The Nissan Frontier hasn’t changed in nearly two decades. It’s one of the most popular midsize trucks on the market, though, in part thanks to that lack of change. Most of the other midsize pickups available are new and “midsize” in name only. The Frontier remains a small pickup with a lot of attitude, which seems to be exactly what a lot of buyers are looking for.
Quick Specs & Info
|2018 Nissan Frontier||Class: Midsize Pickup|
|Base Model||As Tested: SV Midnight Edition|
|Powertrain||2.5L i4, 5spd manual||Powertrain||4.0L V6, 5spd auto|
|Base MSRP||$18,990||MSRP as tested||$33,560|
The 2018 Frontier is a simple, good-looking, straight-up pickup truck. It’s small and makes no bones about being so. The classic, unmistakable look of the Frontier is a big part of its style. Adding on the optional tubular roof rails, some factory or aftermarket fender skirts, and other goodies only enhances the basic truckiness of the Frontier’s design.
Body-colored bumpers are now the norm on the Frontier, though we do miss those chrome options from before. Nissan did add a rearview camera, air conditioning, and cruise control as standards for the Frontier from the base model on up. A new Midnigt Edition trim point (pictured herein) has been added for 2018 to give a blackout scheme for the little pickup. The Midnight Edition is also available on the big Titan and other Nissan models.
Inside, the 2018 Nissan Frontier hasn’t changed much from last year. Or the year before. Or the year before that.. The interior of the Frontier is plain and no-nonsense, but gets the job done. Finding comfort in the lower-end models is a bit of a workout for the driver and front passenger, the seats having limited adjustability, but it’s workable. The rear seats have no real adjustment options at all. They come as-is. The small size of the Frontier means that its interior is small too, but this should be expected.
Technology in the 2018 Frontier is basic at best and so far behind the curve that it’s almost laughable. There is a cool Rockford Fosgate audio setup available, though, that really kicks the tunes up a notch and basic Bluetooth and streaming are available as well. So all is not lost.
The 2018 Nissan Frontier is offered in King or Crew Cab configurations with a 6.1-foot or 5-foot bed (respectively). There are two engines offered and rear-wheel drive is standard with four-wheel drive an option. There are three transmissions available as well, two of which are manuals.
The 2018 Nissan Frontier comes in five trim packages.
- S – This base package for the Frontier comes standard with an extended cab and the base 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine and five-speed manual transmission. The crew cab and shorter bed are optional. 15-inch steel wheels, cloth bucket seating, A/C, cruise control, Bluetooth connectivity, a rearview camera, and a 5-inch infotainment display are standard. So is Siri Eyes Free voice command, a four-speaker sound system, and a USB input and CD player.
- The Work Truck package is optional and adds a spray-on bedliner, bed rail caps, splash guards, and rubber floor mats.
- SV – This more robust, consumer-oriented package upgrades the S to include 16-inch alloy wheels, power windows/doors, a sliding rear window, and satellite radio. A sunroof can be added to the crew cab model as an option.
- An optional Value Truck package adds several items including fog lamps, rear parking sensors, a sliding bed extender, a spray-in bedliner, adjustable cargo tie-downs, a class IV trailer hitch, dual-zone climate control, heated front seats, and an auto-dimming rearview. Extended cab models get two more stereo speakers as well.
- The optional Midnight Edition (can be combined with the Value Truck) adds the blackout trim for the Frontier plus 18-inch black alloy wheels and side steps.
- Desert Runner – Available with rear-wheel drive and the V6 engine only, this package comes in either cab/bed combination and builds on the basic SV package, adding styling details and fog lamps. High-performance shock absorbers and off-road tires are also on the Desert Runner trim. The Value Truck and Midnight Edition packages are not options with this trim.
- Pro-4X – The off-road-oriented model of the 2018 Frontier, the Pro-4X model adds off-road tires, re-tuned shock absorbers, a lock rear differential, skid plates, automatic headlamps, a 5.8-inch touchscreen with navigation, satellite radio, voice controls, leather-wrapped steering wheel, and a first aid kit. The SV’s Value Truck package is also standard equipment in the Pro-4X, though the bed extender and trailering package are not included. Those can be added on their own. Crew Cab models of the Pro-4X upgrade to a 10-speaker Rockford Fosgate sound system.
- The Pro-4X Premium package (automatic only) adds a sunroof, roof rack with crossbars, heated side mirrors, leather upholstery, and power-adjustable front seats.
- SL – Available only as a crew cab with the automatic transmission, the SL is similar to the Pro-4X Premium in equipment, but without the off-road items. 18-inch alloy wheels and side steps are also standard. Optional are the trailering system and bed extender.
Driving the 2018 Nissan Frontier
The 2018 Nissan Frontier is offered with a base 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that outputs 152 horsepower and 171 pound-feet of torque. A five-speed manual transmission is standard with this engine and a six-speed manual is an option, as is a five-speed automatic. The upgrade engine is a 4.0-liter V6 that outputs 261 horsepower, mated to either the six-speed manual or the five-speed automatic.
We drove the four-cylinder engine in a Frontier several years ago and were unimpressed with its power output and lack of real fuel economy gains. The V6 is more popular and a better option for the truck. We like the standard transmission for it, but the automatic does have its benefits when it comes to fuel economy and convenience.
The 2018 Frontier drives like a pickup truck should. It’s bulky, not terribly maneuverable, and loud on the highway. Yet it is also quirky and engaging, making it feel like it looks: useful and fun. The Frontier tends to grow on you.
The greatest quality of the Nissan Frontier, though, is its pure ruggedness. In any package, including the Pro-4X we’ve driven many times and the new Midnight Edition we drove for 2018, the Frontier just begs to be used and abused as a daily driver and workaday pickup. It feels and acts rugged and lets one know that it’s ready for action and can take the abuse.
Fuel economy in the 2018 Nissan Frontier isn’t all that great, being rated at 17 mpg in the city and 22 mpg on the highway for the rear-driven four-cylinder, and 16 mpg city and 23 mpg highway in the V6. The 4WD models lose about 2 mpg on each measure. We averaged about 19 mpg overall in our 2018 Frontier SV Midnight Edition test model and about that in the Pro-4X model we drove in 2017.
Chief among the competitors to the 2018 Frontier is the Toyota Tacoma. Compared to the Tacoma, the Frontier is less polarizing in looks and more truck-like in its capabilities. Another competitor is the Chevrolet Colorado, a not-quite-so-midsize offering from GM. Its twin is the more upscale GMC Canyon.
Compared to all of these, the 2018 Nissan Frontier is lower in cost overall, smaller, and focused on truck capabilities as a midsize offering.
- Trim points match needs for most expectations and budgets.
- Well-made and capable as a truly midsize pickup truck.
- Utilitarian to the core as a focal point.
- Dated interior that lacks in comfort
- Outdated infotainment even with the upgrade.
- Fuel economy is low even in a segment not known for good MPG.
The 2018 Nissan Frontier is a great little pickup truck for those who need a true pickup capable of doing truck things. It looks and acts like a truck, lacking most of the niceties of newer offerings on the market. It’s rugged, workaday appeal has a lot going for it and the price points on the Nissan Frontier are generally far better than the competitions’.
Test Period Length and Limitations
The 2018 Frontier was a manufacturer’s press loan for about a week. During that time, the Frontier was driven as a daily vehicle toting both family and stuff on and off the highway. A total of about 200 miles were put on the pickup.