The pickup market is dominated by full-size models, but outside of that particular segment there are still a few brands fighting for the dollars of buyers who want a truck that's smaller than a battleship. Enter the 2013 Nissan Frontier, a mainstay mid-size pickup that has been given a bit of a refresh for the current model year in order to help it better take on its primary rival, the Toyota Tacoma. The Nissan Frontier now delivers more value and is less expensive to own than in years past, all without sacrificing its rugged nature and attractive styling.
Let's take a look at 10 things you need to know about the 2013 Nissan Frontier.
01. The 2013 Nissan Frontier Is A Mid-Size Pickup
The 2013 Nissan Frontier is classified as a mid-size pickup truck, but let's talk about what that designation actually means. Once upon a time, it was possible to find legitimate compact trucks that were much smaller than their bigger full-size siblings but still practical for hauling loads and taking care of light towing. Today, compact trucks have left the automotive landscape and been replaced by models like the Nissan Frontier that come in at roughly three-quarters the bulk, length, and width of a full-size pickup. Small-displacement engines are available with this class of truck, but powerful six-cylinder and even eight-cylinder units muddy the waters when trying to differentiate between the advantages of full-size or mid-size ownership.
02. The 2013 Nissan Frontier Offers Two Body Styles
Unlike most of the full-size trucks on the market, the 2013 Nissan Frontier does not provide buyers with a regular cab, three-passenger body style on its order sheet. Instead, the Nissan Frontier is only available in King (extended) and Crew Cab models. Each of these versions of the Frontier make additional space available behind the front row for three more passengers and come with four doors in order to make it easier to access the vehicle's cabin. King Cab trucks are outfitted exclusively with a six-foot cargo bed, while Crew Cab models can choose between five and six-foot options.
03. The 2013 Nissan Frontier Features A Pair Of Engine Options
The 2013 Nissan Frontier starts out with a 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine under the hood that has been tuned to provide 152 horsepower and 171 lb-ft of torque. This unit can be matched with either a five-speed manual transmission or a five-speed automatic. More grunt is available in the form of a 4.0-liter V-6 that churns out a healthy 261 horses and 281 lb-ft of twist, and this motor upgrades its manual transmission with an extra forward cog (the optional five-speed automatic remains in the picture). Choosing the Nissan Frontier with the V-6 also opens up the availability of four-wheel drive, along with a maximum towing capacity of 6,500 lbs.
04. The 2013 Nissan Frontier Delivers Better Fuel Economy
The biggest news for the 2013 Nissan Frontier is the effort that has been made to improve its fuel economy. The gains have come through the reduction of engine friction, as well as the addition of aerodynamic tweaks such as a tailgate spoiler and a special seal that has been put in place between the cab and the cargo compartment. Although base models don't have higher efficiency numbers to show, moving up to the five-speed automatic transmission allows four-cylinder Nissan Frontiers to deliver one additional mpg on the highway, bringing the total to 17-mpg city and 23-mpg highway (19-mpg city / 23-mpg highway for manual-equipped trucks).
The two-wheel drive V-6 version of the pickup sees a much larger jump, posting a 16-mpg city rating and a 22-mpg highway figure with the automatic and the same around town number with a one-mpg deficit on the highway when paired with manual tranny. This represents an increase of one and two miles per gallon for each respective measure. Four-wheel drive models improve by one mile per gallon highway across the board with the manual transmission, and one mile per gallon city and two miles per gallon highway with the automatic.
05. The 2013 Nissan Frontier Provides Three Trim Levels
The 2013 Nissan Frontier's base S trim provides a fairly basic set of features, including cloth seats and steel wheels but no CD player and only a basic heating system. Opting for the SV trim level improves things dramatically, introducing air conditioning, keyless entry, nicer coverings for the vehicle's seats, power windows and door locks, and a sliding rear window. The Crew Cab-only Nissan Frontier SL represents the top of the food chain for the mid-size truck, and it offers 18-inch rims, a navigation system, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, an upgraded stereo system, heated leather seats with power adjustment, and heated outside mirrors.
06. The 2013 Nissan Frontier Can Be Customized Via Options And Packages
Like most pickups, the 2013 Nissan Frontier can be almost endlessly tweaked via the addition of options packages. Some of these are intended to add missing equipment to the vehicle's base model, (like the S Preferred package and its air conditioning and basic CD player stereo system), while others provide additional luxuries for comfort-seeking buyers. The SV Value Truck package, which is new for 2013, provides a rearview monitor, parking assistance, dual automatic climate control, and a spray-in bedliner to the Nissan Frontier, and the SL Moonroof package includes a tilting and sliding glass moonroof.
07. The 2013 Nissan Frontier Is Available In A Special Off-Road Edition
The 2013 Nissan Frontier provides a fourth trim level that is available only on Crew and King Cab models that have been ordered with both the truck's V-6 engine and four-wheel drive system. The Nissan Frontier PRO-4X comes with a raft of off-road friendly gear, including skid plates, an electronic locking rear differential, a special electronic limited slip system for all four wheels, Bilstein shock absorbers, fog lamps, a body-color grille with bumpers to match, and knobby all-terrain tires. Inside, the truck comes with cruise control, keyless entry, and power mirror controls, as well as a leather shift knob and steering wheel. The PRO-4X can be additionally outfitted with the PRO-4X Luxury package, which includes leather seats with PRO-4X badging and heaters, heated outside mirrors, Bluetooth connectivity, a navigation system, a moonroof (stuck under the truck's roof rack), and power adjustments for the two front passenger positions.
08. The 2013 Nissan Frontier Offers A New-For-2013 Model
The 2013 Nissan Frontier's list of available models grows by one this year with the introduction of the Desert Runner. The Nissan Frontier Desert Runner is intended to compete against the Toyota Tacoma's Pre-Runner trim level, and it is available only on two-wheel drive editions of the truck. The Desert Runner comes with 16-inch rims and aggressive tires intended for trail use, as well as Bilstein off-road shock absorber, special upholstery for its seats, a trip computer, a full decal package, a rip computer, and a chrome grille. The Desert Runner offers adventurous looks without the added weight and complexity of four-wheel drive.
09. The 2013 Nissan Frontier Is A Safe Pickup
The 2013 Nissan Frontier is packed with airbags, including dual forward units, side impact airbags, and side curtain airbags that deploy to protect passengers both front and rear. Electronic stability control, traction control, and anti-lock brakes are of course provided free of charge, and certain versions of the Nissan Frontier are also outfitted with a hill descent control system and a hill start assist feature, with the latter working to prevent roll-back on steep inclines. A tire pressure monitoring system is also standard with the pickup, and this feature is useful both on and off the beaten path.
10. The 2013 Nissan Frontier Is Now More Affordable
The 2013 Nissan Frontier - despite offering the same power and better fuel efficiency when compared to the 2012 model - now comes with a considerable price cut. Base four-cylinder models of the Nissan Frontier start at an MSRP of $17,990 for 2013, which represents a drop of $1,270 from 2012's pricing. The same is true of the Frontier's least-expensive V-6 model, which now retails for an MSRP of $22,030, and moving up through the vehicle's various trim levels sees similar, or even greater cost cuts. This helps the Nissan compete harder against the Toyota Tacoma, which previously boasted a significant price gap in its favor.