2018 Nissan Frontier Midnight Edition Road Test Review
January 16 2018, Trevor Hofmann
Copyright: Canadian Auto Press Inc.
Blacked-Out Trim Adds Sportier Style to Popular Pickup
The Frontier has long been one of the most straightforward, no nonsense pickup trucks in the mid-size segment, a weekday workhorse and weekend plaything that's proven its mettle and then some. For 2018 it arrives with a RearView parking camera in base trim, plus a new Midnight Edition ups the style ante in the mid-range.
The 2018 Frontier starts at just $23,998 plus freight and fees in base King Cab S trim, while upgrades include the $25,548 King Cab SV, $31,748 King Cab PRO-4X, $32,498 Crew Cab SV, $35,398 Crew Cab Midnight Edition, $36,798 Crew Cab PRO-4X, and $38,898 Crew Cab SL.
New Standard Backup Camera and Plenty of Options
To shed some light on the base Frontier S model's value proposition, take note that it features a direct-injected 2.5-litre DOHC, 16-valve, four-cylinder engine making 152 horsepower and 171 lb-ft of torque, a five-speed automatic transmission, rear-wheel drive, four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, an independent double-wishbone front suspension and leaf-spring, solid axle rear setup, 15-inch steel wheels, an extended King Cab and 1,861 mm (73.3 inch/6.1-foot) bed, a chrome grille, a partial body-colour front bumper and a full body-colour rear bumper, a locking tailgate, a cargo bed light, variable intermittent wipers, illuminated steering wheel-mounted audio controls, cruise control, air conditioning, hands-free text messaging, a RearView parking monitor, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, 5.0-inch colour display audio with AM/FM/CD/satellite radio, speed-sensitive volume control, aux and USB ports, fabric upholstery, forward-facing rear flip-up seats, second-row under-seat storage, carpeting, tire pressure monitoring, all the usual active and passive safety features, plus more.
Loading your Frontier up with everything available, such as auto on/off headlights, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, navigation, voice recognition, 10-speaker Rockford Fosgate audio, powered seats, leather upholstery, illuminated vanity mirrors, a garage door opener, a powered moonroof, and more, plus some popular dealer-added accessories, can nudge it just over the $40k threshold, but that SL trimmed model is still extremely affordable when compared to its fully featured competitors that will cost you thousands more for similar features.
Midnight Edition Provides Style and Substance
The mid-range Frontier Midnight Edition being reviewed here is more utilitarian than the SL, but I have to say it still looks great thanks to a design that's truly stood the test of time. This model is further dressed up with plenty of sporty gloss black trim in place of matte black or ritzier metal brightwork, plus fog lamps up front, black step rails and splash guards down each side, not to mention exclusive Midnight Edition blackened 18-inch alloys circled by 265/60 mud and snow all-seasons. All of this gear gets attached to the larger, more accommodating Crew Cab body, making for a handsomely rugged mid-size truck.
The Midnight Edition model's key features include a direct-injection 4.0-litre DOHC, 24-valve V6 making 261 horsepower and 281 lb-ft of torque, plus standard four-wheel drive with a switch-operated two-speed transfer case, hill descent control, hill start assist, a front tow hook, power door locks with auto-locking and remote access, powered windows, heated power-adjustable side mirrors, a sliding rear window, rear parking sensors, a factory-applied spray-on bedliner, Nissan's Utili-track Channel System in the cargo bed with four tie-down cleats, tilt steering, micro-filtered dual-zone auto climate control, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a digital compass, outside temperature display, vanity mirrors, heated front seats, two additional stereo speakers totaling six, and more.
The Midnight Edition doesn't allow for any options packages, but you can get a sliding bed divider for $281 from the accessories catalogue, or a $350 sliding bed extender, $786 sliding toolbox, loads of trailering gear for up to 2,950 kilos (6,500 lbs) of towing capacity, plus more.
Nice Interior Detailing Combines with Impressive Build Quality
The interior of my tester was finished in a nice soft light grey, which was a pleasant change from the usual dark grey or all black attire of most trucks in this class, and it was filled with attractive design details like the artistically dimpled shroud over the primary instruments, uniquely rounded instrument panel to each side of the centre stack, and corrugated-style lower dash and glove box lid, not to mention some upscale brushed aluminum detailing on the steering wheel, down each side of the centre stack, and garnishing the gear selector. No one will mistake it for a fully loaded Titan Platinum luxury truck, but some brightly chromed detailing of key components adds a smattering of bling, while the high-quality seat upholstery looked and felt good.
More importantly those seats were extremely comfortable, and driver ergonomics are quite good. In fact, I enjoyed my test week more than expected, mostly because everything in the Frontier works so well. The primary instruments are clear, highly legible white-on-black dials with a trip computer and graphic display for rear- or four-wheel drive engagement, while the efficient colour infotainment touchscreen on the centre stack featured the aforementioned backup camera to aid parking procedures, plus the usual audio functions, phone setup, vehicle settings, etcetera.
The surrounding switchgear was all tightly fitted and well damped, while the dials and buttons that make up the dual-zone auto HVAC system were well executed. Nissan finishes off the centre stack with a big, meaty rotating dial for selecting 2WD, 4H and 4LO, plus a row of rocker switches for the heated seats, stability control, and parking sonar.
Strong Performance and Competitive Fuel Economy
The shift lever for the five-speed automatic sits on the lower console, connecting to a transmission that swapped gears smoothly, kicking down to select a lower cog quickly when called upon and moving up through its gears without commotion as speeds increased. It basically goes about its duty without issue, while the big V6 follows suit, punching out solid power when needed, making a wonderful snarly exhaust note when revs climb, but otherwise comfortably loping along in its highest gear to save fuel, which is rated at a competitive 15.8 L/100km in the city, 11.5 on the highway and 13.9 combined as tested, with this truck's best-possible efficiency of 13.6 city, 10.7 highway and 12.3 combined coming from the four-cylinder with its most basic five-speed manual gearbox.
Along with the V6 model's strong straight-line performance, the Frontier also delivers a reasonably good ride. Of course, generous suspension travel helps ease its way over bumps and through ruts or whatever else gets in its way, but lets not forget it's a pretty beefy little truck with rugged off-road capability so we shouldn't expect it to be high on the pampering scale. This said it tooled around town well, was quite smooth on the highway thanks in part to a long wheelbase, and took to fast-paced corners with surprisingly confident poise.
A Comfortable and Accommodating Cabin
The Frontier is quite quiet too, with comfort that extends beyond its first row. After positioning the driver's seat for my unusually long-legged five-foot-eight height, I still had about three inches left over ahead of my knees when seated behind, plus about four inches above my head, while the seatback provided decent comfort with good lower back support. There's no flip-down centre armrest in Midnight Edition trim, this reserved for the rear passengers of top-line SL buyers, but a set of cupholders can be folded out from the backside of the front console, while the 60/40-split seat cushions can be flipped upwards and out of the way in order to reveal some useful cargo storage bins underneath.
When standing outside atop the bed I found the spray-on bed liner amongst the grippiest I've ever experienced, which certainly aids safety, especially in wet weather. And don't be concerned about heavy hauling either, as the base Frontier can manage payloads of 404 kilograms (890 lbs), while upper trims are capable of 652 kg (1,440 lbs), making it a thoroughly capable coworker.
Excellent Value Drives Frontier Sales Growth
With all of its capacity, attractive styling, generous standard and optional features, and great all around value it's no wonder the Frontier maintains a strong, loyal following. In fact, updates like this new Midnight Edition have helped Nissan Canada steadily grow this model's sales, with 2017 calendar year deliveries up 3.2-percent from the year prior. Even more significant, the Frontier experienced 43.7 percent sales growth over the past five years, while momentum has continued to build into 2018, with combined January and February year-over-year sales up an additional 33.1 percent.
The Nissan Frontier clearly strikes a positive chord with Canadian consumers, and should be on every value-oriented mid-size truck buyers' shopping list.
Story credits: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press
Photo credits: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press
Copyright: Canadian Auto Press Inc.