2019 Nissan Frontier Reviews

2019 Frontier New Car Test Drive

Introduction

The 2019 Nissan Frontier marks a milestone: The compact pickup truck has been on sale since 2004, without too many major changes. None for 2019 in fact, after a big year in 2018, when it added air conditioning, cruise control, Bluetooth, and a rearview camera to the base S model. Modern active-safety features, such as automatic emergency braking or even blind-spot monitors, aren't available on any Frontier. 

The 2019 Frontier is a basic pickup for those who don't need more. It's a rear-wheel-drive truck with available four-wheel drive. There are two engines, either challenged or robust, take your pick. The 2.5-liter 4-cylinder carries a big burden, making a marginal 152 horsepower and 171 pound-feet of torque. The 4.0-liter V-6 with 261 horsepower and 281 pound-feet better handles the workload and is more popular. 

The 4-cylinder engine would make more sense if there were a simple work truck version with a bench seat to carry three people-but there isn't, only an extended cab called King Cab. It mates with either a 5-speed manual gearbox or 5-speed automatic transmission. We're not sure why the automatic costs nearly $4,000 more than the manual in the base S model, but it's not worth it, especially not in a truck like this. 

The V-6 comes as King or four-door Crew Cab, and offers either a manual 6-speed transmission of the 5-speed automatic. 

The King Cab has a cargo bed that measures a tad over six feet, at 73.3 inches, and second-row jump seats that are reached through rear-hinged half doors that can only open when the front doors are open. Crew Cab models get four conventional doors, a regular rear bench, and either a short (59.5-inch) bed or the longer (73.3-inch) version.

Ground clearance of nearly 9 inches helps make the Frontier competent off the road. Two of the five models focus on that ability. The rear-wheel-drive Desert Runner has a raised suspension with Bilstein shock absorbers and oversize all-terrain tires. The four-wheel-drive PRO-4X includes a transfer case and electric locking rear differential, making it even more capable. 

Fuel economy is relatively poor. The 4-cylinder with rear-wheel-drive and the manual gearbox is EPA-rated at 19/23 mpg City/Highway, or 21 mpg Combined ? comparable to some full-size V-8 pickups. The expensive automatic drops the mileage to 17/22/19 mpg.

With V-6 power, rear-drive, and 6-speed manual, the Frontier is EPA-rated at 16/22 mpg City/Highway, or 19 mpg Combined. This time the automatic raises the highway figure to 23 mpg. The four-wheel-drive manual is EPA-rated at 16/21 mpg City/Highway, or 18 mpg Combined. The automatic manages only 15/21/17 mpg.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gives a three-star rating (out of five) for the frontal crash-test. No side-impact testing has been performed. Rollover resistance (a calculated figure) is only three-star for rear-drive models, but four stars with four-wheel drive.

Crash-testing by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety was a bit better, but not much. Both body styles scored Marginal on the small-overlap frontal-crash test for the driver's side, but moderate-overlap and side-impact scores were Good. Head restraints were deemed Acceptable, but headlights Poor.

Lineup

Frontier pickups come in five trim levels: S, SV, Desert Runner, SL, and PRO-4X. As the vehicle hasn't changed for 2019, neither has the price. 

Frontier S King Cab ($18,990) comes with manual or automatic ($22,660), extended-cab body, 4-cylinder engine, rear-wheel drive, rear jump seats, manual windows and locks, air conditioning, rearview camera, 7.0-inch display screen, Bluetooth, and 15-inch steel wheels. (Prices are MSRP and do not include the destination charge.)

Frontier SV King Cab ($23,460) comes with manual or automatic ($24,510), 4-cylinder engine, and adds power windows, locks, and mirrors, plus tinted windows and 16-inch alloy wheels. A Value Truck package goes further: dual-zone climate control, better audio, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, spray-in bedliner, parking sensors, and heated seats.

Frontier SV King Cab V-6 automatic ($25,220) includes the V-6 engine and 5-speed automatic. Frontier SV King Cab 4×4 automatic ($28,110) gets the V-6 and four-wheel drive.

Crew Cab versions are available with four conventional doors and rear bench, plus V-6 engine in Frontier S Crew Cab manual ($24,550), S Crew Cab 4×4 Automatic ($29,900), SV Crew Cab Automatic ($26,350), SV Crew Cab 4×4 manual ($32,380) and automatic ($29,540). A Midnight Edition option package for SV Crew Cab models spruces up the body with black wheels and trim.

Frontier SV Crew Cab Long Bed automatic ($28,960) gets a long cargo bed and V-6 as does the SV Crew Cab Long Bed 4×4 automatic ($29,960). 

Frontier SL Crew Cab automatic ($33,560) has V-6, power front seats, leather upholstery, heated seats, navigation, and 5.8-inch touchscreen audio with navigation. Also available: SL Crew Cab 4×4 automatic ($36,400); SL Crew Cab Long Bed 4×4 automatic ($36,800).

Desert Runner King Cab automatic ($25,900) includes the V-6, rear-wheel drive, raised suspension, Bilstein shocks, and 16-inch tires. Desert Runner Crew Cab Automatic ($27,330) is similar to Desert Runner King Cab but with four conventional doors, V-6, and rear-drive.

PRO-4X King Cab 4×4 Automatic ($33,030) comes with V-6 engine, four-wheel drive, transfer case, and locking rear differential. PRO-4X Crew Cab 4×4 is available with manual ($32,740) or automatic ($33,790) with four conventional doors, V-6 engine, and four-wheel drive.

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