ($430), bed extender ($260), splash guards ($130), and floor mats ($105). Four-wheel drive is not available on the XE.
The King Cab SE ($19,640) upgrades with the air conditioning and sound system of the XE Preferred Package, plus a chrome front bumper, slider rear window and other features. An automatic transmission is optional ($1,050). The King Cab SE is not available with 4WD, but there is an optional Power Package ($1,080), which includes power windows, door locks and mirrors, remote keyless entry, and cruise control.
The King Cab SE V6 ($20,440) has the V6 engine as standard. There is an SE V6 Value Truck Package ($1,330), which adds a Class III hitch receiver, 16-inch alloy wheels, bed liner, floor mats, an in-cabin micro filter and all the features of the SE Power Package.
For all trim levels, four-wheel drive is an additional $2,700, and an automatic transmission, if it's not standard equipment, is $1,050.
The King Cab LE ($24,920) adds, as standard, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, 18-inch alloy wheels, 265/60R18 tires, fog lights, chrome door handles and power mirrors, step rails, eight-way power driver's seat, cruise control, first aid kit, Utili-track Bed Channel system, and power windows, door locks and remote keyless entry. Available as an option with the LE is the Technology Package ($950), which includes Bluetooth, AM/FM/six-CD audio system with six speakers, auxiliary input jack, MP3/WMA capability and XM Satellite Radio, and a vehicle immobilizer.
The King Cab PRO-4X ($25,010) has Bilstein off-road shocks, skid plates for the oil pan and transfer case, locking rear differential, and its own 16-inch alloy wheels with BFGoodrich P265/75R16 Rugged Trail tires. Also standard is a spray-on bed liner and tough fabric seats with red stitching, as well as cruise control, remote keyless entry, and power windows, door locks and mirrors. Optionally available for the PRO-4X is a six-speed manual transmission, which must be ordered with four-wheel drive. The PRO-4X is also available with the Technology Package.
Generally, the Crew Cab models parallel the King Cab models, except there is no availability of the four-cylinder engine with the Crew Cab body style; all Crew Cabs are powered by the V6 with either the six-speed manual or five-speed automatic transmission. There is also no XE Crew Cab; the trims levels are SE V6, LE and PRO-4X.
The Crew Cab SE V6 ($22,290) has the six-speed manual transmission as standard equipment. The SE V6 and LE are available with the longer cargo bed (73.3 inches instead of 59.5 inches) which is fitted onto a chassis with a longer wheelbase (139.9 inches instead of 125.9 inches). Crew Cabs are available with a moonroof ($700), and the Crew Cab SE V6 is also available with an optional Value Truck Package ($1,380).
The Crew Cab LE ($26,620) includes even more features and is available with the LE Value Truck Package ($1,600), which includes Bluetooth, a Rockford Fosgate AM/FM/six-CD audio system with ten speakers, steering wheel-mounted controls, auxiliary input jack, MP3/WMA capability, and XM Satellite Radio. Most of the rest of the features which are optionally available on the lower trim levels are standard on the LE, including a full range of power features.
The Crew Cab PRO-4X ($26,360) is available only with the shorter cargo bed and shorter wheelbase. Optional for the PRO-4X is a Moonroof and Roof Rack Package ($900), and a PRO-4X Value Truck Package ($1,970), which includes the Rockford Fosgate sound system, leather, eight-way power driver's seat and four-way passenger's seat, heated front seats and outside mirrors, and rear fold-down center armrest.
For the Crew Cab models, as with the King Cab models, four-wheel drive is an additional $2,700, and the automatic transmission is $1,050.
Safety equipment on all Frontiers includes two-stage front airbags, side-impact airbags, side-curtain airbags, a tire-pressure monitor, and anti-lock brakes with electronic brake force distribution. Crew Cab models have three-point seat belts for all rear-seat occupants, including the center position, plus the LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for CHildren) child seat anchor system. Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC), which helps to maintain control on slippery surfaces, is standard on all Frontiers equipped with the V6 engine.