(Contributing Editor: Tomasz Paluch)

They say every 1 year in the life of a domestic canine (your average pet dog) = aging 7 human years. If valid, that ratio makes your favorite cuddly 14 year old poodle with curls 96 human years old, or a senior citizen.

Applying a similar aging ratio to the D40 series Nissan Frontier, now entering it’s 14th year since a major revamp, begets about the most antediluvian of compact pickup trucks on the American scene.

Pet lovers surely won’t pay “Puppy Prices” for a 14 year old Doggy in the Window. Pickup truck buyers have similarly shallow pockets for an antiquated Nissan Frontier platform. (Expect a newer D23 Navara based Frontier to enter U.S. Nissan showrooms in 2019.)

 

Now Qualifying for the ROADBLAZING.COM / ChicagoNow.com “Drive…He Said” Budget PickUp List is the 2018 Nissan Frontier S King Cab 4×2:

 

Answering the question,“What is the lowest priced extended cab compact pickup truck Made in U.S.A. on sale in the U.S.A. ?”

 

Must Haves:

Low M.S.R.P:

from $19,955 for rear-drive 2.5 S King Cab trim

Low transaction price:

Dealers have to be throwing money to customers to unload Frontiers well under M.S.R.P.; Nissan is showing $2250 in cash back to customers.

Sufficient capacity, Versatile use of space:

Despite a tall lift-over for the segment, a revised 2nd Row split seat cushion’s mechanism, now permits completely flat extended cargo floor; Don’t kid yourselves: the 3rd Row is vestigial; Front buckets are lower back supportive; A low cowl improves outward view; Controls are marked clearly – most easy to reach; Door pocket storage is OK up front, more sparse in back and wanting in the center console;

Dual 2nd Row flip up cushion jump seats; 2nd Row sub driver’s side cushion storage bin;

3790 lbs. tow capacity, 379 lbs. bed payload. 7.6 ft. ground clearance; 6.1′-foot box; x 18″ depth x 44.4″ width (58.8″ at tailgate), Fixed bed anchor ties.

About average fuel economy, while eschewing $$$$ hybrids or diesels powerplants:

20 miles per gallon in combined driving, acceptable 420 mile highway range

[Barely] Adequate highway on-ramp merge acceleration

Amazingly light clutch pedal & direct throw 5-speed manual gearbox wisely is fitted with wide-spaced short gearing, minimizing shifting; Above 3500 rpm engine torque peters out into lots of thrashing.

Acceptable ride/ handling

Tracks the road as true as some un-athletic passenger cars, though needing more steering inputs;  If body roll onsets early, the ride is very forgiving for a pickup; Whether Nose-In or Butt-In: parking a pickup truck has never been easier.

Reliability & durability:

This model has 14 years of production under its belt; Lots of uneven fitting industrial hard gray plastics were dumped in the cabin along with some felt-like seat upholstery; Steering wheel won’t telescope enough and the armrest is wee-bit short;  Manual door locks, crank manual windows and manual wing mirrors can’t ever fail; Plenty of road noise penetrates from the cab’s 2nd Row;  The driver’s B-pillar seat belt harness rattled in frigid weather.

Low maintenance costs and good warranty

5 year / 60,000 miles powertrain, 3 year / 36,000 mile bumper-to-bumper warranties

Styling that isn’t too radical

Anonymous, inoffensive third-world market look not very warmed-over for American tastes; The nose is a replica from the previous generation Pathfinder SUV, including the old corporate “V-Motion” grille bar, resembling more a letter “U” flanked by dark lattice;

Exaggerated half-moon fenders meld with the upper fascia; Contrasting dark plastic lower fascia gets a pseudo skid plate look; A slab-sided cab gets a wispy character cheat line; A thin plastic strip spoiler sits atop the tailgate appearing supported by a large dark cladding integrating insignia, release handle and camera lens.

Crank windows, manual door locks, air conditioning, FM/AM 4-speaker Audio with CD/ Aux/ streaming audio

Also standard: Dual sun-visors without mirrors; Tilt & telescoping perforated simulated leather steering wheel w, spoke mount audio & Bluetooth controls; Cruise control; Retracting overhead eyeglass bin; Upper & lower glove boxes.

Acceptable safety feature set & ratings:

6 airbags (incl. side curtains), Rear view camera w/ park guidance grid. -1 Sealed beam halogen headlamps aren’t so great at illuminating a dark country road.

 

Prefer to Have & Make Life Easier Behind the Wheel:

Bluetooth hands-free phone & audio connectivity

Dial controlled infotainment audio display: 5″-inch color LCD;

Siri Eyes Free, SMS Text Messaging

USB x 2 ports, 12V x 3 power ports

Dual front/ dual rear cup holders, door pocket bottle holders

 

Nice To Have But Can Live Without:

NOTHING – this is as base a configuration as can be specified!

 

Which to Skip, Which to Pick:

It’s a whopping $3600 for the 5-speed automatic; For an extra $4300 those power door lock/ window niceties & 16″ wheels can be had with the SV trim; Another $4000 buys 4-wheel drive;  If a crew cab is necessary, in 4×2 guise that runs $4500 more: but at least that’s powered by the more potent 4.0L V6.

Any base configuration mid-size pickup is a property management service / auto parts delivery special. Yeah it stinks that a factory spray-in bed liner isn’t available on anything less than pricier V6 trims. But for $21,115 w/ destination fees, the base S trim it will get the job done.

Shopping Tips:

1) When possible, locate an outgoing model year vehicle. They come with greater manufacturer sale and lease incentives.

2) Do Your Homework.” Scour manufacturer websites for “Rebates“, “Incentives” or “Special Offers.”

3) Be flexible on options and colors. Be willing to consider what other consumers might readily pass on.