2012 Toyota Tacoma vs. 2012 Nissan Frontier – A Comparison – Part 3

The third and final article in our three-piece comparison of the 2012 Toyota Tacoma and the 2012 Nissan Frontier has us looking at two of the most important aspects of a pickup truck’s design:  its payload and towing capabilities.

2012 Toyota Tacoma vs. 2012 Nissan Frontier - Part 3

2012 Toyota Tacoma vs. 2012 Nissan Frontier - A Comparison - Part 3


The 2012 Toyota Tacoma comes with two different bed lengths, with most trucks making use of a six-foot long cargo area.  The exception is the Double Cab, which has an extended passenger compartment that requires the installation of a smaller five-foot bed.  The base Tacoma payload capacity, for the four-cylinder, six-foot box truck is rated at a hefty 1,350 lbs.

2012 Tacoma cargo bed.

Interestingly, since it’s not possible to order a V6 engine in the regular cab, choosing a larger engine can actually reduces the Tacoma’s max payload.  Although the entry-level Access Cab model with the six-cylinder engine can haul 1,415 lbs, the top of the line shortbox Double Cab Tacoma drops down to 1,260 lbs of maximum payload.  The difference has to do largely with the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) for the truck, which is affected by the mass of the passenger compartment and the engine / transmission weights.

2012 Frontier cargo bed.

The 2012 Nissan Frontier doesn’t offer a regular cab model, but it still provides the choice of five or six-foot boxes on both King and Crew Cab editions.  The four-cylinder truck doesn’t quite match the Tacoma in terms of payload, with 976 lbs available in the base model, while the V6 Frontier maxes out at 1,565 lbs in two-wheel drive trim.

Winner: The base Tacoma drubs the Frontier by nearly 400 lbs of payload capacity, while the V6 Nissan bests the equivalent Toyota by only 150 lbs.  We’ll give this one to the Tacoma, as its four-cylinder hauling capabilities and the availability of a regular cab chassis make it a solid workhorse option.


The GWVR for the Tacoma also informs its towing capacity, giving the four-cylinder edition of the mid-size truck a standard rating of 3,500 lbs.  The V6 Tacoma can be configured to handle an impressive 6,500 lbs being hauled behind it.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, given it’s nearly identical power output, the four-cylinder Frontier can also two 3,500 lbs.  The more powerful V6, however, matches the Tacoma’s maximum tow capacity of 6,500 lbs, indicating that the Toyota chassis might play a larger role in its ability to pull a trailer than what’s under the hood.

Winner: The tow ratings of these two trucks are the very definition of a tie.


Based on the criteria we’ve evaluated so far, it looks as though both the 2012 Toyota Tacoma and the 2012 Nissan Frontier are both excellent mid-size truck options that are essentially within spitting distance of each other in terms of capabilities and features.  In fact, only three categories didn’t end in a tie, with the Tacoma enjoying a win for payload and off-road (with the latter based on the availability of a 4×4 option for four-cylinder models).  The Frontier got the nod for offering a five-speed auto with its base engine over the four-speed provided by the four-cylinder Tacoma.

It’s safe to say that it would be hard to go wrong choosing either of these pickups based on their excellent all-around performance.

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