Frontier Pro-4X 4×4: small truck with big performance

Mid-size pickup trucks have become an almost endangered specie, at least in the US. Truck makers like Ford, GM and RAM are trying to drive their business to full-size models. Their logic is that, by discontinuing their mid-size vehicles here and offering full- size models at competitive rates, they can still keep their loyal brand followers in the fold.

The face that the Toyota Tacoma and Nissan Frontier are still enormously popular within their market segment shows that there is still a strong market for these little workhorses. I agree. When a vehicle like the 2012 Nissan Pro-4 4×4 pickup is available well equipped at about $29,000, it still piques my attention. (By the way, it also fits in my 30-year-old garage, and that’s a plus.)

A lot of sport truck for under $30,000

The vehicle I tested was a short bed King Cab base priced at $28,870 with the addition of a sliding bed extender and hitch package along with some fancy logo floor mats and it topped out at $30,285. Not bad at all for a new truck with a 4-wd performance package that rocks off road.

The power plant is a very peppy 4.0L DOHC 24-valve V6 with 261hp at 5,600 rpm and 281 ft.-lb. of torque at 4,000 rpm. Tow capacity is 6,100 lbs. and payload of 1,200 lbs. meet the requirements for a wide range of sportsmen and women. It also boasted a 5-speed transmission, shift-on-the-fly 4wd system and 2-speed transfer case (4 hi/low). Wheels are 16-inch off-road machine alloy finish with BFGoodrich OEWL P265/75R16 Rugged Trail tires. A full-sized spare is included.

Power assisted rack-and-pinion steering made this truck a joy to drive, steer and park. With a 21-gallon fuel tank and mpg average of 16 (14 city/19 hwy) that adds up to pretty decent range.

Short bed/long performance

I personally like the exterior look of Nissan Trucks. They are robust looking without a lot of bulk and offer an appearance that begs to be used for work, sports or versatile family vehicle. They feature body collor on the front grille, outside mirrors and door handles, as well as both front and rear bumpers and all of the sheet metal. This approach gets a thumbs up almost universally, unless you are a chrome junkie. It features a factory-applied - bed liner and Nissan’s utili-trak channel system, bed rail caps adjustable tie-down cleats and the bed extender and removable storage box. This truck is well-equipped, as well as fun to drive.

Nice, clean interior

On the inside, the King Cab is well appointed, with  PRO-4X featuring a leather- wrapped steering wheel with special stitching, embroidered logo upholstery and carpeting and white face gauges. Seating up front is generous and roomy with bucket seats. The driver’s side has an 8-way manual with additional adjustable lumbar support. Front passenger seat folds down for extra carry space. The King Cab has small but adequate seating unless you are planning for a long-distance drive. It also has secure storage since the rear seats flip up and there is a removable storage box.

Embroidered logo

Gauges are easy to read and their placement minimizes distraction. The technology package is a lot more than adequate with AM/FM/Satellite radio, 6-CD playback, and auxiliary input for MP3 use, Bluetooth hands-free phone integration and multi-function on-board computer. Audio controls are on the steering wheel and there are two 12-volt power outlets in the cab. This configuration does not include GPS, but I am a strong believer that the ones available for most SmartPhones (such as TelNav for the iPhone)are a great alternative to embedded GPS.

Center stack

There are five models of Nissan Frontier including 4×2, 4×4, King and Crew Cab versions. The Pro 4-X is a particular favorite for off-roading and sports-trucking.

It is worth noting for those who have about $10,000 to spend that AOL-Trucks recently named the 2004 Frontier 4X4 as a best buy for 10-grand. It is the model year before the style and feature upgrade that occurred in 2005, but it is still a mighty fine sports truck at a really rational price.  As with any used vehicle, be sure to have a reputable mechanice check this truck out before you commit, but it might be just the right thing for you.