Counterpoint: Tacoma Versus Frontier, an Owner Weighs In0
Is My Pickup Better Than Your Pickup?
Among our contributors are owners of vehicles from a MINI Cooper (two, actually), Audi TT, Ford Flex, an aging Ford Taurus, and a Toyota Tacoma. For us, it is always fun to apply our analysis and industry knowledge to our own lives and rides, and the Frontier provided the chance to do that again. While I drove the Xterra and Frontier during an afternoon on a press preview, contributor Keagan Patrick took the Frontier that spent a week with California HQ out for some seat time and direct comparisons against his Tacoma.
Follow the jump for his take!
I own a 2007 Toyota Tacoma (Crew Cab, 4X4, TRD sport) – the Nissan Frontier’s direct competition. I nearly fell over when looking at the Monroney (window sticker) for a 2009 Nissan Frontier (Crew Cab 4X4, PRO4X); The MSRP was $33,785! This is thousands more than my Tacoma. Then, I took the Frontier out for a spin, and I’ll be the first to admit there are a few notable differences between the two trucks that favor the Frontier.
There are factory options the Frontier (ours included) offer that Toyota does NOT. Among them:
Leather seats, heated seats, sunroof, or standard rear disc brakes. The Frontier’s frame is also fully boxed front to back. It wasn’t until 2009 that the Tacoma was even available with a factory iPod jack.
Frontier’s Strong Points
Front seats (comfortable, leather, heated and fully (eight-way) adjustable)
*I never realized how important adjusting a driver’s seat up or down was until some people drove the Toyota Tacoma and complained about not being able to adjust the seat up or down. This issue does not simply revolve around comfort. It also has to do with visibility/safety as well.
Center console cup holders are removable and washable! (Not possible on the Tacoma)
Seating position (D to heel) on the Frontier is more appropriate for more people
Forward Visibility / Drivers Seat Visibility (Probably had much to do with the seating position and the less-fast A-pillar of the Frontier)
Transmission. It didn’t lag in hopes of attaining better fuel economy, it felt as though power was on tap at all times. But it didn’t attain any better fuel economy than the Tacoma. EPA estimates are 15/city 19/hwy on the Frontier as compared to 17/city 21/hwy on the Tacoma.
*I could have been feeling the affects of a taller gear in the rear axle of the Frontier. The Tacoma has a rear axle ratio of 3.73 and the Frontier has a 4.083 rear axle ratio. This too probably affects fuel economy and performance.
High Utility Bed Package, Nissan’s steel bed with factory-applied spray-on bedliner, four-adjustable aluminum tie-down cleats. Tacoma only offers a composite bed with four-adjustable plastic tie-down cleats.
*I will admit I felt a little emasculated when I went from using my plastic tie-down cleats to using the Nissan’s heavy-duty aluminum cleats.
Overall vehicle feels heavier/more sturdy
But Tacoma Has Its Own Strength, Too
Vehicle Width – The interior of the Tacoma’s cab seemed wider – it felt more spacious. The Tacoma does have nearly two inches more width overall than the Frontier.
Rear seats were more comfortable; had much to do with the seating angle (in Crew Cab models)
Rear side windows are one piece in the Tacoma (visibility not obstructed by divider) and entire window surface retracts. The Frontiers rear side windows in the double cab had a ‘separator bar’ between the functional/retractable window and a stationary window pane. Looked a little ‘outdated’.
Quietness inside the vehicle (*May have something to do with factory tires)
Sliding rear window is available on Tacoma double cab, but not available on Frontier Crew Cab; only King Cab.
Interior build materials are better quality (less hard/cheap plastic)
115 volt / 400 watt built in power converter in the bed (w/ TRD pkg.)
Oil filter placement: Although not everyone changes their own oil, having the filter placed at the top of the engine is a plus for those that do.
Optional rear view mirror has temperature, compass, and auto-dimming feature.
SMC bed (Sheet Molded Composite) – Some people will still prefer a steel bed. Especially people who really use their bed for heavy equipment, supplies, etc. Others prefer the lower weight, no rust, easy clean up qualities of the SMC and it seems to suit the Tacoma. The Tacoma solution is NOT a bed liner, but an element that bolts directly to the frame.
This ’09 Frontier has advantages over the ’09 Tacoma. It beats out the Tacoma in terms of creature comforts such as the optional eight-way power drivers and four-way power passenger seats, heated front seats, and leather seating surfaces. They were more comfortable than in the Tacoma. The Frontier also comes with a fully-boxed frame and disc brakes at all four corners; notable things the Tacoma doesn’t offer. My colleague probably put it best when he said that the engineer would purchase the Frontier while the business man would purchase the Tacoma.
All of those features are wonderful options, but they obviously don’t sell trucks here in the good old U.S. of A. From January to August 2008 Toyota sold 108,137 Tacomas to Nissan’s 39,339 Frontiers; which means that the Tacoma outsold the Frontier nearly 3 to 1.
While the Frontier has more available options and you could probably negotiate a better price, many will also look to quality and resale values when making their purchase decision. Not to mention people go to what they know… and they know ‘Tacoma.’
Why doesn’t Nissan sell as many Frontiers?
It probably comes down to Toyota’s stronger brand identity and the Tacoma model having such a strong presence. Toyota also has more dealerships and realizes how strongly prospective buyers feel about quality, durability and reliability. Those traits trump many of the Frontiers options (like power seats) every time. For some it even trumps better engineering.