Compact and midsize pickup trucks are finally becoming popular. That's good news for Japanese manufacturers since that's the type of truck they've long specialized in. If you're primarily concerned with capability you'll probably be looking at a full-size light duty or heavy duty pickup, so let's look at the relative attributes that might make you choose a 2018 Nissan Frontier or a Toyota Tacoma instead.
2018 Nissan Frontier vs Toyota Tacoma
Desirability: Nissan Frontier
This is a tough category because these two are very different trucks except for their category. The Tacoma is achingly modern and almost futuristic as a result of its recent redesign, but it still looks a lot more like a Japanese pickup than a smaller domestic full-size model.
The Frontier certainly isn't a recent design, but its staying power is testament to its enduring appeal. The look is chunky, muscular, familiar, and much more like a domestic model than the Toyota. That's why we'd choose it over the more futuristic style of the Tacoma.
Cabin roominess: Nissan Frontier
Despite being a bigger truck than the Frontier on the outside, those sitting inside the Tacoma sadly won't feel the benefit of the greater exterior dimensions. You'll get a little more width inside the Tacoma, but that only comes into play when carrying three people in the back.
There's more head room for both the front and rear seat passengers in the Frontier, while leg room is better in back of the Nissan but better in the front of the Toyota. It's a close call, but it's a narrow victory here for the Nissan.
Power and performance: Toyota Tacoma
The standard engine in the Nissan Frontier is a 2.5-liter inline four producing 152 horsepower, but the majority of buyers will spring for the 4.0-liter V-6 that puts 261 horsepower at their disposal. Both manual and automatic transmissions are available, and the Pro-4X has a locking rear differential that offers outstanding off-road capability at the touch of a button.
The base engine in the Toyota is a 2.7-liter inline-four that develops a little more power than its Nissan rival, and the 3.5-liter V-6 option in the Tacoma is also a little more powerful than the Frontier's V-6. The Toyota can also be incredibly capable off-road, so the extra power gives it the edge for performance.
Value: Nissan Frontier
The fuel economy ratings of these too are pretty similar, but you will find more standard features in the Toyota. However, you certainly do pay for those standard features with MSRPs that are quite a bit higher than those of the Frontier.
For the same price as the entry level Tacoma, you can have a new Frontier SV King Cab automatic with the V-6 engine. The Frontier might not be as cutting-edge as the Tacoma, but a starting price for the Nissan that's over $6,000 less than, the Toyota is hard to choose.
Learn More about the Nissan Frontier
If the prices were closer it would be easy to make a case for buying the Toyota Tacoma over the 2018 Nissan Frontier. But they're not close, and not even in the same ballpark really. If you're going to go much above the entry level Tacoma you're getting into the kind of prices that full-size trucks ask. The 2018 Nissan Frontier is tough, reliable, proven, capable, and outstanding value for money, which is why it's our choice of the two.