The Toyota Tacoma has been the best-selling mid-size pickup for a long time now. However, there is one company that has been paying close attention to Toyota’s work and that company is Nissan. It has been a couple of years now since the release of the new Nissan Frontier which is a vehicle that surprised many. It was a big improvement over the old and dated model that offered more comfort but also more off-road abilities.

When one has a close look at the specs, it is obvious that the Frontier is a very similar vehicle to the Tacoma. But does it manage to beat it? Well, in this article we are going to be comparing the two both on and off-road to find out.

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Tacoma And Frontier Both Rock Bold Styling

Toyota Tacoma off-roading
Shot of a Toyota Tacoma off-roading

When having a look at both the Frontier and the Tacoma, it is obvious that Nissan has took plenty of ideas from the Tacoma when designing their new truck. This makes sense, as the Tacoma is the best-selling mid-sized truck. From a design point of view, both the Tacoma and the Nissan look very cool and very similar. Their front ends have aggressive and angular headlights, a bulging hood, and a wide stance. The Frontier sits on slightly larger wheels that are 17 inches tall rather than the 16-inch ones found on the Tacoma; however, the design of the ones the Tacoma comes equipped with is arguably nicer.

2023 Nissan Frontier
Front profile shot of 2023 Nissan Frontier

At the rear, both trucks look equally similar, but the Frontier has a more up-to-date look thanks to its more modern-looking taillights.The bed on both vehicles is nearly identical with a power outlet in the exact same spot. So far, you can probably tell why we say that Nissan designers and engineers have been paying very close attention to the Tacoma while designing the Nissan.

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Interior Design

Toyota Tacoma interior
Shot of the 2023 Toyota Tacoma's dashboard

On the inside, the two vehicles compare in similar ways as from the outside. Features are again nearly identical with both offering luxuries like power seats, heated seats, a sunroof, rearview cameras, good infotainment systems, and wireless charging. It must be said that the Tacoma’s age is starting to show in areas like the rear-view camera where image quality isn’t good.

2023 Nissan Frontier Interior
Profile shot of 2023 Nissan Frontier interior

Furthermore, the instrument cluster on the Frontier features a more modern design with a larger screen. Both trucks offer nicely trimmed leather seats and an upright dashboard that looks purposeful and tough which fits their rugged adventure-ready character nicely.

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Performance And Capability

2023 Nissan Frontier
Side profile shot of 2023 Nissan Frontier parked on a rocky road

Just like previously, the drivetrains in both vehicles are similar; however, the older age of the Tacoma is starting to show here. The Frontier offers a 3.8 liter V-6 that is paired with a responsive nine-speed automatic transmission. The power rating is 310 horsepower and 281 pound-feet of torque. Fuel economy is rated at 18 mpg city and 24mpg highway. The Tacoma utilizes the widely known 3.5 liter V-6 that in this instance is paired with a six-speed transmission. Power figures for the Toyota are 278 horsepower and 265 pound-feet of torque while fuel mileage is rated at 19mpg in the city and 24mpg on the highway.

As you can see, the Frontier has the edge in power here; however, this isn’t the biggest advantage it has over the Tacoma. The Frontier's biggest strength is the nine-speed transmission which is much more modern than the six-speed in the Toyota. Gear shifts are smoother and faster and there is no gear hunting on the freeway. The transmission is the Tacoma’s biggest downfall. As for towing capability, the Toyota can handle between 3,500 - 6,800 pounds, while the Frontier can manage 6,230 to 6,270 pounds. Payload numbers are 990 pounds for the Tacoma and 1070 for the Frontier.

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A parked 2020 Toyota Tacoma
Toyota USA
Front and side view of a 2020 Toyota Tacoma

If we look at the off-road spec trims of both models, i.e the Tacoma TRD Pro and the Frontier Pro4X, the Tacoma has the edge. With Fox suspension, upgraded control arms, a rear diff lock, multi-terrain response, and crawl control, there are few places the Tacoma won’t be able to reach. Don’t get us wrong though, the Nissan is also very capable. It too offers upgraded suspension but, in this case, it is a Bilstein unit that isn’t as advanced as the Fox products that can be found under the Tacoma.

Also, the Nissan has a rear locker but no clever electronic assists like the crawl control mode in the Tacoma. Therefore, the Tacoma will have an advantage on grip through most situations. Worth mentioning is the fact that both vehicles offer good underbody protection which is crucial when it comes to tackling tough off-road trails. Off-roading without underbody protection is a great way to get into a bunch of problems.

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Which Of The Two Vehicles Should You Spend Your Hard Earned Money On?

2023 Nissan Frontier
Profile shot of 2023 Nissan Frontier showing offroad drifting

Before we mention which truck you should buy, it is worth stating that these are two of the most reliable vehicles on the current market. You see, most cars and even pickup trucks are moving away from the large displacement naturally aspirated engines and are now using smaller turbocharged units that are usually paired to hybrid systems.

While this leads to much more efficient trucks, it also leads to reliability issues as these engines are more stressed and complicated. Both the Tacoma and the Frontier use very simple engine designs that will last for years to come. So, regardless of which one you buy, dependability will be on your side.

Front shot of pick up truck speeding on mountain foothills.
A sage green Toyota Tacoma speeds along mountain foothills on clear day.

Now, when it comes to which truck you should get, the decision will be made based on your needs. The Frontier is cheaper and offers better on-road driveability thanks to its added power and more modern transmission. However, for off-roading, you can’t beat the Tacoma. It comes better equipped from the factory and aftermarket support is immense.

The Tacoma can be built into a full-on rock crawler or just an insanely capable overlander. Also, you will have the support of other Tacoma owners along the way. The community and aftermarket scene are certainly not as big for the Frontier. Therefore, if you are planing on off-roading, the Tacoma is the truck to get. If not, then the Frontier is the truck to get.