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The Forgotten Mid

Jul 21, 2023Jul 21, 2023

While the Nissan Frontier is ancient when compared to its mid-size pickup competition, there's one thing that helps retain this rugged truck's appeal

The current truck market is better than ever. Trucks have reached levels one could never anticipate a truck to reach. They are faster, more efficient, and more capable than ever before. Furthermore, they have acquired a styling language that is incredibly appealing even to people who don’t need a truck.

Of course, for the vast majority of buyers, this is a good thing. We all need something more refined and economical while also being more powerful, right? Well, right; however, with these traits comes a tradeoff. That tradeoff currently is complicated mechanical components and expensive prices. Here is where the Nissan Frontier comes in. When compared to the current crop of mid-size trucks, it is ancient. But that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Here's why.

RELATED: 2023 Toyota Tacoma Vs. 2023 Nissan Frontier

To understand the value of the Frontier, we must first go through the new truck market. To do so, we will be using the Toyota Tacoma as an example. The model that is readily available is now an old model since the all-new vehicle hasn't hit the dealerships yet. Now, the outgoing Tacoma was extremely simple. It utilizes a naturally aspirated V-6 and an ancient six-speed transmission.

The new model is as modern as a truck can get. Under the hood, you will find a 2.4-liter turbocharged engine paired with a hybrid system. This makes it far more powerful but also more efficient than ever. But there is a problem. Although a good engine, the new 2.4-liter four-cylinder has more components and is more stressed than the previous naturally aspirated V-6. Think about it, you have the additional parts of a turbo system, a hybrid system, and more piping to keep these added systems cool.

Sure, this being Toyota, there is a very good chance that this system has been refined through vigorous testing. However, no matter how well-made it is, it will certainly be more expensive and problematic than the incredibly simple drivetrain in the outgoing model. It’s just common sense. Fewer parts equal fewer things that can go wrong.

So, someone who wants the cheapest and simplest truck on the market has no choice. Most if not all mid-size trucks have become overly complicated and expensive. All trucks but the Frontier, that is.

RELATED: The Best Features Of The Most Outdated Mid-Size Pickup Of 2023

The Frontier hasn’t become ancient now, it was ancient from the first day it was released. In the age of engine downsizing and hybridization, the Frontier still features a good old naturally aspirated 3.8 liter V-6 engine that is paired with a nine-speed automatic transmission. On the inside, it is filled with physical buttons, and underneath it lacks any kind of complicated electric motors, batteries, and hybrid componentry. It is as simple as a truck in 2023 can possibly be. Available in several trims, cab, and bed-sizes offering something for everyone.

Of course, this meant the Frontier has been criticized in tests for being unrefined when compared to the competition. However, now that there are no trucks like the Frontier left, its un-refinement has become its strength.

Yes, it will be the slowest, most noisy, and most inefficient model. That being said, its simple underpinnings mean, it will be cheap to maintain and will rarely go wrong. Furthermore, the Frontier can be had for a starting price of under $30,000, which by today’s standards is extremely affordable.

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One of the main concerns with new trucks has become off-road use. As you can imagine, off-roading usually involves driving through incredibly dusty or muddy terrain. And in many cases, off-roading can involve tackling deep water crossings and large rock obstacles. Now, such terrains can put mechanical components through a lot of stress and this is only exaggerated with hybrid vehicles.

Rocks, for example, can many times involve dragging the underside of the truck on hard surfaces. And finally, water crossings get every component wet. Furthermore, in some instances, vehicles do get stuck in rivers with water ending up inside the cabin. Of course, a simple vehicle will be able to continue driving, but what happens to a hybrid vehicle which is full of electronics?

Additionally, we have the concern of serviceability in areas of the country where access to mechanics isn’t easy. For example, what happens when a mechanical issue occurs in a remote off-road location? Can the truck be fixed with simple tools? Or does it require specific equipment? Sadly, new hybrid trucks won’t be DIY friendly; therefore, will be a struggle in such situations.

The harsh conditions vehicles face when off-roading becomes even more hazardous to the wires, motors, batteries, and management systems of new trucks. The Frontier, however, won’t have such issues. Underneath, everything is old-school; therefore, the effects of off-roading won't be as pronounced. Also, if something does go wrong, there is a higher chance that the simpler Frontier will be able to get on the road again sooner.

Sure, you might be thinking that the above situations are seldom and very few owners will ever put their truck and themselves in such a situation. That is true, but still, there are people out there that need a truck that can serve them well for such extreme usage and this is perhaps the market the Frontier can fill.

RELATED: Midsize Pickup Trucks To Consider Over The 2024 Toyota Tacoma

This question is relatively simple to answer, but first, you need to ask yourself another question. What is your intended usage and budget? The Nissan Frontier is the perfect vehicle for someone who needs a truck they don't have to spend much money and time in. You buy it for less, perform regular servicing for less, and use it for many years. Also, if you know that the truck will be spending a lot of time on dirt tracks then the Frontier is hard to beat.

If, on the other hand, you need a refined, economical, up-to-date, and powerful truck for your daily commute, family trips, or for towing duties, the Frontier isn’t for you. You will be far better off with a more refined hybrid model.

Theo has dedicated his life to cars. He has studied the only Automotive Journalism course in the world located at Coventry University and describes this passion as a clinical obsession. Give Theo four wheels and he will drool over the piece of metal, plastic, and glass in between them for hours. Once he is done, he will let you know if it’s good or not.