Mid-Size Truck Matchup: Toyota Tacoma vs. Nissan Frontier

Mid-Size Truck Matchup: Toyota Tacoma vs. Nissan Frontier

The mid-size truck segment is a battleground for drivers who want the capability of a truck without the cumbersome size of a full-size pickup. Two titans in this arena are the Toyota Tacoma and the Nissan Frontier. Both have a loyal following and boast strong reputations for durability and off-road prowess. But which one is right for you? This comprehensive guide will break down the key factors to consider when choosing between the Toyota Tacoma and the Nissan Frontier.

Engine Performance and Capability

The Nissan Frontier comes standard with a single engine option – a 3.8-liter V6 producing 310 horsepower and 281 lb-ft of torque. This engine delivers strong acceleration and impressive towing capacity, hauling up to 6,720 pounds when properly equipped. The Toyota Tacoma offers a choice of two engines: a 2.7-liter four-cylinder churning out 159 horsepower and 180 lb-ft of torque, and a 3.5-liter V6 generating 278 horsepower and 265 lb-ft of torque. While the Tacoma V6 boasts more horsepower than the Frontier's standard engine, its towing capacity falls short at a maximum of 6,800 pounds.

When it comes to fuel efficiency, the Tacoma edges out the Frontier. The four-cylinder Tacoma delivers an estimated 20 mpg city and 23 mpg highway, while the V6 nets 19 mpg city and 22 mpg highway. The Frontier, with its sole V6 option, gets an estimated 17 mpg city and 22 mpg highway.

Off-Road Prowess

Both trucks offer off-road-focused trims with features to tackle challenging terrain. The Tacoma TRD Pro comes equipped with FOX shocks, a crawl control system for maintaining a steady pace over rough surfaces, and a locking rear differential for improved traction. The Nissan Frontier Pro-4X boasts Bilstein off-road shocks, a locking rear differential, and an electronic locking front differential for enhanced grip.

Toyota Tacoma

Ground clearance is another factor to consider for off-roading. The Tacoma TRD Pro offers 9.4 inches of ground clearance, while the Frontier Pro-4X provides 9.8 inches. This slight edge for the Frontier can make a difference when navigating rocky trails and uneven surfaces.

Interior Comfort and Technology

The interiors of both trucks have seen significant improvements in recent years. The Tacoma offers a comfortable cabin with user-friendly controls. However, some reviewers find the design to be a bit bland compared to competitors. The Frontier's interior boasts a more modern aesthetic with a user-friendly infotainment system. Notably, the Frontier offers a standard 8-inch touchscreen display with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, while the base Tacoma comes with a smaller 6.1-inch touchscreen that requires upgrading for smartphone integration.

Technology features are becoming increasingly important in trucks, and both the Tacoma and Frontier offer a range of driver-assistance options. The Tacoma comes standard with Toyota Safety Sense 2.0, which includes features like automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, and adaptive cruise control. The Frontier offers Nissan Safety Shield 360, featuring similar functionalities. However, some of the more advanced features in the Tacoma, such as blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert, are not standard on the Frontier.

Cargo Capacity and Versatility

Both trucks come in various cab configurations, including Double Cab (Tacoma) or King Cab (Frontier) with jump seats and Crew Cab offering maximum passenger space. Bed lengths are also comparable, with both trucks offering options for a short bed or a long bed. The Frontier's bed boasts a wider design, offering a slight advantage for hauling bulkier cargo. Additionally, the Frontier's innovative Utili-track system provides removable tie-down points for securing cargo in the bed.

Nissan Frontier

Reliability and Resale Value

Toyota has a well-deserved reputation for building reliable vehicles, and the Tacoma is no exception. The Tacoma consistently ranks high in reliability surveys, and its resale value is excellent. The redesigned Frontier is still relatively new, so long-term reliability data is limited. However, Nissan has a history of building dependable trucks, and the Frontier is expected to be a strong contender in this category.


The starting MSRP for the Nissan Frontier is slightly lower than the Toyota Tacoma. However, the actual price you pay will depend on the specific trim level, options, and dealer negotiations. It's important to factor in the total cost of ownership, including fuel efficiency and maintenance costs, when making your decision.

The Verdict: Choosing Your Champion

The choice between the Toyota Tacoma and the Nissan Frontier ultimately comes down to your priorities. Here's a quick breakdown to help you decide:

  • Choose the Tacoma if: You prioritize fuel efficiency, a wider range of engine options, a proven track record of reliability and resale value, and a more extensive suite of standard safety features.
  • Choose the Frontier if: You prioritize raw power and towing capacity, a more modern and comfortable interior with a larger standard touchscreen, a wider cargo bed with the innovative Utili-track system, and a slightly lower starting price.

Test Drive and Decide

It's crucial to test drive both trucks before making your final decision. Spend time behind the wheel, evaluate the comfort and visibility of each cabin, and see how the trucks handle your typical driving situations. Consider your off-road needs, cargo hauling requirements, and desired technology features. By carefully weighing these factors and taking advantage of test drives, you can confidently choose the mid-size truck that best suits your lifestyle and needs.

Nissan Frontier

Additional Considerations

Beyond the core factors discussed, here are some additional points to ponder:

  • Availability: Due to ongoing supply chain issues, availability of both trucks can vary depending on your location. Research local dealerships to see which truck is readily available.
  • Brand Loyalty: If you have a strong preference for a particular brand or have positive past experiences with Toyota or Nissan dealerships, that can influence your decision.
  • Future Plans: If you plan on keeping the truck for a long time, the Tacoma's legendary resale value might be a significant factor.


The mid-size truck segment boasts a variety of compelling options, and both the Toyota Tacoma and the Nissan Frontier are strong contenders. By understanding their strengths and weaknesses, you can make an informed decision and select the truck that will faithfully serve you for years to come.

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