The Nissan Frontier and Toyota Tacoma are the two best-selling Japanese pickup trucks in America. They might not be the biggest or most powerful pickup trucks around, but they’ve established a reputation as reliable workhorses which you can depend on for your trucking needs.
However, the question still remains: which one is a better buy right now? Let’s take a closer look at each of these pickups and compare them side-by-side.
Nissan Frontier vs Toyota Tacoma: Design
The Nissan Frontier is showing signs of age as Nissan haven’t given it any significant updates since 2005. While pickup trucks don’t receive updates as frequently as sedans or SUVs, the Frontier design feels dated even for a pickup truck. While the design doesn’t impact the vehicle’s utility, it’s not exactly exciting to have a 15 year old design parked in your garage.
The Toyota Tacoma, on the other hand, received a complete makeover in 2016. Its new design looks fresh and appropriately rugged. We’re definitely a bigger fan of the Toyota’s styling over the current iteration of the Frontier.
Nissan Frontier vs Toyota Tacoma: Interior and Size
Both the Nissan Frontier and Toyota Tacoma offer 2-door and 4-door variants. The 2-door variants have a seating capacity of 4 (access to the rear row via folding front seats) and have a larger 6-foot bed. 4-door variants can seat 5 but make do with a slightly smaller 5-foot bed.
Despite being slightly smaller on the exterior, the Nissan Frontier offers more passenger room. The 2-door ‘king cab’ models offer 92 cubic feet of interior passenger volume vs 85.6 cubic feet you get in the Access Cab Tacoma. Meanwhile, the 4-door ‘crew cab’ models offer 107 cubic feet of passenger volume, compared to 100.1 cubic feet offered by the Double Cab Toyota Tacoma.
Neither pickup truck has a particularly luxurious or inspiring interior. No luxury soft-touch materials here, just hard plastics. That being said, the Tacoma’s more recent update means its interior does feel more modern and well thought out.
There’s also a lack of new technology like Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, wireless charging or heads up displays. Options are also non-existent, save for leather seats on certain trims.
Nissan Frontier vs Toyota Tacoma: Hauling and Towing
When it comes to hauling and towing, the 2019 Nissan Frontier and the 2019 Toyota Tacoma are closely matched. The 2019 Nissan frontier can be had with either a 59.5-inch-long cargo bed or a 73.3-inch-long cargo bed, both of which are 61.4 inches wide and 18 inches deep.
The 2019 Toyota Tacoma, on the other hand, can be had with either a 60.5-inch-long cargo bed or a 73.7-inch-long cargo bed, and both cargo bed options are 56.7 inches wide and 19.1 inches deep.
The 2019 Frontier can handle payloads of up to 1,460 pounds while the 2019 Tacoma can handle payloads of up to 1,440 pounds. In terms of towing, the 2019 Frontier can tow up to 6,720 pounds when properly equipped, while the 2019 Tacoma can handle towing capacities of up to 6,800 pounds.
Nissan Frontier vs Toyota Tacoma: Powertrain
The 2019 Nissan Frontier and the 2019 Toyota Tacoma both have a lot to offer in the performance department.
The 2019 Nissan Frontier’s base engine is a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder gasoline engine rated at 152 horsepower and 171 lb.-ft. of torque. This engine delivers a fuel economy of 19 mpg in the city and 23 mpg on the highway (RWD models) and it pairs with either a 5-speed manual transmission or a 5-speed automatic.
The Frontier can also be had with a larger 4.0-liter V6 gasoline engine rated at 261 horsepower and 281 lb.-ft. of torque. This engine also pairs with a 6-speed manual or a 5-speed automatic transmission.
The base engine of the 2019 Toyota Tacoma is slightly larger; a 2.7-liter 4-cylinder gasoline engine rated at 159 horsepower and 180 lb.-ft. of torque.
It gets a slightly better fuel economy of 20 mpg city/23 mpg highway and it only pairs with a 6-speed automatic transmission—no manual.
Standard on the higher trim levels of the 2019 Tacoma is a larger 3.5-liter V6 engine rated at 278 horsepower and 265 lb.-ft. of torque. This engine can be had with a 6-speed manual or a 6-speed automatic transmission. Therefore, the 2019 Tacoma has the upper hand where power is concerned.
Nissan Frontier vs Toyota Tacoma: Price
If you are looking for the truck option which simply costs least, then look no further than the Nissan Frontier. Its base king cab S model starts at $19,090, which is currently the lowest starting price for a midsize pickup truck. The Frontier’s highest trim level – the crew cab SL, starts at $36,950.
The base SR model of the 2019 Toyota Tacoma, on the other hand, starts at $25,700, while its range-topping TRD Pro model gets a starting sticker price of $42,810.
Verdict: Toyota Tacoma
On the face of it there isn’t much that separates these two pickup trucks. Their mechanical specs are matched, and while the Toyota Tacoma has a more recent design and better interior, the Nissan Frontier significantly undercuts the Tacoma on cost.
However, there’s no doubt that the Tacoma enjoys a superior status on the market. It holds value better than almost any pickup truck around and its history stretches all the way back to 1995. If we had to pick one over the other, our vote goes to the Tacoma.