The 2000 Nissan Frontier Crew Cab is the first small pickup with four regular doors, and a five-passenger cabin with a forward-facing rear seat. Though the bed is smaller than the Frontier King Cab, the Crew Cab offers a unique combination of SUV-like comfort and pickup-like utility.
More interior room, less cargo area
Though crew cabs are nothing new – full-size, domestic Crew Cab pickups have been available for years – the Nissan Frontier Crew Cab is significant because it’s the first COMPACT crew cab pickup. At the moment, it’s the only small pickup with four, standard-size, front-hinged doors, and a five-passenger interior with a forward-facing rear bench seat.
The Frontier Crew Cab differs from traditional crew cabs in another way – it’s more of a personal-use vehicle than a commercial vehicle. Its small size and comfortable, sedan-like interior allows it to be driven daily in an urban environment.
Though about the same overall length as the Frontier King Cab (extended cab), the Crew Cab’s passenger cabin is longer and the bed is shorter. Rear passengers benefit most from the Crew Cab’s extended cabin length. The 3-passenger rear seat faces forwards rather than sideways, and is much more comfortable than the tiny jump seats found in most extended cab pickups. I sat in the back seat and found rear legroom to be ‘just adequate’ for an adult and headroom to be ‘more than adequate’.
The seatback is rather upright but still satisfactory, and there are two standard height-adjustable rear head restraints – an important safety feature because of the proximity of the passenger’s heads to the rear window glass. Safety tether hooks for a rear child seat are standard.
Getting in and out of the Crew Cab’s rear seat is much easier than with the King Cab, or for that matter, with any small pickup with two rear-hinged door panels. Pickups with rear door panels don’t have outside door handles and the panels can’t be opened until the front doors are opened. As well, the Frontier’s traditional rear doors have wind-down rear windows whereas extended cab pickups do not.
The primary disadvantage of the Crew Cab’s longer cabin is a shorter bed. The Crew Cab’s bed is 1430 mm (56.3 in.) in length – that’s 465 mm (18.3 in.) shorter than the bed of the Frontier King Cab. However, a very clever piece of optional equipment helps extend the bed to the same length as the King Cab. A tubular ‘bed extender’ in the cargo area flips over on top of the lowered tailgate to provide a longer bed. A great idea!
The Crew Cab’s bed has dividers for vertical or horizontal load dividers, bed hooks for tie-downs, and a removeable tailgate. Nissan is also developing accessories such as a lockable tonneau cover and roof-rack for skis, bikes and snowboards.
In Canada, Frontier Crew Cabs with two-wheel-drive and four-wheel-drive are offered in two trim levels, XE and SE. All Frontier Crew Cab’s have a standard 3.3 litre V6 engine rated at 170 horsepower and 200 lbs-ft of torque. Equipped with a standard 5-speed manual transmission, the Crew Cab can tow up to 1588 kg (3500 lb), but with an optional 4-speed automatic transmission, the Crew Cab can tow up to 2268 kg (5000 lb.) According to Nissan, that’s more horsepower and towing capability than the Ford Ranger XLT or Explorer 4-Door XLT equipped with their standard V6 powerplants. Payload ratings were not available at press time.
The Crew Cab 4X4’s part-time four-wheel-drive system has automatic locking front hubs and shift-on-the-fly capability up to 80 km/h. A rear, limited-slip differential is standard, and brakes are front disc/rear drums with standard 4-wheel ABS.
The manufacturer’s suggested retail price of the 4X2 XE Crew Cab is $24,998 and the 4X4 is $27,998. Standard equipment on 4X2 XE models includes the 3.3 litre V6 engine, 5-speed manual transmission, cloth upholstery with front bucket seats and centre console and armrest, power steering, air conditioning, privacy glass on the rear windows, AM/FM/cassette stereo system with six speakers, 15 inch tires, and skid plates for the fuel tank and engine.
Standard safety features include dual front airbags, height-adjustable front shoulder belts with pretensioners, front crumple zones, and key lockout protection. Outboard passengers have three-point seatbelts and head restraints, however the middle rear passenger has a lap belt and no head restraint.
SE models add AM/FM/CD/cassette with 100 watt amplifier and six speakers, power door locks with remote entry and panic alarm, power mirrors, power windows with automatic driver’s-side down, variable intermittent wipers, pop-up sunroof with removeable sunshade, and sliding rear window.
SE Crew Cabs also have standard side step rails, chrome grille and bumpers, front fog lights, 255/65/R-16 inch tires and full-size spare, and colour-keyed fender flares.
The Crew Cab is built in Smyrna, Tennesse alongside the Frontier King Cab and Xterra. This plant has a good reputation for quality. Frontier’s won J.D. Power and Associates Initial Quality Award in 1998.
Nissan’s Marketing Department believes the Crew Cab will appeal to middle-income families with children under 12 who want enough interior room for the family, but who also want an open bed for carrying skis, bikes, fishing and camping equipment, as well as ‘dirty’ stuff like soil, trash, and gardening supplies. Nissan thinks many Crew Cab buyers will cross over from small sport-utility vehicles and small minivans.
As the truck market continues to evolve into smaller niches, hybrid vehicles like the Frontier Crew Cab will certainly find new buyers. Priced well under $30,000, it will likely appeal to those looking for a cheaper alternative to an SUV.
Personally, the more I think about the Frontier Crew Cab, the more it makes practical sense – even if it looks odd!