in 2009 Compact Pickup Trucks

Avg. Price Paid: $10,577 - $19,771
Original MSRP: $17,460 - $29,740
MPG: 19 City / 23 Hwy
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2009 Nissan Frontier Performance

This performance review was created when the car was new. Some links may no longer point to an active page.

Test drivers are impressed with the Nissan's performance attributes, and say the truck manages to combine terrific off-road capability with composed on-road ride and handling.

  • "The 2009 Nissan Frontier handles and rides better than some sedans." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "On a curvy mountain road, it is composed, communicative, and even a little bit fun. Like the Titan, it drives better than expected for a truck." -- Car and Driver

Acceleration and Power

The Nissan Frontier is available with two engines. The King Cab's XE engine is a 2.5-liter, four-cylinder with 152 horsepower and 171 pound-feet of torque. The SE, NISMO and LE trims for both King and Crew Cab have a 4.0-liter V6 engine with 261 horsepower and 281 pound-feet. The base model has a five-speed manual transmission, but Frontiers also come with a six-speed manual or a five-speed automatic transmission, depending on the engine.

Most reviewers disregard the XE's four-cylinder engine. The majority tested the 4.0-liter V6 engine, and were pleased with its power. The Environmental Protection Agency rates the four-cylinder Frontier at 19 miles per gallon in the city and 23 mpg on highways with the manual transmission. With an automatic, the EPA rates the Frontier at 17 mpg on city streets, 22 mpg cruising highways. The EPA rates a Nissan Frontier using the V6 engine and all-wheel drive and an automatic transmission at 14 mpg in the city and 19 mpg on highways. The Frontier does slightly better with a manual transmission, 15 mpg in the city and 19 mpg for the highway. Mileage is also better if you pair the V6 with front-wheel drive. The EPA rates the Frontier at 15 mpg in the city and 20 mpg on highways with the automatic transmission, and at 16 mpg in the city and 20 mpg on highways using the stick shift.

  • "The Frontier's four-cylinder models make it a fair choice as an inexpensive light-duty work truck, especially considering higher fuel prices. However, for those who need anything above "just getting around," the V6 is really the only choice." -- Edmunds
  • "The engine provides neck-snapping acceleration on demand, with gobs of usable torque across the powerband and in every gear." -- Four Wheeler
  • "V6 models are strong from a stop and around town, especially the lighter King Cabs. The automatic transmission kicks down quickly for good midrange passing punch." -- Consumer Guide
  • "With 261 horsepower and 281 pound-feet of torque, this 4.0-liter variant of the acclaimed engine found in the company's 350Z, Maxima and Infiniti G37 might be the smoothest, strongest V6 engine ever put in a pickup." -- Kelley Blue Book

Handling and Braking

Reviewers tend to be big fans of the Frontier's handling. Whether buyers choose a smoother experience with the basic suspension set up or go for more off-roading ability, most reviewers say the Frontier feels solid.

  • "The truck performed flawlessly, offering a compliant and controlled ride throughout by soaking up bumps and easily managing steep hill climbs comprised of loose and pebbled dirt." -- PickupTrucks.com
  • "Nicely balanced for a pickup truck. The steering feels weighty and direct, but is slow to react in tight U-turns and parking spots. Body lean is evident in corners but well-controlled, and Frontier never feels tippy." -- Consumer Guide
  • "On a curvy mountain road, it is composed, communicative, and even a little bit fun. Like the Titan, it drives better than expected for a truck." -- Car and Driver
  • "The 2009 Nissan Frontier handles and rides better than some sedans." -- Kelley Blue Book


While Nissan has changed the name of the Frontier's off-roading trim from NISMO to Pro-4x, reviewers report that the truck's rugged capabilities haven't changed at all.

  • "And while the name has changed, it's thankfully still the same terrific grab-bag of Nismo goodies we've tested and loved in the past: Bilstein high-pressure shocks, pushbutton rear locking diff, full underbody skidplating, and 75-series BFGoodrich Rugged Trail tires on newly designed 16-inch alloy rims... . We tested both systems recently on an '09 model, and they're both quite effective, though the solenoid-happy Descent Control is a little "poppy" and loud-it works just fine once you get used to it, though." -- Four Wheeler
  • "The Frontier has great approach and departure angles, and the underbody mechanicals and precious parts are tucked up into the frame rails for a minimum of 8.9 inches (in the four-wheel-drive Frontier) or 8.6 inches (rear-wheel drive) of running ground clearance on PRO-4X models." -- PickupTrucks.com
  • "Our long test drive concluded with some serious rock-crawling on a Texas ranch, which, thanks in large part to its stiff frame and powerful engine, the Frontier negotiated effortlessly." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "Frontier 4x4 models are capable off-roaders, thanks to a maximum ground clearance of 10.1 inches and an abundance of suspension travel. For those seeking an even more accomplished off-road ride, the PRO-4X model is definitely the pick of the litter." -- Edmunds

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