Nissan Frontier vs Toyota Tacoma

Midsize Pickups

In the world of smallish trucks, the 2012 Toyota Tacoma & 2012 Nissan Frontier are the Japanese equivalent of the Chevy Silverado & Ford F-150. They’ve been around for decades, and they’re both tough as nails. If you don’t need a fullsize truck, then a midsize pickup is definitely the way to go. But domestic offerings like the 2012 Chevy Colorado & 2012 Ford Ranger can leave a LOT to be desired. So let’s have a look at these two popular haulers from the Land of the Rising Sun, and see which one reigns supreme.

2012 Toyota Tacoma

Toyota Tacoma

The 2012 Toyota Tacoma has grown a lot in the last decade. It used to be known as the Toyota Pickup, and it was a very ‘compact’ little truck. In 1995, Toyota’s little pick em’ up was completely redesigned for the first time in 300 years, and the name was changed from Pickup (it was called the Hilux in other markets) to Tacoma. The new truck was only slightly larger than the one it replaced, but it was still a huge improvement.

The much bigger 2012 Toyota Tacoma is now in its 7th year of production, but it’s recieved a few tweaks this year, to keep it current. There’s a new, more aggressive front end, the sea of silver plastic on the dash has been replaced with more dignified black trim. The steering wheel’s new, the gauges are new, and Toyota’s smartphone-based Entune infotainment system is now on the options list. While this might seem like a rather weak attempt at a mid-cycle refresh, the 2012 Toyota Tacoma doesn’t really need a lot of garnish to remain relevant in today’s market.

Part of the 2012 Toyota Tacoma ‘s staying power has to do with its toughness. It’s built from solid granite, and the engines could withstand torture from the Israeli Mossad. The Toyota Tacoma, and its predecessor, the Pickup/Hilux, have seen more combat duty than the Humvee and the Jeep combined. Guerilla fighters love them, armies love them, and our own U.S. Special Forces has been using bone-stock Toyota Tacomas in desert combat for years. They refuse to break, and they can go anywhere while toting a half-dozen soldiers, armed to the teeth. Can the Chevy Colorado claim that distinction? I think not.

In the U.S., buyers can outfit their 2012 Toyota Tacoma with either a 159-hp (180 lb-ft) 2.7 liter DOHC-4, or a 4.0 liter DOHC V6, that makes 236-hp & 266 lb-ft torque. And you can even get an optional TRD supercharger kit to boost the V6’s power to 304-hp & 334 lb-ft. Transmission choices are a 5-sp manual / 4-sp auto with the 4-pot, and a 6-sp manual / 5-sp auto with the V6. Gas mileage figures for the 2012 Toyota Tacoma are 19 city / 24 hwy / 21 combined for the 4-cyl/Auto/2wd, 18/21/19 for the 4-cyl/Auto/4wd, 17/21/19 for the V6/Auto/2wd, and 16/21/18 with the V6/Auto/4wd.

You can outfit your 2012 Toyota Tacoma with everything from 4-doors, and tube steps, to sport/off road suspension kits, and a bed-mounted 115v power outlet. Whatever you need your 2012 Toyota Tacoma to do, there’s a configuration to suit. Even if you want to fight the Taliban.

2012 Nissan Frontier

Nissan Frontier

Once known as the Nissan Hardbody, the 2012 Nissan Frontier is also a scrappy little fighter. It’s a wee bit smaller than the Tacoma, but it can tow 200 lbs more than the Yoda (6,500lbs vs. 6,300lbs), and it can carry slightly more payload too (1,481 lbs vs. 1,430 lbs). This mostly due to the 2012 Nissan Frontier’s fully-boxed frame, and the slightly more powerful 4.0 liter V6, which makes 261-hp.

On the road, the 2012 Nissan Frontier drives just a bit better than the Tacoma. But then, Nissan is known for making vehicles that drive really well. The interior’s on-par with the Yoda in terms of design, however, the seats in the Nissan are slightly more comfortable on a long journey. There’s no touchscreen infotainment system available on the 2012 Nissan Frontier, but then, you don’t really need that, now do you?

The base 2.5 liter 4-pot in the 2012 Nissan Frontier gives up a few ponies to the Tacoma, with just 152-hp. But the gas mileage is about the same across the board. You’ll see 19 city / 23 hwy / 21 combined with the 4cyl/5-sp auto/2wd, and 17/22/19 with the 4cyl/5-sp manual/2wd. The V6/AT/2wd gets 15/20/17, and the V6/Manual/2wd gets 16/20/17.

You can option your 2012 Nissan Frontier with the same sort of off-road, or fancy-pants option packages as the Tacoma. But there’s no speed-racer model (like the 2012 Toyota Tacoma X-Runner), and no factory supercharger kit either.

When you look at the Nissan Frontier vs Toyota Tacoma comparison overall, the 2012 Nissan Frontier gives you the same feeling of solidity that you get from the Yoda, and it’s just as capable too. So it really boils down to a question of taste. But remember, one of these trucks is a decorated combat veteran.

These two trucks are in the top 10 most affordable trucks! You can find the complete top 10 here.