Pros: Reliable, dependable, fuel efficient, practical and cheap to own
Cons: A little light on power, lack of full size spare (on 2WD models), few amenities
Having to do odd jobs regularly a pickup became a requirement for those weekend runs to Home Depot and the local gardening store. Nearly seven years ago I decided to buy a small pickup. The Nissan which I bought filled the bill perfectly. Compared to other so called compacts, the Nissan felt nimble and peppy. The others such as the Dakota, S-10 and Ranger felt clunky and didn't seem to drive as well. The Toyota trucks that I looked at were pricey and I could get a similar if not identical Nissan for thousands less. I ended up with a 1995 Nissan King Cab pickup with 2wd and the bulletproof KA24E 4 cylinder engine. Other than a CD player and a few other minor features the truck is bone stock basic. No A/C or power accessories (other than power steering). The KA24E also made an appearance in the early 240SX, Access minivan and Stanza models. The 12 valve 2.4 liter four cylinder produces 134HP at 5200RPM and 154 Ib ft of torque at 3600 RPM which is adequate for the most of times. When hauling or during higher RPM's the engine feels a bit out of breath. The engine's camshaft is driven by a timing chain so maintenance costs are reduced significantly. The chains are known to make noise at start up however (more on this later). Mileage with the 5 speed manual it around 26 MPG in City and Highway driving. The transmission shifts smoothly and with precision though at cold temperatures it can feel a bit rubbery as the transmission oil warms up. A synthetic transmission fluid will help to resolve this. The clutch is light and easy to modulate. In the cockpit you'll find most of the controls and instruments easy to read and use. The dash has a more rounded and smooth appearance compared to the earlier boxy design. A tachometer is the only gauge missing but is featured on higher trim levels. A "Value Package" is the upgrade for the XE model and adds CFC free air conditioning, chrome bumpers/mirrors, upgrade 15" chrome wheels, tachometer, locking glovebox, cruise control, and power mirrors. There is a decently sized glove box for storage in addition to a map storage pocked in the driver's door and two nifty cubbies underneath the folding jump seats. The one behind the drivers seats stores the jack and tools for changing a spare. I should note that only a temporary spare is provided which is a bit of a shortcoming. When the jump seats are folded there is adequate storage for luggage, tools, groceries, camping gear or whatever you might what to keep safe and dry. The front seats are generally comfortable but after a long drive they can become a bit un supportive. Better cushioning and lateral support would be nice. The small rear vinyl jump seats are barely adequate and should only be used by younger children and for short trips. A taller teen or adult will have a hard time getting in and out in addition to getting comfortable. There is a sliding rear window which is great for hot days and can be worthwhile when a longer piece of lumbar or material needs to be carried in a bit though the cab. There are to small glass windows which pop out behind the jump seats, aiding ventilation and making things feel less claustophobic. The 6 foot bed is well suited to hauling loads and features convenient tie downs. I've hauled lumber, tools, equipment, garden supplies and the like and it does a good job. There is a low lift over which makes heavy objects easy to load over the side. I have used a bed liner to preserve the bed. You can specify for a long bed which adds an additional 15" of length. The tailgate would lock though but at least it's light to open and close unlike some other pickups. Total cargo capacity is around 1100 lbs. The truck is rated to pull 3500 lbs with the 5 speed manual transmission, 2000 lbs if equipped with an automatic. When you load to the max. rating you should be aware that ride and handling will suffer. Take it easy when loaded with weight. When the bed is empty it can ride a bit choppy though. In the seven years and 160 000 miles of ownership I've had very few troubles. Under the hood things are easy to access and service. The timing chain guides are made of plastic and can fail allowing noise to be heard at startup. It is normal to hear this but anything excessive should be a warning sign, especially if the noise persists after start up. The shocks and muffler lasted me 150 000 miles! They were well worn though! I had the ORIGINAL battery replaced last winter! Other than routine maintenance such as oil changes and tune ups the truck has been problem free. I did have the service engine light come on once for a faulty gas cap and plugged EGR valve. Both were easy fixes and even a novice mechanic can trouble shoot and diagnose the engine light via the on board computer underneath the passenger seat. The body has held up well with little to no rust. I should mention that the Nissan Hardbodies and Pathfinders do have issues with rust. Be sure to inspect the frame regularly and wash the underneath often. Rust will kill these trucks before anything else. Find yourself a nice example, take good care of it and it will last you for years to come. 200 000 miles should be a piece of cake!