Nissan Frontier is First Produced

Nissan Frontier is the name for the D22 and D40 generations of Nissan pickup trucks in the North, Central and South America and the Philippines.

The line was started in 1998, and its immediate predecessor is the D21 Nissan Hardbody truck. As of 2002, the D22 series Nissan Truck is no longer sold in Japan, with the primary market having been relocated to North America, built at the Smyrna, Tennessee Nissan factory.

Nissan was the pioneer of the compact pickup truck market in 1959, joined in the 1960s by Toyota. Since 1959, Nissan is known for a number of notable firsts in the compact pickup truck market, including the first extended cab bodystyle (in the 1979 Nissan King Cab) and the first crew cab bodystyle compact pickup, in the D22 series.

In the United States, Europe, Australia and elsewhere, there have been three generations of trucks known as the Nissan Hardbody or Nissan Navara since 1986. The first was the D21, considered to be a small pick up. After more than 10 years with the D21, the second generation Navara was manufactured from 1998 and went until 2005 which was classed as a compact sized pick up. It was replaced with the bigger, taller, longer D40, which Nissan now considers to be a mid-size pick up truck.

The Navara gets its name from the Navarre region of northern Spain, and the European version is built at the Nissan factory in Barcelona.

The Frontier was introduced in 1997 for the 1998 model year as a replacement for the aging 1986.5–1997 Nissan Hardbody Truck. Nissan first offered the Frontier with a 4-cylinder engine, the KA24DE, but added the V6 engine, the VG33E in 1999. Elsewhere, the Frontier was also known as the Nissan Navara

That changed, with the introduction of the 2000 Frontier Crew Cab. The Crew Cab was the first compact pickup to offer a 4-door body-style in North America. Until that point, crew cabs were heavy duty versions of full-size trucks and were mainly used as commercial vehicles, although four-door compact pickups existed in Asia and Europe for decades.

For 2001, Nissan facelifted the Frontier, introducing bolder styling in an effort to make it more appealing to younger buyers in its second generation. The Frontier was completely redone after the 2004 model year, which later resulted in the suspension of the regular cab model, indefinitely.

Nissan has been building and selling trucks in the U.S. for almost 30 years. Its latest pickup, the Nissan Frontier, has been popular with consumers thanks to its reasonable size, versatile capabilities and generally affordable price.

There have been two generations of the Nissan Frontier. The current truck is bigger and more powerful than the original and could be considered more of a midsize pickup rather than a compact. Thanks to its rugged nature and wide range of body styles and options, it's well suited for a broad spectrum of consumers.

Current Nissan Frontier

The current-generation Nissan Frontier is easily the most comfortable and civilized Frontier yet. King Cab models come with space behind the front seats that is better used for carrying smaller cargo items than for squeezing passengers of any size into the flip-up jump seats. Crew Cabs can accommodate adults, albeit nowhere nearly as comfortably as an SUV or full-size pickup.

The King Cab is offered in an economical XE trim level powered by a 152-horsepower, 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine. Other King Cab and all Crew Cab models are offered in basic SE, comfortably equipped LE and more off-road-oriented PRO-4X trim levels. Most Frontiers are fitted with a robust 261-hp 4.0-liter V6.

Optional extras include available side and side curtain airbags, leather seats, a Rockford Fosgate audio system, a spray-on bedliner and a clever utility package that features in-bed rails and tie-downs.

Four-wheel-drive Frontier models offer low-range gearing for serious rock-hopping, with the PRO-4X trim adding Bilstein off-road shock absorbers, an electronic locking differential, skid plates, foglights, stability control and hill-descent control.

In our reviews of the Nissan Frontier, we've been impressed with its surprisingly carlike driving demeanor. The Frontier feels considerably more maneuverable than its boxy styling and workaday purpose would suggest, and acceleration is quite brisk with the optional V6 engine. The ride is firm, however, especially with the optional off-road package, and the somewhat low-grade interior plastics are a disappointment (though comparable to those in competing pickups). Overall, we highly recommend the Frontier to anyone who needs pickup functionality in a reasonably sized package.

Used Nissan Frontier Models

The current-generation Nissan Frontier arrived for the 2005 model year. This second-generation Frontier boasted bigger dimensions, a redesign inside and out and more powerful engines. If you're considering a used Frontier from the current generation, there have been relatively few changes. Most notably, a long-bed version of the Crew Cab model was added in 2007 and a Technology Package, including Bluetooth and an auxiliary audio jack, was introduced for '08. For 2009, Nissan gave the Frontier a slight styling refresh and renamed the Nismo off-road package PRO-4X.

The first-generation Nissan Frontier did not possess as much muscle or variety as the current model, but as a used truck, it could still be a solid choice. This model was angular and boxy outside and similarly utilitarian inside. Nissan offered a regular cab or extended cab (King Cab) body style with a 143-hp four-cylinder engine. A 3.3-liter V6 engine became available as an option the following year.

A Crew Cab variant with four regular doors debuted in 2000 and was the first such compact pickup truck on the market. Unfortunately, the Crew Cab's backseat wasn't exactly full-size, nor was its abbreviated bed. A Desert Runner trim level was also added in 2000, combining the look of the four-wheel-drive Frontier with two-wheel-drive economy.

In 2001, a face-lift gave the Nissan Frontier a more aggressive look. The fenders wore bolt-on extensions and the tailgate was more sculpted than that of any truck that came before it. This was also the year Nissan offered a supercharged version of the 3.3-liter V6 that produced 210 hp and 246 pound-feet of torque. Subsequent years saw the availability of a long bed and the "Open Sky" top (a huge power-operated fabric sunroof ) for the Crew Cab.

Nissan gave its redesigned compact pickup truck a name, at long last. In the past, it was simply known as "Nissan Truck." The seventh generation of small Nissan pickups in the U.S. market, this was the compact's first real reworking since 1986. Frontiers were offered in three trim levels: base (regular-cab 2WD only), XE, and SE (extended King Cab only). Regular-cab models had a 6.5-foot cargo bed, and King Cabs got a 6.2-foot bed. Regular-cab Frontiers had a bench seat and XE King Cabs got a 60/40 split folding front bench, while bucket seats went into SE King Cab models. All King Cab trucks had side-facing rear jump seats.A new twin-cam 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine developed 143 horsepower (9 more than before). Two-wheel-drive Frontiers came with a 5-speed manual or optional 4-speed automatic transmission, but initial 4x4s were manual-shift only. Frontiers with automatic got a column-mounted shifter. Towing capacity was 3500 pounds with a 5-speed, or an even ton with automatic. The part-time 4-wheel-drive system allowed shift-on-the-fly changes in and out of 4WD High at up to 50 mph, but was not intended for use on dry pavement. Except on upper models, hubs had to be changed manually. Four-wheel antilock brakes were standard on 4x4s, while 2WD models got rear-only ABS. The passenger-side airbag could be deactivated for use with a rear-facing child seat. Rivals included the Chevrolet S-10, Ford Ranger, Dodge Dakota, and Toyota Tacoma.

Nissan introduced the compact pickup to the North American automotive world nearly forty years ago, when the company sold vehicles under the Datsun name. The 1959 Datsun 1000 was a 37- horsepower utility vehicle with a 500-lb. payload - not exactly the norm for a pickup in those days. Nissan trucks became closer to the American mainstream over the ensuing years. They have broken new ground, with the first extended-cab compact pickup in 1977 and U.S. production since 1983 being among the highlights. Over 1.6 million pickups have been built in the Nissan plant at Smyrna, Tennessee, near Nashville. For 1998, the factory has a completely new compact truck, the Frontier. Although previous Nissan trucks have had nicknames, this is the first time a one has had an official name.

More than the name is new. An improved engine provides more power and a sturdier, more rigid ladder frame is found underneath the slightly larger, restyled body. But the Frontier is true to its heritage, an unpretentious vehicle designed for the hard-working, hard-playing compact truck buyer.

Three trim levels are being offered, Standard, XE, and SE. Versions of each are targeted at specific segments of the compact truck market. Cost-sensitive buyers have the standard model, available in 4x2 regular cab form only. The top-of-the-line SE comes in 4x2 or 4x4 King Cab style. The XE is expected to be the high-volume model, and can be had with either cab and a choice of 2- or 4-wheel drive.

Press fleet vehicles always seem to be top of the line, and the Frontier SE 4x4 that I had recently was no exception. Still, "top of the line" is a relative term. The Frontier has no luxury car pretensions, it's just an honest truck. Even though the SE King Cab 4x4 has enough of the right features for comfort, convenience, and utility, it's made for truck work: hauling, towing, and just plain work.

APPEARANCE: The Nissan Frontier has new style to go with its new name. It is slightly larger than the old Nissan truck, and gently rounded at the edges and corners. It has contemporary looks without going over the "aerodynamic look" edge. A flat, sloping front panel contains a chromed grille flanked by simple rectangular headlights. Character lines on the hood and sides prevent slabbiness and add interest and strength. The SE 4-by-4 King Cab is a well-proportioned small pickup with a rugged look thanks to its high stance, black fender flares, chrome-trimmed bumpers, and alloy wheels.

COMFORT: Inside is where the Frontier is most noticeably improved. Although the amount of cabin space is about the same as in the previous generation, the Frontier utilizes it better and is much more civilized. Noise, vibration, and harshness reduction was a successful design goal. A new, contemporarily-styled instrument panel places instruments and controls well, especially for the climate control and sound systems. Seating arrangement and materials depend on trim level. The SE 4x4 King Cab has good cloth-upholstered bucket seats in front and two folding, side-facing rear jump seats. Power windows, mirrors, and door locks with remote keyless entry are standard on the SE, as are a tilt-adjustable steering wheel, air conditioning, and a 100- watt AM/FM/cassette/CD stereo. There are plenty of cupholders and storage spaces around the cab. A long, floor-mounted gearshift lever and four-wheel drive lever let the driver know that it is undeniably a truck. The cargo bed has double wall construction so interior dents don't show outside. It also has built-in partition slots to allow two-tier loading or horizontal partitioning for extra versatility.

SAFETY: Every 1998 Nissan Frontier has dual airbags with a shutoff switch for the passenger-side bag, a front crumple zone, and side door beams. Two wheel drive models have antilock rear brakes. 4x4s have a sophisticated 4-wheel antilock system.

ROADABILITY: The Frontier rides and handles like a modern pickup. It's not as soft and quiet as a family sedan, but it's no Conestoga wagon. Steering effort is light, and the 4-wheel antilock brakes of the 4x4 models ensure good stopping ability on all surfaces. Even the base rear-wheel drive Frontier has rear antilock brakes, important especially when the cargo bed is not loaded. Nine inches of ground clearance on the 4x4 Frontier and seven on 4x2 models make either a good choice for off-road use or urban pothole-dodging.

PERFORMANCE: All Frontier models have a 4-cylinder, 2.4-liter engine that has been significantly revised for smoother, quieter operation, lower emissions levels, and improved low-rpm torque. With 143 horsepower and 154 lb-ft of torque, it is one of the most powerful 4-cylinder compact truck engines. However, in 4-wheel drive King Cab form, a 3700 lb. curb weight means that acceleration is acceptable but on the leisurely side. No apologies necessary, this is a working truck, not a sports car. It is undoubtedly far quicker than a 37- horsepower Datsun 1000, and holds much more than 500 lbs. In fact, towing and payload capacities are the Frontier's high-performance parameters, with 3500 and 1400 lbs. respectively. The 5-speed manual transmission used in 4x4 models has a good choice of gear ratios. Four-wheel drive may be engaged at any speed up to 50 mph.

CONCLUSIONS: The new Nissan Frontier is an honest, unpretentious working pickup truck.