2002 Nissan Frontier

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2001 Nissan Frontier

This 2001 review is representative of model years 2001 to 2004.
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
Rating: 7

Bottom Line:

Aggressive new styling and addition of supercharger broaden appeal.
Pros:
  • New supercharged engine
  • Brash new styling
  • Good ride and handling
Cons:
  • Underpowered 4-cylinder
  • Marginal rear-seat comfort
  • Gas-thirsty

Nissan has prepared its 2001 Frontier for stiffer competition in the small pickup truck wars. It now features adventuresome new styling and an available supercharged engine—a first for a compact pickup.

Nissan knows a thing or two about small pickups, having introduced the first compact pickup truck in America in 1959. The 2000 Frontier line added the first compact pickup—the Crew Cab—with four forward-hinged car-like doors and rear doors that open independently of the front ones.

Controversial Styling
The automaker is taking additional steps to remain competitive—especially among younger drivers—by giving 2001 models a "modern industrial" look that strikes most as being adventuresome or ungainly, with few middle-ground opinions. Think what you like, but Nissan deserves a few shiny gold stars for taking a chance on unconventional styling.

The new in-your-face macho appearance comes mostly from a front end that looks as if it consists of bolt-on pieces from a truck customizing shop and fender flares with rivet-type caps that also look like custom add-on items.

The flares are new for rear-wheel-drive Frontiers and are enlarged on 4-wheel-drive models.

Most 2001 Frontier models also have a lower ride height and wider stance, which adds to their more aggressive appearance and handling. Many younger motorists still look at small pickups the way many young drivers regarded fairly cheap sports cars such as MGs and Triumphs in the 1950s and 1960s.

In fact, Frontiers generally are fun to drive, with quick steering, easily modulated brakes and a fairly supple ride.

New Features
A "first" for a compact pickup is the Frontier's lockable tailgate. Other 2001 features include a new steering wheel and revamped instrument panel with better controls. New seat fabric that resembles woven metal, along with metal-colored knobs, are designed to tie together the Frontier's interior and exterior look.

But the emergency brake lever that juts out from under the dash near the driver's right knee still seems as if from a 1930s pickup. A foot-operated parking brake is reportedly being planned for 2002.

New Options
New options include leather upholstery, handy steering wheel audio controls and a 6-disc, in-dash CD player. You also can get sports-car-style red-on-charcoal stitching if you get the SC trim that comes with the supercharged engine.

Why the leather interior? Because some folks who pay more than 20 grand for a small pickup want more than cloth-covered seats—especially in a car-like pickup such as the Crew Cab.

Frontier base prices range from $11,699 for the Regular Cab model to $25,499 for the Crew Cab 4-wheel-drive model with a leather interior. As with most trucks, the Frontier comes in a variety of 2- and 4-wheel-drive models with various trim levels.

Various Models
The Regular Cab has a 6.5-foot cargo bed; the 2-door extended King Cab has a 6.2-foot bed; and the Crew Cab has a 4.6-foot bed. The Regular Cab comes only with the 4-cylinder and rear-drive in XE trim. Other Frontiers offer 2- and 4-wheel drive in XE, SE and the new supercharged SC trim levels.

The Desert Runner is a rear-drive V6 King Cab model for those who have no interest in off-road driving. It has the ride height and stance of a 4-wheel-drive Frontier.

No Back-Seat Awards
The Crew Cab has the most spacious Frontier cabin, but its back seat is only moderately comfortable because the backrest is too upright. The 2-door extended-cab model has two small, uncomfortable flip-down rear jump seats that are hard to reach. One wonders why Nissan bothered to give the 2-door extended-cab model dual rear cupholders, because the rear-seat area is best suited for cargo.

The supercharger boosts horsepower of the 3.3-liter V6 from 170 to 210 and allows it to provide considerably more torque. Supercharged Frontiers start at $19,999, but won't be available until later this year.

Underpowered Base Model
Forget the base 2.4-liter 143-horepower 4-cylinder unless you're on a tight budget and will drive the Frontier mainly in town. Even then, the 4-cylinder should be hooked to the standard 5-speed manual transmission to wring the most performance from the small engine.

The manual shifts decently, and a responsive 4-speed automatic is offered for all Frontier models.

Swifter Supercharged Model
The 3.3-liter 170-horsepower V6 is lively to 65 mph, but acceleration is average above that speed. The supercharged 210-horsepower V6 doesn't make the Frontier a high-performance truck, but provides much stronger acceleration than the base V6, especially when passing on freeways or highways.

Despite the Frontier's compact size, the only model that is fairly economical with gasoline is the base rear-drive 4-cylinder with the manual transmission. It provides in the low 20s in town if you're easy on the throttle and in the mid-20s on the highway—and a few mpg less with the automatic. Figure on fuel economy only in the teens with all other models.

Still, the Frontier is worth a close look if you want a distinctive looking small pickup that's among the best handling and most comfortable in its class. The supercharged engine is icing on the cake.

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BB02 - 7/25/2014 8:23:53 PM