2012 Toyota Tacoma vs. 2012 Nissan Frontier: Which One Should I Buy?

The smaller truck category includes those vehicles for men (and women!) who just want to scoot around town but who are opposed to driving a small car and just prefer a truck. These relatively fuel-efficient vehicles offer little in the way of comfort or amenities, but they do make for a decent commuter truck or a truck for someone who will be hauling small loads and doesn’t need heavy towing power.

The Toyota Tacoma and the Nissan Frontier are small but mighty, offering a fair bit of room in the cab and decent horsepower to boot. Their 180 and 171 ft lbs of torque respectively provide a good bit of get up and go, and the RWD with a 5-speed transmission gives them extra oomph.

Nissan Frontier
2012 Nissan Frontier

Fuel Economy

While no small trucks in this category are stellar, the decent 21 and 19 mpg offered by these two entrants will not break the bank. The highway fuel economy of the 25 mpg Tacoma outstrips the 23 mpg for the Frontier but not by a stellar percentage. Both of these small trucks share a 21.1-gallon fuel capacity.

Interior and Technology Options

Where the Tacoma really shines is in the entertainment and technology features. An AM/FM stereo comes standard, as does the MP3 capability and an additional auxiliary input jack and speed-sensitive volume. The Frontier offers none of these choices, and the completely stripped-down version can’t even get these as options. The Frontier does offer additional cup holders as well as carpeted interior instead of rubber floor mats, but the manual windows and lack of an air filter make the Frontier a very basic offering indeed.

Safety and Security

Curtain airbags on both the first and second row are standard for the Frontier, making it slightly improved from a safety perspective. Both vehicles maintain halogen headlights, and adjustable height seatbelts, but the Tacoma adds on standard LED taillights, illuminated entry, low tire pressure warnings, traction control, auto-off exterior lights, and parking assist that the Frontier does not even have as optional. Door locks are manual on both of these small truck offerings, and occupancy sensors are available for the airbags on both trucks.

If you are looking for a basic, small truck then either of these options would be acceptable to most consumers. You will get a slightly more refined product if you go with the Toyota Tacoma.


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22 years of experience
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