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2012 Toyota Tacoma vs. 2012 Nissan Frontier – A Comparison – Part 1

The entry-level pickup truck field is one that is rapidly changing, with the end of production for the Ford Ranger and new the Chevrolet Colorado on the horizon. It is looking more and more like two trucks in particular will continue their battle for supremacy in this segment of the market: the 2012 Toyota Tacoma and the 2012 Nissan Frontier.

2012 Tacoma vs. 2012 Frontier

An in-depth look at the 2012 Toyota Tacoma and 2012 Nissan Frontier.

Each of these trucks adopts a similar philosophy when it comes to meeting the needs of compact to mid-size truck fans. Let’s take a side-by-side look at these two warriors and see how the Tacoma and the Frontier fare when directly compared.

ENGINE

Both the 2012 Toyota Tacoma and the 2012 Nissan Frontier start out with a four-cylinder base motor. When comparing the two it really comes down to a question of torque – the Toyota’s slightly larger 2.7-liter unit grinds out 180 lb-ft versus the 171 lb-ft in the 2.5-liter Nissan offering. The difference is not that noticeable, however, especially when paired with the almost identical horsepower ratings (Tacoma: 159, Frontier: 152).

2012 Toyota Tacoma Engine

2012 Toyota Tacoma V-6 Engine

When it comes to fuel mileage, however, the Tacoma dominates. Despite offering 0.2 liters of additional displacement and more power and torque, the Toyota truck’s 21-mpg city / 25-mpg rating is two miles per gallon better for each respective measure than the rating afforded the Nissan (when both are ordered in two-wheel drive/manual transmission form). More power and better fuel mileage? Yes, please.

2012 Nissan Frontier Engine

2012 Nissan Frontier Engine

Putting the available V6 engines for each of the mid-size trucks side-by-side is a different story. Both are 4.0-liter motors, yet the Nissan Frontier manages to squeeze 261 horses and 281 lb-ft of torque out of its entry – a significant improvement over the 236 horsepower and 266 lb-ft of torque delivered by the Tacoma’s engine. While the fuel mileage is a wash (15-mpg city / 19-mpg highway versus 15-mpg city / 20-mpg highway) the power advantage for the Frontier is a clear advantage.

Winner: For those looking to stick with the base motor, the more efficient and slightly more powerful Tacoma four-cylinder takes the cake. For anyone who needs all the grunt they can get, the Frontier holds all of the cards. Looks like a draw to us.

TRANSMISSION

When it comes to comparing the gearboxes offered by the Tacoma and the Frontier, the roles are somewhat reversed. While each four-cylinder model can be had with a standard five-speed automatic transmission, the optional automatic provided by Toyota for its smallest engine offers only four forward gears. The Nissan five-speed unit is clearly the better choice for those interested in an automatic tranny.

The V6 engines are a wash, as each can be had with either a six-speed manual or a five-speed automatic transmission.

Winner: Based on the lack of a five-speed automatic across its entire engine lineup, this round must also go to the Frontier – but if you are interested in a V6 pickup, this one ends in a tie.

In Part II of our comparison, we’ll take a look at the brakes and the off-road capabilities of these two combatants.

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