Midsize pickup truck buyers are some of the most brand-loyal vehicle owners around. Still, not all buyers demand an American nameplate. For some, choosing a midsize rig involves more than devotion to a blue oval, a bow tie, or a ram’s head. These buyers look at the whole category of truck models, considering and comparing not just the usual players but outliers like the 2023 Nissan Frontier vs 2023 Toyota Tacoma. Stepping back to consider all available models unlocks benefits some other buyers miss out on.
The 2023 Nissan Frontier earns accolades for its attention to cabin comfort and amenities. Fresh off a recent redesign, its exterior styling favors a traditionally boxy truck profile. The simple four-trim lineup delineates budget-friendly options from capable off-roaders, and Nissan’s generous list of standard Infotainment and safety technology adds to the Frontier’s appeal as a daily driver. All trims share the same powerful V6 engine, but buyers can choose from rear-wheel drive or four-wheel drive, depending on their needs and lifestyle.
Toyota’s best-selling pickup, the midsize Tacoma, doesn’t come close to the Frontier’s performance ratings without an engine upgrade that adds substantially to its price tag. The busy seven-trim lineup complicates the selection process, requiring shoppers to take a deep dive into each option’s standard and available features. Still, the 2023 Toyota Tacoma remains a popular choice in the midsize segment for its toughness and straightforward styling. Despite the Tacoma’s advantages, let’s see why buyers looking for the most features at a low price have focused on the Frontier.
Base Model Brawl: Frontier S vs Tacoma SR
While the Tacoma SR has a slightly lower MSRP than the base Frontier S, its standard four-cylinder engine sputters out at a paltry 159 hp and 180 lb-ft of torque. Compare that to the Frontier’s hearty 3.8L DOHC V6, standard on all Frontier models, which delivers almost twice the horsepower, at 310 ponies, and 281 lb-ft of torque. The optional Tacoma V6 engine upgrade, which adds thousands to its price tag, still falls short, delivering just 278 horsepower and 265 lb-ft of torque.
In the cabin, a 7.0-inch touchscreen with minimal functionality is waiting in the Tacoma SR. The 2023 Frontier S, on the other hand, includes an 8.0-inch Infotainment touchscreen. Both trucks offer standard smartphone integration via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, but if you want Toyota’s optional 8.0-inch screen, you’ll have to upgrade to a more expensive trim. Cabin comforts and convenience features that come standard in the Frontier S include remote keyless entry and a push-button start. If you want such tech on your Tacoma SR, prepare to spend more because they’re only available with an extra-cost add-on package.
Choosing a Toyota Tacoma means you’re grabbing a pickup that’s at the end of its generational life. Toyota hasn’t redesigned the Tacoma since 2016, which means many of the truck’s features aren’t up to modern standards. Critics have pointed out that the Tacoma’s cabin seems dated, with aging colors and abundant use of cheap, hard plastics. Meanwhile, the Frontier received a complete ground-up redesign last year, entering its third generation with an all-new exterior and upgraded safety and tech features throughout.
What About the Last Model Year of an Old Generation?
Because the Tacoma is at the end of its current generation, many buyers might shy away from it in favor of a fresher model like the 2023 Nissan Frontier. In most cases, waiting for the newest generation makes sense. Safety and connectivity tech is current, styling reflects the latest trends and buyer preferences, and small issues, like persistent mechanical hiccups or other quirks that promote recurring customer complaints, can be addressed.
Still, the first model year of a new generation typically leads to more demand. Manufacturers like Nissan spend a great deal on marketing to generate interest and drive sales early in the new model’s release. That might mean dealers are less interested in making deals, which means you might be stuck paying full price or having to settle for a version that isn’t in your preferred color or trim configuration due to low inventory.
Buying the last model year of an outgoing generation can make sense when that model is being offered with a rebate or at a discount. Dealers may want to clear out old inventory to make way for the upgraded version. Demand may slow down, which could lead to markdowns or better lease rate programs. Also, many buyers shy away from grabbing the first year’s entrant after a redesign, since the newest generation is unproven. Still, going with an older model typically means missing out on new tech and features that you might later wish you had.
Making the Case for the 2023 Nissan Frontier
Best-in-class horsepower ratings aside, there are plenty of reasons to choose a 2023 Nissan Frontier over the aging Toyota Tacoma. First, Nissan includes its Nissan Safety Shield 360 driver-assist safety suite on all trims. Nissan Safety Shield 360 includes Intelligent Forward Collision Warning, a unique system that expands on traditional crash warning systems by using on-board radar to monitor and detect the distance between not one but two cars ahead, and alerts the driver when it senses either or both vehicles’ speed has suddenly changed.
The Frontier can tow up to 6,720 lbs–more than the Tacoma–yet remains exceptionally fuel-efficient, with an estimated 18 MPG in the city and 24 MPG on the highway (two-wheel drive) or 17 MPG in the city and 22 MPG on the highway (four-wheel drive). PRO-X and PRO-4X trims add Bilstein off-road shock absorbers, all-terrain tires, skid plates to protect critical vehicle components, and tow hooks. PRO-4X buyers also receive an electronic locking rear differential for extra traction when off-roading or tackling challenging terrain. Standard Hill Descent Control rounds out the Frontier 4×4 trims’ long list of capability features.
As for technology, the Frontier trim someone selects dictates the size of the Infotainment screen, but all Frontier trims are outfitted with the same class-leading 7.0-inch Driver Information Center. Upper trims come standard with a massive 9.0-inch touchscreen. Nissan offers an optional 10-speaker Fender premium audio system, a 360-degree camera system that the automaker calls an Intelligent Around View Monitor, and Wi-Fi Hotspot functionality that can be activated with a Nissan Connect subscription.
Because it’s a Nissan, buyers can expect the over-the-top comfort of the Frontier’s standard Zero Gravity seats. Other interior appointments include an available heated steering wheel, heated front seats, and tons of innovative (and useful) storage spaces and cubbies. Buyers can choose from two different lengths with either a short or long cargo bed, allowing for plenty of customization to suit different lifestyles and even families not interested in an SUV.
2023 Nissan Frontier Boosts the Midsize Truck Segment
Among the popular midsize pickups, the 2023 Frontier represents the freshest take on a rig with small enough dimensions to make it practical for any driver. Whether someone’s plans take them deep in the mountains every weekend, or they’re more of an urbanite looking to make a statement when parked in the driveway, the Frontier is at home in a multitude of environments. Nimble and parkable, capable on the trails, and upscale enough to make commuting less of a chore, the newest Frontier wins big on wide buyer appeal.
Should buyers rule out the aging 2023 Toyota Tacoma? Not necessarily. Tacoma fans remain loyal to the minimalist rig despite its out-of-style exterior and cabin. Those craving a little technology with their trucks should keep in mind that the Tacoma is one of the only new models that doesn’t come with Wi-Fi hotspot capability. Still, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are available, along with an optional wireless charger. Depending on the trim, the Tacoma can be had with a 7.0- or 8.0-inch Infotainment touchscreen for general ease of use.
Big things are ahead for the upcoming 2024 Toyota Tacoma, but Toyota has its work cut out for it–the 2023 Nissan Frontier is worlds ahead, especially when it comes to raw power. On that point alone, buyers should think twice about choosing a 2023 Tacoma over the 2023 Frontier; after all, with great power comes a great time on the road. Who wants less than 200 horsepower when you can tap into the 310 horses present on the Frontier’s standard V6? That’s going to make the decision easy for a lot of drivers and I can’t blame them. Maybe next year Toyota will have a strong contender, but for now, the Nissan Frontier is the clear frontrunner.