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Quick take: 2009 Nissan Frontier King Cab SE V6

Posted by Bill Griffith  April 10, 2009 10:52 AM

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2009 Nissan FrontierThe Nissan Frontier rests on a flooded road in Newbury after an early April storm. (Bill Griffith/Globe Photo)

Nissan’s Frontier compact pickup truck has been around a while now.

Nissan put the first-generation Frontier on the market in 1998, upgrading it to the present model in 2004. It would be fair to think that this truck’s cycle has run its course, but to drive one is to learn otherwise.

The Frontier is rugged, from its fully boxed frame to the optional bedliners. Our test vehicle was a four-wheel-drive 2009 King Cab SE V6 equipped with the Value Truck Package, which adds power windows, mirrors, locks, and other basic necessities totaling $26,500. It had plenty of power for routine hauling or towing with a 4.0 liter V-6 mated to a 5-speed automatic transmission. That combination gave us 17.1 miles per gallon on a five-day “weekend” trip.

It was comfortable and stable on the highway trip, and equally happy doing a weekend of local lugging for spring yardwork. We didn’t quite get it off-road, but did have to ford a flooded street in Newbury during an early-April storm and high tide.

We wouldn’t even want to subject a hitchhiker to the cramped second seats. However, folding them up gave enough space to keep the extended weekend’s worth of luggage, cooler, food, camera bags, and laptop secure and dry.

Our test vehicle was lacking an auxiliary plug for an MP3 player. It also didn’t have a navigation system. The upside of that was a nice tray built into the top of the dashboard for carrying the phones, transponders, and change of an itinerant driver.

The SE trim line – one step up from the base XE but below the LE or Pro-4X – meant that stability control wasn’t available, either. It’s an option on the top two trim levels.

The cloth interior looked rugged enough as was the heavy plastic that constituted most of the interior. It bespoke capability more than luxury – as did the full array of instrumentation. The seats were comfortable but a bit short in support after a couple of hour’s worth of driving.

All the controls and knobs were intuitive. There was nothing to send one to the owner’s manual aside from a tire that needed a few pounds of air and caused the tire pressure warning light to illuminate.

It did have a sliding rear window, but it’s not easily adjusted without coming to a stop and opening the clamshell rear doors to gain access.

The six-foot bed is plenty big for the average user. Ours had a bedliner, but had we bought this truck, we’d have opted for the spray-in liner and kit with adjustable tie-downs and cleats.

In a world filled with SUVs and crossovers, the Frontier does a creditable job of being an all-purpose family vehicle, especially in the crew cab configuration. It would be on my list to consider along with the Toyota Tacoma, Ford Ranger, GMC Canyon, and Nissan’s Suzuki-badged sibling, the Equator.

All photos by Bill Griffith for The Boston Globe.

Honda CR-V fording waterA friend in a Honda CR-V fords the deep water on this Newbury street.

2009 Nissan Frontier

2009 Nissan Frontier

2009 Nissan Frontier

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
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15 comments so far...
  1. Thanks Globe! Really good idea to show someone driving across a flooded road. Geez!

    Posted by DavidDavidDavid April 10, 09 01:54 PM
  1. I have an '06 crew cab, I have to say I really like it so far.
    Lots of torque, very capable 4 wheel drive, tested it a lot this winter!
    I chose it over the Tacoma due to my concern with their "frame rot issues" on earlier models. (shhh! huge buyback/recall, noone's supposed to know lol)
    It tows my boat pretty darn well, albeit the bed size is super small.

    Posted by ace1957 April 10, 09 07:09 PM
  1. What is up with the negative blogging, Mr. David^3?
    Geez Geez Geez!

    Posted by massta April 10, 09 09:38 PM
  1. #1, unbunch your panties. You could bicycle aross that puddle.

    Posted by Duh April 11, 09 03:03 AM
  1. Trucks should be trucks. The romance of gentrified work vehicles is the demise of the planet (and certainly Detroit). Who needs a truck? The answer: someone who is transporting things or involved with labor or commerce (someone does work). To think that anyone would buy a truck marketed with sensuous claims of luxury, stylish details and creature comforts (Mp3 outlets), and touted for the purpose of weekend outings (at 17.1 mph) is absurd. How about "ace57" who boasts that his "crew cab" tows his boat "pretty darn well". Imagine all of us sucking in his exhaust so that he can drop his boat in the water a few times a year and enjoy some 4-wheelin' . High performance trucks are like bandwidth -- should be reserved for commerce, essential service and emergency personal. I am not suggesting there should be no trucks -- I am railing against the "romance" of trucks. Perhaps the icon of motor-city's success are highways crowded with gleaming trucks without a scratch, complete with factory-fresh bed liners and macho stickers expressing arrogance and indifference while belching noxious clouds and consuming fossil fuel as if it were a right and a privilege. Let workers have their trucks. I'm sure that "ace1957" would find it cheaper to pay a hauler to transport his boat, and drive the family to grandma's safely in a vehicle that get's 40+ mph. (he could attach a bumper sticker that reads: "My other vehicle is a Hemi"). Thanks for continuing the romance Mr. Griffith, perhaps you can console unemployed auto workers with 20th century nostalgia... and drive your Chevy to the levee (if you can find a levee in Massachusetts).

    Posted by fourty_plus April 11, 09 10:52 AM
  1. I am confused as to why the author states early in the review that the back seat is basically not fit for actual seating, but summarizes at the end that this truck is a "credible all-purpose family vehicle"

    Posted by WVW in West Newton April 11, 09 03:43 PM
  1. DavidDavidDavid said it because it is VERY DANGEROUS to drive though floods:

    "The majority of flood-related deaths are caused by people attempting to drive through moving water. This interactive segment explains the most common ways ..."

    "Each year, more deaths occur due to flooding than from any other thunderstorm related hazard. Why? The main reason is people underestimate the force and power of water. Many of the deaths occur in automobiles as they are swept downstream. Of these drownings, many are preventable, but too many people continue to drive around the barriers that warn you the road is flooded."

    Try thinking BEFORE typing!

    Posted by ManAmongBoys April 11, 09 07:56 PM
  1. I have an '06 Xterra Offroad 6 speed manual (basically same truck) and I'm extremely pleased with the responsive steering, acceleration and overall vehicle control. I had an 04 Lexus IS300 and driving the two (in comparison) is practically the same. I haven't towed anything with it yet but I am looking forward to hooking up the boat this summer. Bravo Nissan for putting out great products year over year!

    Posted by Dmitry April 12, 09 12:17 AM
  1. As a response, first of all "fourty_plus", learn to spell, how about your moniker for starters.
    Next, you know nothing about me or what I do with my truck, you presumptous idiot. Maybe my work requires that I have a truck for other transportational needs, such as a contractor. If I also choose to use my vehicle for towing my boat, thats my choice, and is not neccesarily an egregious "non-green" activity. Why don't you rail against the single people who commute individually to work everyday in their huge SUV's, if you feel so angry against fossil-fuel gulpers, the Frontier is a pretty small truck relatively speaking.
    Finally, my grandmother has passed away, I only wish I could transport my family to see her. Happy Easter to you too, try posting with more sense next time.

    Posted by ace1957 April 12, 09 05:16 PM
  1. Puddle? Just a damp low spot in the road. My 2006 Escape gets through it easily, while my previous vehicle, Mazda B2300 xtra cab (2wd), barely even notices it. I miss having a truck, but I am saving some $$ on gas.

    Posted by AguaCaliente April 13, 09 10:17 AM
  1. a great vehicle for NH drivers who tailgate Massholes at 85MPH on 128 every day, on their way from route 3 to 128 south to waltham or newton or wherever they work. that's the segment this vehicle speaks to!

    in all seriousness, though, i'll take a used Benz wagon for hauling family & cargo over any pickup truck, SUV, even minivan. Great performing rides, you're surrounded in luxury, you get great MPG for a luxury V6 (or sometimes, V8) torquey vehicle, and you get plenty of high cargo room in the back. just one more option we have as consumers.

    Posted by FJ April 15, 09 10:07 AM
  1. How come the new Lambo Gallardo with a 500hp V10 and 4WD gets 17mpg and this hunk of junk also gets 17mpg.

    I'd get a roof rack for the Lambo and call it a day.

    Posted by appliance April 16, 09 05:41 PM
  1. I thought these responses were supposed to be about the Frontier. I have an 05 Nismo which I love. The V6 is great and I got more options for much less than the Tacoma.

    40+ how about all of the cows in the US dropping ozone depleting poo everywhere, would you like to remove them from the planet too? Goon, don't tell us what we can and can't drive. Thats up to Obama to tell us. And as far as C-RV crossing the water, maybe its just a good picture and thats why it was posted. Settle down people.

    Posted by Frontier April 20, 09 10:49 AM
  1. your right Frontier dude...
    and as far as the crv in the puddle, who cares ?

    like rock stars and violent movies.. if your stupid enough to imitate it then you deserve it.. If your dumb enough to drive anything into deep water without assessing the situation then u get what u get.
    its no ones fault but your own..

    Posted by awesomeness April 22, 09 04:41 PM
  1. 2007 Nissan frontier. Basically the same truck, but I have the 6 speed manual equipped on it. I get 25 MPG, very happy with this vehicle. For an all around do everything machine it is great. If you've never owned a truck then you just don't know.

    Forty Plus (post #5), you sound really miserable. I don't know what you drive, I don't really care. Lighten up and try to enjoy life.

    Posted by . June 21, 09 12:30 PM

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Clifford Atiyeh is an automotive writer and car enthusiast . He has spent his entire life driving cars he doesn't own.
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Bill Griffith is a veteran Boston Globe reporter, having reviewed cars for more than 10 years and serving as assistant sports editor for 25 years. He was also the paper's sports media columnist.
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AAA's Car Doctor, John Paul John Paul is public affairs manager for AAA Southern New England, a certified mechanic, and a Globe columnist. He hosts a weekly radio show on WROL.
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