Generally speaking, Japanese pickup trucks are not the same as our domestic models. They're often mid-size instead of full-size, look different, are built different, and target different buyers. Let's see how two of them shape up against each other by comparing the 2018 Nissan Frontier and the Honda Ridgeline.
Although the Honda is a more recent design than the Nissan, they're not as diverse in their styling as perhaps they should be. The Honda has a more slanted, car-like design to the front end while the Frontier is far more blocky and chunky. That probably makes the Nissan more attractive to American buyers as the more rugged and macho look of the Frontier is closer to the slab-fronted style of many of our domestic full-size models.
The Ridgeline is probably perfect for someone who really wants a crossover but needs a pickup, but the Frontier looks more like a truck and therefore takes the opening round.
Buyers have a choice of engine in the Nissan but not in with the Honda. Under the hood of the Frontier there's either a 2.5-liter inline-four or the 4.0-liter V-6 that's found in most models. The Honda sticks with just a V-6, a 3.5-liter unit developing 280 horsepower and 262 lb.-ft. of torque. That's more horsepower than the Nissan V-6, but the Frontier has 281 lb.-ft. of torque to the Ridgeline's 262 lb.-ft., and torque really matters when trucks are being pushed. So the choice of engine and the additional torque hands another victory to the Nissan.
Towing and Hauling Capability
Trucks can succeed or fail in the minds of buyers by how much they can tow and haul. This is another area where the crossover underpinnings of the Honda Ridgeline show, but not in a good way. The most the Honda can tow is just 5,000 pounds while the maximum payload is 1,569 pounds. Those numbers pale compared to the Nissan's 6,710-pound maximum tow rating and maximum payload capacity of 3,500 pounds.
A four-cylinder Frontier will be better on gas than a V-6 Ridgeline, right? Wrong, actually. The best numbers the Nissan can offer are 19 mpg in the city, 23 mpg on the highway and 21 mpg combined, but the V-6 Honda in front-drive format gets you 19 mpg in the city, 26 mpg on the highway and 22 mpg combined.
Anyone who thought the 2018 Nissan Frontier was a pickup that must be past its best by now needs to think again. It does everything you'd want from a pickup of this size, and for far less money than the Honda Ridgeline.