Nissan knows a thing or two about SUVs. In fact, the Japanese brand offers more sport utilities than any other mainstream volume brand.  Nissan currently offers six unique SUV models to Canadian new…

2018 Nissan Qashqai S FWD Road Test

2018 Nissan Qashqai S FWD
The Nissan Qashqai doesn’t show any changes for 2018, but that’s ok because it’s winning over more Canadian subcompact SUV buyers than any of its rivals. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Nissan knows a thing or two about SUVs. In fact, the Japanese brand offers more sport utilities than any other mainstream volume brand. 

Nissan currently offers six unique SUV models to Canadian new car buyers, which amazingly is one model more than Toyota, Ford, Chevy or even Jeep currently had available at the time of writing, plus many more than other rivals. What’s more, its experience building SUVs goes back nearly seven decades. Therefore it only makes sense they’d come up with a solid entry-level model to back up that good name. 

If you previously perused my 2017 Qashqai SL AWD road test you’d already know I’ve become a fan, and I must say this 2018 Qashqai S FWD had me even more enamoured. It’s the Nissan Micra of SUVs, and I mean that in plenty of good ways. The Qashqai is inexpensive, comfortable, solidly built, reasonably well equipped, economical, and plenty of fun to drive, which is exactly the type of small SUV that first-time or fixed-income buyers need. 

2018 Nissan Qashqai S FWD
The little Qashqai offers larger dimensions than most of its competitors, plus a roomier interior. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Proof of this is in the pudding, or more specifically in sales numbers that do a fairly good job of showing a vehicle’s popularity, providing dealers in respective markets can allocate enough to sell. I’m guessing that Nissan Canada’s retailers haven’t experienced much in the way of Qashqai shortages as the new model has quickly jumped into first place with 3,748 units sold over the initial three months of 2018. That number makes it 414 examples more successful than the Subaru Crosstrek, plus a shocking 993 deliveries more impressive than the longtime bestselling Honda HR-V that was down 16.7 percent over the same quarter, which as you can see was also eclipsed by the little Subie SUV that saw its Q1 2018 year-over-year sales rise by a shocking 121.4 percent. Not a bad start to the year for either SUV. 

2018 Nissan Qashqai S FWD
The base model doesn’t get fog lamps or alloy rims, but these wheel covers look quite realistic from a distance. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The numerous keys to the new Qashqai’s success include attractive styling, strong performance, an efficient powertrain, interior comfort and quality, practicality, and generous features for the money, that last point especially true being that the Qashqai S FWD being reviewed here starts at just $19,998 plus freight and fees, as found on CarCostCanada.com (where you can access the most accurate retail pricing including invoice pricing and rebate info), making it the most affordable SUV in Canada—at least until the $17,998 Nissan Kicks arrives this summer. See what I mean about it being the Micra of SUVs? 

2018 Nissan Qashqai S FWD
A nice clean taillight design finishes the Qashqai’s rear styling off nicely. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Of course, the Kicks will soon take over that mantle in both price and size. The Qashqai is actually a bit larger than the class average despite its value proposition. It measures 4,379 millimetres (172.4 inches) from nose to tail, with a 2,647-mm (104.2-inch) wheelbase in between, while it spans 1,836 mm (72.3 inches) in width and reaches 1,587 mm (62.5 inches) from the base of its tires to the uppermost point of the roof. 

As you might imagine that extra size creates more space for driver and passengers, plus it provides the most cargo space of all when the seats are laid flat at 1,730 litres (61.1 cubic feet). Its 648-litres (22.9 cubic-foot) capacity with the seats upright is impressive as well, albeit only second in the segment behind the aforementioned HR-V. 

2018 Nissan Qashqai S FWD
The Qashqai’s cabin is finished to a higher level than its sub-$20k price might suggest. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Changing gears, both figuratively and literally, a key reason my Qashqai S FWD started below $20k was its standard six-speed manual transmission. You can get the same SUV with a fully automatic continuously variable transmission (CVT), but it pushes the price up $2,700 to $22,698. The CVT comes standard in the Qashqai’s two upper trims, SV and SL, so if you want the manual you’ll need to stick with the bargain basement S FWD model. Alternatively if you want AWD you’ll need to accept the CVT, that model starting at $24,898. 

2018 Nissan Qashqai S FWD
Yes, that’s a flat-bottomed sport steering wheel in a base Qashqai. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The SUV I just spent a week with is the base Qashqai S FWD, optioned out with $135 Gun Metallic grey paint. Dealer added accessories aside, that’s it for extras. Still, the Qashqai S was quite livable thanks to a healthy list of standard features that includes heated power-adjustable side mirrors, a tilt and telescopic steering wheel, variable intermittent wipers, air conditioning, a 5.0-inch colour infotainment display, a rearview camera, Bluetooth phone connectivity and audio streaming, text message read and response capability, Siri Eyes Free, four-speaker AM/FM/CD/MP3/WMA audio, heatable front seats, 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks, a cargo cover, six cargo area tie-down hooks, tire pressure monitoring with Easy Fill Tire Alert, all the expected passive and active safety features, plus more. 

2018 Nissan Qashqai S FWD
A large colour multi-information display sits between electroluminescent primary gauges. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Walking around this stylish little SUV shows that Nissan only skimped on the wheels, 16-inch steel rims on 215/65 all-season rubber being normal for base models in this class. Nevertheless the silver metallic covers look surprisingly convincing from a distance, while I was even more impressed by the bright chromed grille and side window surrounds, the equally dazzling LED daytime running lights within the projector headlamps, the ultra-slim LED turn signals integrated into the body-colour side mirror housings, the body-colour door handles, body-colour rooftop spoiler, and the SUV’s overall classy appearance in its aforementioned coat of metallic grey. 

2018 Nissan Qashqai S FWD
The centre stack is nicely laid out with plenty of functionality. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Click the substantive switchblade-style key fob, open the door and you’re immediately greeted by a higher level of refinement than anyone could possibly expect for this pauper’s price. The front door uppers are padded and covered with high-quality premium leather-like synthetic, this premium-like surface treatment finishing off the entire dash-top as well. Additionally, the door and centre armrest get comfortable, padded, woven cloth armrests featuring contrast grey stitching, while the seat upholstery receives a similar treatment for the bolsters and an attractive wavy pattern in black and grey for the inserts. 

2018 Nissan Qashqai S FWD
This 5.0-inch display is not a touchscreen, but its backup camera worked well. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The front and rear doors open nice and wide, making access easy. The little SUV’s height advantage over a car helps in this respect too, and I have to say Nissan does driver’s seats better than a number of others in this class as well. Despite being a base model without the SL’s powered actuation or adjustable lumbar support it was inherently comfortable, with good lower back support and excellent side bolstering. 

Setting up a good driver’s position was easy, and while this might be expected this day and age, peoples’ varying body types are often overlooked. For instance, my longer legs and shorter torso means that I need more telescopic reach than some others, and a few brands aren’t too generous in this respect. Such is not a problem with the Qashqai, allowing me to fit in ideally. 

2018 Nissan Qashqai S FWD
This is a convenient spot for large smartphones, with good connectivity. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The steering wheel isn’t wrapped in leather, but it’s comfortably thick and padded just the same, plus it’s shaped as if it’s pulled out of a sports car with nicely carved thumb spats and a flat bottom no less, while a cool looking metallic silver trimmed dual lower spoke flows up to visually support the two spokes just above, the one on the left side filled with high-quality audio and multifunction display buttons, and the spoke on the right receiving a simpler assortment of phone controls. 

2018 Nissan Qashqai S FWD
The six-speed shifter is more impressively finished than most will expect. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Framed behind the steering wheel is highly legible chrome-trimmed electroluminescent primary gauge cluster centered by a large colour TFT multi-information display, which once again is something only expected on a higher trim level, while a quick glance over to the piano black lacquer surfaced and chrome-adorned centre stack shows a small yet useful display audio system. It’s not a touchscreen, which made it a bit difficult for navigating between smartphone playlists and podcasts, but it was serviceable enough. 

The same can be said for the nicely laid out manual HVAC interface that sits just below, while the knobs and buttons here and everywhere else were tight fitting and well damped. Still, if this example’s heater wasn’t broken the Qashqai has the worst heating system I’ve experienced in a very long time. You’ve got to crank the temperature dial all the way to the three o’clock position to even make the cabin lukewarm, and if you twist it one notch more it’ll get uncomfortably hot. There was no happy medium. 

2018 Nissan Qashqai S FWD
The Qashqai provides a really well laid out cabin. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Nissan provides a USB charge port, aux plug and a 12-volt charger at the base of the centre stack, just above a tray for your cell phone, which sits right next to a chrome-trimmed electromechanical parking brake. Two-way seat heater rocker switches are positioned toward the rear of the lower console, flanking a deep bin that’s ideal for a larger smartphone. Of course, dual cupholders are integrated within the lower console too, as is a storage compartment under the centre armrest, and once again it’s all put together well and looks more upscale than the Qashqai’s entry-level price should allow for. 

Nissan also houses a handy console overhead, featuring a felt-lined sunglasses holder and LED reading lights for both front occupants. Even the sunvisors are finished nicely, including the lidded vanity mirrors. 

2018 Nissan Qashqai S FWD
The driver’s seat is inherently comfortable. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

It’s normal for taller, larger drivers to shy away from the subcompact SUV class, but I think they should give the Qashqai a try, as there’s a lot of room available in every direction. The same goes for front and rear passengers, with the back compartment providing more than enough space for my medium-build five-foot-eight frame when sitting behind a driver’s seat that was set up for my height. In fact, I had about five inches remaining ahead of my knees plus loads of space to move my feet around while wearing boots. Additionally, there was about four inches left above my head and another five or so next to my shoulder and hips. I’m not going to say the rear seats were as comfortable as those up front, because that would be difficult to match, but they certainly were supportive, and even provided some side bolstering. 

2018 Nissan Qashqai S FWD
The rear seating area is quite spacious for the class. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Back in the driver’s seat, the six-speed manual transmission lever is as nicely finished as the previously noted steering wheel, with a black lacquer trimmed shift knob, a leather-like boot, and a satin silver and black lacquered surround. Again, this could be in a premium sports car, let alone a bargain-basement subcompact SUV. 

Even more importantly it’s a well-sorted gearbox too, complemented by a free revving 16-valve, DOHC, 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine making 141 horsepower and 147 lb-ft of torque. Off-the-line performance is pretty good if you get deep enough into the throttle and let the revs climb before shifting, but of course that’s not the best way to save fuel. Go easy and it’ll pay you back with a claimed 10.0 L/100km in the city, 8.1 on the highway and 9.2 combined, which seems pretty decent until seeing that the same FWD setup with the CVT gets an estimated 8.8 city, 7.3 highway and 8.1 combined. Even the AWD CVT combination does better at 9.0 city, 7.5 highway and 8.4 combined, but I certainly couldn’t complain despite Vancouver’s high pump prices. 

2018 Nissan Qashqai S FWD
Cargo volume is class-leading with the seats down. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Once the Qashqai gets up to speed it’s thoroughly engaging and fun to fling through the corners, feeling a lot more like a compact hatchback then anything traditionally SUV-like. Of course, it’s aforementioned ride height advantage and subsequent good view of the road ahead and surrounding area reminds that it’s indeed an SUV, while its expansive greenhouse leaves almost no blind spots at all, but it still drives like a little sports car in comparison to most utilities. 

With such a willing engine that’s certainly fun to take to its limit, and a shifter that slips so easily into each gear, plus clutch take-up that’s just as easy and light yet positive and engaging, speed can ramp up quickly. Fortunately the Qashqai’s steering is direct and responsive too, while the little SUV’s high-speed stability is actually very good for such a small vehicle thanks to that relatively long wheelbase mentioned earlier. Likewise, braking is excellent, the Qashqai coming standard with ABS-enhanced four-wheel discs that only had to stop 1,425 kilos (3,142 lbs) of as-tested curb weight, resulting in good all-round performance that delivers way more enjoyment then its paltry price should. 

That last point pretty well sums up the entire vehicle too, being that the 2018 Nissan Qashqai delivers way more of everything expected of an SUV priced so reasonably. No wonder it’s leading its class in sales.

Nissan Canada just announced that its semi-autonomous “hands-on-wheel” ProPilot Assist technology will be added to its popular Qashqai subcompact SUV later this year, likely as part of its 2019 package. …

Nissan Qashqai to receive ProPilot Assist self-driving tech later this year

2018 Nissan Qashqai
The Qashqai will receive Nissan’s semi-autonomous ProPilot Assist driving technology later this year. (Photo: Nissan)

Nissan Canada just announced that its semi-autonomous “hands-on-wheel” ProPilot Assist technology will be added to its popular Qashqai subcompact SUV later this year, likely as part of its 2019 package. 

“Nissan continues to democratize technology, bringing our most advanced systems to our highest volume models, rather than reserving them for our most expensive vehicles,” said Bert Brooks, senior manager, product planning, Nissan Canada Inc., last year when introducing the technology to the larger compact Roque. “Customers are delighted when they realize they can afford technology usually reserved for high-end, expensive luxury vehicles. Bringing unexpected value is core to the Nissan brand and our Nissan Intelligent Mobility mission.” 

Nissan ProPILOT Assist technology
ProPilot Assist, shown here in the Nissan Rogue, has been set up to work on North American highways, reading our signs and programmed for our driving style. (Photo: Nissan)

ProPilot Assist controls acceleration, braking and steering during single-lane highway driving, but take note you’ll be required to remain totally alert and involved during the process, with your hands on the wheel (at least most of the time). 

ProPilot Assist is well tested, with Nissan having driven more than 320,000 kilometres of North American roads using the semi-autonomous technology, the automaker stating that it was specifically designed to respond to North American road markings and driving situations. 

Nissan also claims ProPilot Assist is more intuitive and user-friendly than other driver-assist technologies, and furthermore that it can help reduce driver fatigue and allow for a more confident driving experience, especially for drivers that regularly experience heavy highway traffic. 

Nissan ProPILOT Assist
The bright blue ProPilot Assist button can be set just like cruise control. (Photo: Nissan)

Those looking for even more autonomy from their future cars can take heart that Nissan will be evolving ProPilot Assist to include increasing levels of autonomy in future updates, with the ability to navigate city intersections and more.  

The news of ProPilot Assist on the 2019 Qashqai comes hot on the heels of January’s milestone announcement of 75,000 global ProPilot Assist sales, when Nissan USA executive vice president Daniele Schillaci added, “ProPILOT is a breakthrough technology and an important building block for fully autonomous vehicles under our Nissan Intelligent Mobility vision. It delivers a much more exciting drive, so it’s no surprise that it has received such strong, early customer acceptance. ProPILOT is another example of how we’re delivering exciting technologies today through Nissan Intelligent Mobility that will move everyone to a better world.” 

Nissan ProPILOT Assist
ProPilot Assist, shown here in the 2018 Rogue, gets its own colour interface within the multi-information display. (Photo: Nissan)

Nissan plans to make ProPilot Assist available in nine more Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance models by 2020, with North America, as well as the European, Japanese and Chinese markets, benefiting from the investment. 

As noted in an earlier quote, ProPilot Assist is part of a larger technology suite dubbed Nissan Intelligent Mobility, which the automaker previously described as a “blueprint for transforming how cars are driven, powered and integrated into society.” 

2018 Nissan Qashqai
We can expect additional ProPilot Assist features to be added on in coming years, such as intersection capability. (Photo: Nissan)

“The world is facing serious challenges such as climate change, traffic congestion, road fatalities and increasing air pollution,” said Brooks. “Through Nissan Intelligent Mobility, we are committed to addressing these challenges by making transportation safer, smarter, and more enjoyable. The new ProPilot Assist technology is a perfect example of how we can make drivers feel more confident and more connected to their vehicles.” 

Along with the 2018 Rogue SL Platinum, ProPilot Assist is also available with the redesigned 2018 Leaf. 

To find out more, check out this short explanatory video that accompanied the initial ProPilot Assist announcement as part of the 2018 Leaf:

Nissan makes one of the more stylish, technologically advanced, and all around modern mid-size pickup trucks in the world, they just don’t bring it here. The Navara, sold in Asia, Europe, and other…

2018 Nissan Frontier Crew Cab Midnight Edition Road Test

2018 Nissan Frontier Crew Cab Midnight Edition
Midnight Edition styling adds a fresh new take on a well-known Frontier design. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Nissan makes one of the more stylish, technologically advanced, and all around modern mid-size pickup trucks in the world, they just don’t bring it here.

The Navara, sold in Asia, Europe, and other global markets, is now in the third year of its third generation, and it still looks fresh and new. It’s so good, in fact, that it’s the basis for the new Mercedes-Benz X-Class, a luxury truck with no direct rival.

In sharp contrast the North American market soldiers on with Nissan’s particularly well-seasoned Frontier, introduced a baker’s dozen or so years ago in 2005. While still competent, a claim I’ll attempt to prove as this review unfolds, sales haven’t grown as quickly as its competitors.

2018 Nissan Frontier Crew Cab Midnight Edition
This black on white Midnight Edition makes a sporty statement. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Yes, despite very little in the way of upgrades since inception, the Frontier continues to find favour with plenty of Canadians, its 2017 grand total of 4,260 deliveries actually resulting in its strongest-ever calendar year. That represents a 3.2-percent gain from last year, but more significantly 43.7 percent growth over the past five years and a 97-percent increase since the year before the great recession, 2007 (using depressed 2008 sales numbers would unrealistically skew results).

2018 Nissan Frontier Crew Cab Midnight Edition
Without HIDs, let alone LEDs, the Frontier is a back-to-basics pickup truck that nevertheless drives good value. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

How have others fared? GM, which reentered the market after a short hiatus, is now the clear leader amongst mid-size pickup truck purveyors with 14,320 Chevrolet/GMC Colorado/Canyon sales in 2017 (8,060/6,260), this representing 426.8 percent growth since 2012, the final full year of the previous generation’s availability, while sales growth since 2007 has been a more modest 29.5 percent. Toyota, which sold 12,454 Tacomas last year for a slight dip of 1.3 percent from the year prior, was the segment’s dominant sales leader up until 2015. Still, the Texan-made trucklet experienced growth of 19.7 percent within the past five years, and 31.4 percent over the decade.

2018 Nissan Frontier Crew Cab Midnight Edition
Tiny fog lamps and big black alloys add to the go-anywhere look. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The Honda Ridgeline, which was the only mid-size truck to suffer slower sales than the Frontier last year, despite its completely overhauled second-generation being the newest vehicle in the segment, grew by 76.6 percent to 4,632 units year-over-year, while its five-year gain was 118.3 percent. Even with the update, the Ridgeline’s 2017 sales weren’t able to surpass the previous generation’s first full-year high of 4,988 deliveries, while its sales growth since 2007 is just 2.5 percent.

2018 Nissan Frontier Crew Cab Midnight Edition
Rugged design details help the Frontier stand out. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Despite their similar 2017 sales numbers the differences between the Frontier and Ridgeline are night and day, especially when factoring in heritage. Nissan has sold compact trucks since the market segment was conceived, my family having owned multiple Datsun branded 620 series models through my formative years (I’ll always cherish the many wonderful memories spent with my dad in our light blue ’78), while the original Datsun Truck arrived on North American soil in 1958, that 220 series truck solely responsible for establishing the Japanese brand on this side of the Pacific, but take note that its own domestic market benefited from a Datsun pickup in its ranks since 1938. To be fair I should mention that Honda brought a pickup to market in 1963, but it was never sold here and therefore the brand wasn’t able to establish a faithful truck following until the Ridgeline arrived in 2005.

2018 Nissan Frontier Crew Cab Midnight Edition
These 18-inch rims are exclusive to the Midnight Edition. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Loyalty is a critical ingredient to success in the truck sector, making it difficult to fathom why both Ford and Dodge (now Ram) abandoned their long-established small truck following six and seven years ago respectively. The former will soon reenter our market with the Ford Australia designed and engineered Ranger, which is currently a best-seller in many Asian markets as well as Europe, so competition within the mid-size truck segment will certainly heat up in coming years.

2018 Nissan Frontier Crew Cab Midnight Edition
The Midnight Edition is based on SV V6 4×4 trim. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

While it would be easy to needle Nissan about its obvious lack of investment in this class, we can simultaneously commend them for sticking it out while others have left. What’s more, a sizeable number of Canadians regularly choose to spend their hard earned money on new Frontiers, so the current model clearly has proven appeal. To back this point up yet further, combined January and February year-over-year sales were up an additional 33.1 percent from 2017 to 2018.

The fact is, the Frontier was far ahead of its time when introduced in 2005, allowing it to age well. Certainly, when put next to any of its more modern rivals the Nissan looks a bit dated from the outside and probably more so inside, but unless we start directly comparing their top-line trims it’s not as if the newer models are pampering palaces of luxury in entry-level guise.

2018 Nissan Frontier Crew Cab Midnight Edition
Those black dots on the rear bumper are very helpful parking sensors. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Let’s face it. We’re talking trucks here, not luxury cars. In fact, you can get into a base 2018 Frontier for just $23,998, plus freight and fees. Before any hate mail from GM zealots starts flooding in, I realize a base Colorado starts at only $22,610 and the Canyon for $23,410, which no doubt has helped propel them up the sales charts. By comparison, the Tacoma begins life at $30,900, whereas the Ridgeline is a rarified luxury truck due to a base price of $37,290, which gives me new respect for the other two Japanese models’ sales numbers.

2018 Nissan Frontier Crew Cab Midnight Edition
The light grey interior is a welcome change to the mid-size truck segment’s usual black. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The unibody Ridgeline warrants its loftier base price in refinement alone, its cabin mostly pulled directly over from the near-luxury Pilot SUV. The rest of the segment is comprised of traditional body-on-frame pickup trucks, so even though the Frontier is still filled with durable hard plastic surfaces instead of soft, pliable leather-like synthetics, none of the others are either, at least at the lower end.

On that note, I’m going to guess that none of these trucks sell best in their most humble trims, the 2018 Frontier available in King Cab S, $25,548 King Cab SV, and $31,748 King Cab PRO-4X, while the Crew Cab SV starts at $32,498, my tester’s new for 2018 Crew Cab Midnight Edition trim at $35,398, the Crew Cab PRO-4X at $36,798, and top-tier Crew Cab SL at $38,898.

2018 Nissan Frontier Crew Cab Midnight Edition
The Frontier’s interior certainly shows its age, but its classic interior styling was advanced when it debuted in 2005. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The base Frontier S comes similarly equipped to the rest of its truck-based alternatives, with key features including a direct-injected 2.5-litre DOHC, 16-valve, four-cylinder engine making 152 horsepower and 171 lb-ft of torque, a five-speed automatic transmission, rear-wheel drive, four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, an independent double-wishbone front suspension and leaf-spring, solid axle rear setup, 15-inch steel wheels, an extended King Cab and 1,861 mm (73.3 inch/6.1-foot) bed, a chrome grille, a partial body-colour front bumper and a full body-colour rear bumper, a locking tailgate, a cargo bed light, variable intermittent wipers, illuminated steering wheel-mounted audio controls, cruise control, air conditioning, a hands-free text messaging assistant, a RearView parking monitor (new in standard trim), Bluetooth phone connectivity with audio streaming, 5.0-inch colour display audio with AM, FM, CD, and satellite radio, speed-sensitive volume control, aux and USB ports, fabric seat upholstery, forward-facing rear flip-up seats, second-row under-seat storage, carpeted flooring, tire pressure monitoring, all the usual active and passive safety features, and more.

2018 Nissan Frontier Crew Cab Midnight Edition
The gauge cluster is simple and straightforward, which is just fine for a mid-size pickup truck. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

By comparison the GM twins offer more base power yet they charge extra for an automatic, albeit with one more forward gear, while their more modern entry-level interiors feature powered locks and windows, coloured multi-information displays (MID) within the gauge cluster, larger infotainment touchscreens, slightly better audio quality, powered driver’s seats, and unique rear bumper corner steps for ease of access to the bed. Likewise, the pricier Toyota features more power yet an optional auto with an additional forward gear, a colour MID, larger infotainment, heated front seats, and a host of advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) such as auto high beams, adaptive cruise control, autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection, and lane departure alert.

2018 Nissan Frontier Crew Cab Midnight Edition
The infotainment display is small at 5 inches, and the backup camera doesn’t have dynamic guidelines. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

While the Frontier doesn’t include any of those ADAS features, loading one up with everything available, such as auto on/off headlights, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, navigation, voice recognition, 10-speaker Rockford Fosgate audio, powered seats, leather upholstery, illuminated vanity mirrors, a garage door opener, a powered moonroof, and more, plus some popular dealer-added accessories, can nudge it over the $40k threshold, but that’s still extremely affordable when comparing it to the fully featured Tacoma that hits the road at $47,625, or the optioned out Ridgeline at $57,605, maxed Canyon at $58,365, and ultimate Colorado at $59,740. Of course, it’s impossible to compare all of these trucks directly as they offer features not available with the Frontier SL.

2018 Nissan Frontier Crew Cab Midnight Edition
Shifting from 2WD to 4H or 4LO is as easy as twisting that big, black dial on the left. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

This mid-range Frontier Midnight Edition is more utilitarian than the SL, but I have to say it still looks good thanks to a design that’s stood the test of time, further dressed up with plenty of sporty gloss black trim in place of cheaper matte black or ritzier metal brightwork, plus fog lamps up front, black step rails and splash guards down each side, not to mention exclusive Midnight Edition blackened 18-inch alloys circled by 265/60 mud and snow all-seasons. All of this gear gets attached to the larger, more accommodating Crew Cab body, making for a handsomely rugged mid-size truck.

2018 Nissan Frontier Crew Cab Midnight Edition
The five-speed automatic might be down a gear or so, but it delivers smooth, quick shifts and decent economy. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The Midnight Edition model’s key features include Nissan’s direct-injection 4.0-litre DOHC, 24-valve V6 making 261 horsepower and 281 lb-ft of torque, plus standard four-wheel drive with a switch-operated two-speed transfer case, hill descent control, hill start assist, a front tow hook, power door locks with auto-locking and remote access, powered windows, heated power-adjustable side mirrors, a sliding rear window, rear parking sensors, a factory-applied spray-on bedliner, Nissan’s Utili-track Channel System with four tie-down cleats, tilt steering (but no telescopic), micro-filtered dual-zone auto climate control, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a digital compass, outside temperature display, vanity mirrors, heated front seats, two additional stereo speakers totaling six, and more.

2018 Nissan Frontier Crew Cab Midnight Edition
The front seats look good and provide plenty of comfort. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The Midnight Edition doesn’t allow for any options packages, but you can get a sliding bed divider for $281 from the accessories catalogue, or a $350 sliding bed extender, $786 sliding toolbox, loads of trailering gear for 2,000-lb, 3,500-lb, 5,000-lb, or 6,500-lb towing capacity depending on trim, plus more.

The interior of my tester was finished in a light, soft grey, which was a pleasant change from the usual dark grey or all black attire of most trucks in this class, and while it’s a back-to-basics utility-first workhorse done in the spirit of days gone by, it’s nevertheless filled with nice design details like the artistically dimpled shroud over the primary instruments, uniquely rounded instrument panel to each side of the centre stack, and corrugated-style lower dash and glove box lid, not to mention some attractive brushed aluminum detailing on the steering wheel, down each side of the centre stack, and garnishing the gear selector. No one will mistake it for a luxury truck, but some bright chromed detailing of key components adds a smattering of bling, while the seat upholstery looked good.

2018 Nissan Frontier Crew Cab Midnight Edition
Rear seat roominess and comfort should be good enough for most peoples’ requirements. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

More importantly those seats were extremely comfortable, and despite not having the telescopic steering wheel noted earlier, driver ergonomics are pretty good. In fact, I enjoyed my test week more than expected, partially due to memories of my early years in the auto writing business when I first came across this model and the Xterra that followed (they shared interiors), but also because everything worked well enough, while providing all necessities with few frivolities.

2018 Nissan Frontier Crew Cab Midnight Edition
The rear cushions flip up and attach to the back wall, providing more room for cargo. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The primary instruments are simple white-on-black dials with a rudimentary trip computer and graphic display for rear- or four-wheel drive engagement, while the small yet efficient colour infotainment touchscreen on the centre stack featured a simple backup camera sans dynamic guidelines, the usual audio functions, phone setup, vehicle settings, and little else.

The switchgear that surrounds it was all tightly fitted and well damped, while the dials and buttons that make up the dual-zone auto HVAC system were well executed. Nissan finishes off the centre stack with a big, meaty rotating dial for selecting 2WD, 4H and 4LO, plus a row of rocker switches for the two-way heated seats, stability control, and parking sonar.

2018 Nissan Frontier Crew Cab Midnight Edition
Nissan includes small bins for storage under the seats, but a flat folding load floor like the Titan offers would be more useful. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Funny thing about transmissions, it’s difficult to notice the difference between a well-sorted five-speed autobox and a six-speed unit. The five-speed automatic in the Frontier shifted smoothly, kicking down to select a lower gear quickly when called upon and moving up through its gears without commotion as speeds increased. It basically goes about its duty without issue with the big V6 following suit, punching out solid power when needed, making a wonderful snarly exhaust note when revs climb, but otherwise comfortably loping along in its highest gear to save fuel, which is rated at 15.8 L/100km in the city, 11.5 on the highway and 13.9 combined as tested, with its best-possible efficiency of 13.6 city, 10.7 highway and 12.3 combined coming from the four-cylinder with its most basic five-speed manual gearbox.

2018 Nissan Frontier Crew Cab Midnight Edition
While a bit of a stretch to climb up on when the tailgate is lowered, the spray-on bed liner is plenty grippy. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

How does that compare to its peers? Both engines are thirstier than all of the mid-size trucks mentioned above, but just nominally. In other words, the amount of fuel the Toyota and Honda save will never make up for the initial savings provided by this Nissan, while the thriftiness allowed by the similarly priced base GM trucks inch them ahead in this respect.

Along with the V6 model’s strong straight-line performance, the Frontier also delivers a decent ride. Of course, generous suspension travel helps ease its way over bumps and through ruts or whatever else gets in its way, but lets not forget it’s a pretty beefy little truck with rugged off-road capability so we can’t expect it to be high on the pampering scale. This said it tooled around town well, was quite smooth on the highway thanks in part to a long wheelbase, and took to reasonably paced corners with fairly confident poise.

2018 Nissan Frontier Crew Cab Midnight Edition
The V6 provides good, smooth, energetic power, but some competitors offer a turbo-diesel that improves fuel economy, for a hefty price mind you. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

I mentioned a moment ago that the driver’s seat was comfortable, but neglected to comment on the rear row. When the seat in front was set up for my unusually long-legged five-foot-eight height, I had about three inches left over ahead of my knees in behind, plus about four inches over my head, while it was a bit tight from side-to-side. There’s no flip-down centre armrest in this trim, this reserved for top-line SL buyers, but a set of cupholders can be folded out from the backside of the front console, while the 60/40-split seat cushions can be flipped up and out of the way in order to reveal some useful cargo storage bins underneath, although something more akin to the full-size Titan’s optional rear flat load floor would be better, as its bins feature retractable lids that transform into large, flat, carpeted loading areas when the need to keep smaller cargo safe and dry comes into play.

2018 Nissan Frontier Crew Cab Midnight Edition
Dated yes, but the 2018 Frontier delivers solid value in a well-proven, reliable package. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

As noted earlier, the newer GM trucks provide better bed access when the tailgate is lowered thanks to more innovative rear bumpers with integrated corner steps, but others make retractable steps available that work just as well, or these can be ordered from an aftermarket parts supplier. When up on the bed, the spray-on bed liner was amongst the grippiest I’ve ever experienced, which aids safety yet makes it challenging to clean. My broom wasn’t able to get all of the fallen twigs and dried leaves from under the tracks of the cargo system either, so I’d recommend you purchase a power washer for such situations. Take note the base Frontier can manage payloads of 404 kilograms (890 lbs) while upper trims are capable of 652 kg (1,440 lbs), making it a capable hauler for work and play, even if it does come up a bit short on creature comforts and convenience items.

Of course, any lack of features in the current Frontier will be remedied when its modernized replacement arrives, but for Nissan’s retailers that couldn’t come soon enough. After all, Nissan should sell more mid-size pickups than full-size, this being the usual state of affairs for an import brand, but with a recently renewed Titan in its lineup, filled with plenty of body styles, engine choices, trim levels and design options, not to mention thoroughly up-to-date electronics, it currently has the lead.

Anyone still questioning whether the full-size pickup truck market is a tough nut to crack for imports hasn’t been paying attention. Toyota has arguably done a better job than Nissan over the long haul,…

2018 Nissan Titan XD Platinum Diesel Road Test

2018 Nissan Titan XD Platinum Diesel
The Titan XD is one big, bold full-size pickup, a five-eighths sized truck we like to call a heavy-half. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Anyone still questioning whether the full-size pickup truck market is a tough nut to crack for imports hasn’t been paying attention.

Toyota has arguably done a better job than Nissan over the long haul, although when comparing deliveries to the big three we’re talking petite potatoes either way. Toyota sold 9,442 Tundras to 5,692 Nissan Titans in 2017, whereas Ram sent 98,465 Pickups down Canadian roads last year, General Motors improved on that number with 120,949 Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra deliveries, and Ford once again topped the charts with 155,290 F-Series sales.

2018 Nissan Titan XD Platinum Diesel
Strong and solidly built, the massive Titan XD lives up to its larger-than-life name. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Those were the highest big three truck totals in history, while Nissan also gets kudos for selling more Titans than ever before, but despite an upturn in truck sales and Canada’s best-ever year of vehicle sales, Toyota lost a lot of half-ton ground. Why? It wouldn’t be out of the question to point fingers at the new Titan, especially when factoring in last year’s sales were up 2,466 units and the Tundra’s were down 1,922, but it could also be that loyal Toyota owners are merely waiting patiently for a long expected Tundra update, whereas equally supportive Nissan buyers were feasting on the new-for-2017 gasoline-powered half-ton Titan.

2018 Nissan Titan XD Platinum Diesel
Enough chrome for you? At least with the XD Platinum the metal brightwork is softened with a darker tone. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The Cummins Diesel-powered Titan XD arrived on the Canadian market for the 2016 model year, and while it did well such big heavy-half pickup trucks aren’t for everyone. Then again the Titan XD makes a lot of sense for trailer-pulling folks, whether the load is construction equipment or landscaping fill for your business, or personal recreation gear like a camper, boat or horses. The truck I tested was capable of 5,457 kilos (12,030 lbs) of trailering weight and a payload of 907 kg (2,000 lbs) (max payload is 1,143 kg/2,520 lbs), and can even be had with a Nissan-sourced fifth-wheel hitch integrated into the bed. Want to check your trailer’s lights once it’s hooked up? The Titan team has thought of everything, providing you opt for second-rung SV trim (or higher) with its standard key fob actuated trailer light tester.

2018 Nissan Titan XD Platinum Diesel
The top-line Platinum pulls these dazzling LED headlamps up from lesser trims. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

My top-line XD Platinum had that familiar highway rig look thanks to copious chrome detailing, most notably across the front grille, the rear tailgate, the mirror caps, door handles, alloy wheels, and various trim bits. It’s a darkened chrome for a richer look, softened slightly by my tester’s Pearl White and taupe grey Titanium metallic two-tone effect paint, yet still pretty glitzy for the campground crowd.

2018 Nissan Titan XD Platinum Diesel
Platinum trim also gets a two-tone paint effect, plus 20-inch dark chromed alloys. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Let’s face it. When driving up in a Titan you’re not going to enjoy the camaraderie of F-Series owners wandering over from the adjacent campsite to see the latest Limited, or for that matter the Silverado/Sierra bunch fawning over the newest High Country/Denali, let alone the Ram gang making googly eyes at the Laramie Limited. You’ll get the odd curious albeit wary wonderer trying to get a closer look at what’s available from the dark side, unaware the Titan is made in the U.S.A., Canton, Mississippi to be exact.

2018 Nissan Titan XD Platinum Diesel
This power-sliding rear window is great for fresh airflow, plus comes standard with the Platinum. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Be prepared for some deep frowns from heavy-duty Ram fans who think their HD 2500 and 3500 models have an exclusive right to Cummins Diesel power. The Columbus, Indiana company supplies both brands now, but don’t go spouting off engine output numbers or you’ll put smiles right back on their faces, being that the Titan XD Cummins Diesel doesn’t put out anywhere near the performance of the Ram HD, the domestic truck’s 7,403 kg (16,320-lb) tow rating the result of a 6.7-litre I-6 with 410 horsepower and 800 lb-ft of torque. It appears not all Cummins diesels are created equal.

2018 Nissan Titan XD Platinum Diesel
These taillights are standard across the line, but only Platinum trim gets this thick strip of dark chrome trim across its tailgate. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Of course, the Titan XD isn’t a three-quarter or one-ton pickup truck, and therefore doesn’t need as much capability. Most should find the 310 horsepower and 555 lb-ft of torque from its DOHC, 32-valve Cummins 5.0-litre V8 equal to their requirements, while many will be just as satisfied with the 390 horsepower and 394 lb-ft of torque from the base 5.6-litre gasoline-powered V8, an engine that wasn’t available for the 2016 launch model.

2018 Nissan Titan XD Platinum Diesel
That’s a lot of chrome! The Titan XD Platinum definitely delivers the big rig look. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

On that note, Nissan Canada has made some changes for 2018. First and foremost they’ve dropped the Single Cab XD, which means there’s no longer a 4×2 variant and entry-level pricing has therefore increased from 2017’s $37,250 to $47,498 for the new base 2018 XD Crew Cab S 4×4, or $54,998 with the diesel. While plenty more now comes standard, including an extra set of doors, a second row and four-wheel drive, the new base price represents a $748 increase over last year’s identical XD Crew Cab S.

2018 Nissan Titan XD Platinum Diesel
When the tailgate is down there’s not to much bumper left over to use as a step, so Nissan makes a retractable step available. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

While eliminating body styles is never good for a model that was created for fighting it out in domestic full-size truck territory where variety is king, Nissan has obviously wizened to the fact it’s not going to make much headway into the Canadian commercial light truck market dominated by the big three, so the slow-selling Single Cab had to go in our smaller market (it’s still available in the U.S., as is the mid-range King Cab). The U.S. market still offers SL trim as well (it was previously second from the top), with the Canadian 2018 XD lineup now pared down to S, SV, Pro-4X, and Platinum trims, while each can be had with either gasoline or diesel powerplants.

2018 Nissan Titan XD Platinum Diesel
The Titan XD Platinum interior is an upscale environment boasting plenty of stitched leather, metallic trim and open-pore woodgrain inlays. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

No matter which engine you choose features are the same, but keep in mind S trim is pretty basic. Its standard pushbutton ignition is a bit of an upscale surprise, as is the dampened-assist tailgate, but bringing it back down to earth are 17-inch steel wheels, manually adjustable side mirrors, and a smallish 5.0-inch display audio system with AM/FM/CD audio. At least it gets a standard engine block heater, remote keyless entry, cloth upholstery instead of vinyl, a nice 40/20/40-split front bench seat with a flip-down armrest, a 60/40-split fold-up rear bench seat, tilt and telescopic steering, a RearView parking monitor, Bluetooth phone connectivity with audio streaming, aux and USB ports, six-speaker stereo, overhead LED cargo bed lights, hill start assist, tire pressure monitoring, and more.

2018 Nissan Titan XD Platinum Diesel
Platinum detailing is very nice, this woodgrain more authentic looking than most offer in this class. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The move up to SV, which costs $52,098 with gas or $59,598 with diesel, swaps out the S model’s basic looking black grille, front and rear bumpers, mirrors and door handles for chrome, while also adding fancier manually-extendable tow mirrors with power-adjustment, heat, integrated turn signal indicators and puddle lights, carpeting instead of Easy Clean Vinyl flooring, an Advanced Drive-Assist Display within the gauge cluster, a larger 7.0-inch colour infotainment touchscreen, satellite radio, a front overhead storage console, skid plates for the oil pan and fuel tank, trailer sway control, a Class IV tow hitch receiver with four-pin/seven-pin wiring, a trailer brake controller and the aforementioned trailer light check, an integrated gooseneck hitch, and front tow hooks.

2018 Nissan Titan XD Platinum Diesel
Comfort is king in the Platinum, thanks in part to loads of standard luxury and convenience features. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The Pro-4X, at $60,598 with gas or $68,098 with diesel, is Nissan’s sport truck with body-colour paint where chrome would normally go, a nicer cabin featuring embroidered and contrast-stitched upholstery, lots of satin-silver interior trim, and higher-end features like auto on/off signature LED headlights, LED daytime running lights, fog lights, proximity access, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, rain sensing wipers, heatable front bucket seats, a front centre console, an eight-way power-adjustable driver’s seat with powered lumbar support, a four-way powered front passenger’s seat, dual-zone auto climate control, navigation, voice recognition, Siri Eyes Free, NissanConnect Mobile Apps, SiriusXM Traffic and Travel Link, 12-speaker Rockford Fosgate audio, front and rear parking sensors, blindspot warning with rear cross-traffic alert, a centre console-mounted 110-volt power outlet, rear A/C vents, and a power-sliding back window.

2018 Nissan Titan XD Platinum Diesel
The primary gauge cluster is mostly analogue, but attractively designed, very legible no matter the lighting, and filled with a large colour multi-info display at centre. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Additional handy Pro-4X conveniences include a lockable rear seat cargo organizer, a rear flat load floor with rear wall tie-down hooks, an electronic tailgate lock, a rear utility bed step, a factory-applied spray-on bedliner, LED under-rail bed and tailgate area lighting, Nissan’s Utili-track Channel System with four tie-down cleats, and a bed-mounted 110-volt AC power outlet, not to mention unique trim-specific off-road equipment such as its electronically-controlled locking rear differential, hill descent control, Bilstein performance shocks, 18-inch alloys wrapped in beefy all-terrain tires, and yet more skid plates for the transfer case and lower radiator.

2018 Nissan Titan XD Platinum Diesel
The centre stack is packed full of features, including a 7.0-inch infotainment display, dual-zone auto HVAC, drivetrain controls, and more. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Much of the Pro-4X’ non-sport/off-road related gear gets pulled up to top-line Platinum trim, which starts at $70,998 for the gasoline model and $78,498 for the diesel, and then is added upon with niceties like a chrome exhaust finisher, illuminated running boards, remote engine start with Nissan’s Intelligent Climate Control, metallic kick plates, a heatable steering wheel rim, a powered tilt and telescopic steering column, memory for that steering column, the driver’s seat, and side mirrors, auto-dimming rearview and side mirrors, the latter with reverse tilt-down, a HomeLink universal garage door opener, a 360-degree AroundView parking monitor, NissanConnect/SiriusXM Services, premium leather upholstery, climate-controlled (cooled) front seats, heatable rear outboard seats, and more.

2018 Nissan Titan XD Platinum Diesel
The navigation system was easy to input and very accurate. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

All of these upscale features come in a cabin that’s finished very well, with more soft touch synthetic surfaces than a fully loaded F-Series or Tundra, yet not quite as much as provided by top-line Ram or GM trucks. Where my previous Pro-4X tester was filled with cold hard blacks, whites and silvers, the Platinum gets warm brown tones with stylish orange threading and authentic looking open-pore woodgrain tastefully applied in key areas. The seat upholstery was quite stunning actually, trimmed in a lighter camel brown on the bolsters plus a darker perforated and quilted brown leather at centre, while the driver’s multi-adjustable capability made it especially comfortable, and the steering column’s extensive power reach allowed for ideal ergonomics.

2018 Nissan Titan XD Platinum Diesel
This split-screen reverse camera and overhead 360-degree surround parking monitor makes backing up a breeze. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Ahead of that steering wheel is a classy looking two-dial analogue gauge cluster featuring a fairly large colour multi-information display in between. Over on the centre stack, the infotainment touchscreen incorporates an excellent split-screen parking monitor with a traditional rearview camera on the left and an overhead 360-degree view to the right. The navigation system proved easy to use and accurate as well, while that Rockford Fosgate audio system mentioned earlier definitely cranked out the tunes. Overall, the centre stack is well laid out and all of the switchgear quality was on par for the class, but nothing to write home about.

2018 Nissan Titan XD Platinum Diesel
The Titan includes a USB charging port and aux plug on the centre stack, but it could use many more of the former. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Storage is worthy of a quick note, mind you. Up front are the usual cupholders, but take note they slide back and forth above a large open bin that’s filled with a removable rubber mat for easy cleaning, while the leather armrest/bin cover just behind sits above another large and accommodating bin with its own removable tray, not to mention various connectors, while an aux plug, USB port, and 12-volt charger take care of devices at the base of the dash. As good as that sounds, this truck could use more USB ports and even a wireless charging pad to keep it current. I appreciated the sunglasses storage in the overhead console just the same, despite its strangely oversized nosepiece holder that caused eyewear to flop around inside, a Nissan brand-wide oddity.

2018 Nissan Titan XD Platinum Diesel
The Titan XD Platinum’s eight-way powered driver’s seat is extremely comfortable. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

I was impressed with the rear seating area as well. While it’s large and spacious for passengers, the seatbacks also fold flat to store items on top, although flipping them upwards and then folding out the aforementioned rear flat load floor’s carpeted extension is even more useful. It provides a large flat loading area where the seats had been, perfect for storing your belongings safely inside when traveling or on the job site.

2018 Nissan Titan XD Platinum Diesel
The quilted two-tone leather seat upholstery is very attractive and quite soft. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Those side steps mentioned earlier make climbing up to reach over the box walls into the back quite easy, but clambering up to the standard bed when the tailgate is lowered would be difficult for someone small of stature or on in years. Nissan only provides a tiny patch of hard plastic at each corner of the bumper to rest the tip of your boot before swinging upwards, which as anyone who’s lived with trucks knows is a painful slip and fall waiting to happen. Fortunately the kick-down utility bed steps mentioned earlier provide good stable support for climbing up to the tailgate, yet these aren’t part of the standard Titan XD package, which means both import manufacturers really need to catch up to the domestics when it comes to standard bed access, GM especially good in that it provides standard steps integrated within the corners of its rear bumpers.

2018 Nissan Titan XD Platinum Diesel
Rear seat roominess isn’t class leading, but it’s accommodating enough, while the outboard seats are very comfortable and supportive for the lower back. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The bed rail system noted earlier works well for tying down cargo, but when it comes time to clean up it’s very challenging to get sticks and debris out from underneath each rail with a regular broom. Likewise the spray-in bedliner was like sandpaper, holding firm to flakes of grass, twigs, and all the other things that get attached after hauling a load or simply parking under a tree, so I’d recommend investing in a power washer if you like to keep your rig clean. Fortunately the grippy surface is an ultra-safe way to make sure you don’t slip and fall in the rain, so I shouldn’t complain.

2018 Nissan Titan XD Platinum Diesel
Of course the rear outboard seats are heated. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Whether you’re jumping around on the bed, slamming the tailgate shut, doing likewise to the doors, or driving over bumps and dips, the Titan feels as solid as half-ton pickups get, with zero wiggles or creaks in the cabin or anywhere else. It helped that no sunroof was included, which I thought was a bit strange in a top-line truck. This wouldn’t be an issue if Nissan made one available, but alas sun worshipers and stargazers will have to choose another brand if they want a glass roof overhead.

2018 Nissan Titan XD Platinum Diesel
The 60/40-split rear seatbacks fold forward for quick, easy storage of smaller items. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The Titan also comes up short on advanced driver assistance systems, such as forward collision warning, autonomous emergency braking, lane keeping assist, adaptive cruise control, auto high beams, and the list goes on. Nissan has all of the above and much more in its parts bin, but so far these haven’t made it to this Titan XD or the lighter weight Titan.

2018 Nissan Titan XD Platinum Diesel
Flip the rear seats upward and a small lidded storage bin is exposed, but there’s more to Nissan’s flat load floor system than that. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Working to the Titan XD’s advantage is a wonderfully smooth ride, rock steady high-speed cruising ability, and decent at the limit handling, which are all important in a truck with such immediate and plentiful performance. Yes, its big Cummins V8 gets up and goes with gusto, its Aisin-sourced six-speed automatic one gear off the pace when compared to the gasoline-powered Titan, and more so when put up against its domestic rivals, but still a smooth operator and reasonably quick through the cogs. I didn’t get to play with the XD in the mud either, so no opportunity to test its four-wheel drive, which incidentally uses a switch-operated two-speed transfer case. I tested its basic functions on pavement, and can attest to its ultra-easy actuation from 2Hi to 4Hi and 4Lo modes via a dial on the instrument panel, but that’s about it.

2018 Nissan Titan XD Platinum Diesel
Fold the storage bin lid forward while dropping its leg into place and a fully carpeted flat loading floor presents itself. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Considering its heavy-half, five-eighths capability you shouldn’t expect the same level of performance found in the lighter Titan or one of its half-ton peers, nor will you find its ride as smooth as either, but then again it’s a bit less of a bruiser than its domestic three-quarter and one-ton rivals, finding a happy medium between the two classes. Also, its double-wishbone front suspension and solid axle/multi-leaf rear setup with stabilizer bars at both ends is more traditional than the coil-sprung Ram, although the Titan’s classic setup is preferred by most towing and hauling fans.

2018 Nissan Titan XD Platinum Diesel
Of course, both sides of the 60/40-split rear seating area can be turned into dry storage space, enhancing functionality and security. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The Titan XD Diesel manages impressive fuel economy too, although being larger than its half-ton sibling it qualifies as a commercial truck and therefore doesn’t need to report mileage info. I can’t even give you an official guestimate by converting U.S. specs to metric, because the same non-rules are in effect there. After my week’s near equal city/highway driving, most of which was easy-going in order to save fuel (I was responsible for filling it up after all), I achieved an average of 13.4 L/100km. That’s very good, but of course expected from an advanced turbo-diesel pulling nothing but its own bodyweight. Factor in that diesel fuel is regularly priced about 20 cents less than regular unleaded in my part of the woods, and that the pricier petrol was hitting $1.55 at some stations last weekend, and then calculate that a diesel-powered vehicle can travel up to 30-percent farther on a tank of fuel, the Titan XD makes a lot of sense even with its $7,500 upcharge.

2018 Nissan Titan XD Platinum Diesel
Of course, truly large loads are best kept to the bed, which comes with a grippy spray-in bed liner in Platinum trim. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Whether or not the Titan is capable of pulling its own weight from a business case perspective is still open to question. It’s certainly finding new buyers at a rapid rate, and despite lagging behind the Tundra and all domestics in sales, it’s a stronger seller than some other Nissan models and most Infinitis, while its long-term potential is too good to pass up.

2018 Nissan Titan XD Platinum Diesel
Nissan differentiates its Titan by offering a unique five-eighths size and this impressive 5.0L Cummins V8 turbo-diesel with 310-hp and 555 lb-ft of torque. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

No other vehicle class in Canada boasts models selling into six-figure territory, not to mention the near seven figures Ford’s F-Series achieves south of the 49th. That’s why Nissan and Toyota stepped into the full-size pickup arena in the first place, and why they’ll likely stick it out over the long haul. Just the same, automakers like Hyundai and Volkswagen might want to hold back before entering the fray, as the cards are stacked against success in this segment. It’s not just about building a worthy full-size pickup truck contender, as Nissan has learned, because breaking through brand loyalty barriers has proven difficult enough for those already steeped in compact pickup heritage, let alone carmakers that have never offered a serious truck in our market.

The Titan might be the most credible import offering to date, hitting at the core of the full-size half-ton market, and even creating its own unique niche by taking a half-step up on every competitor with this innovative five-eighths, heavy-half Titan XD. Now with a more complete line of engines, it’s a force to be reckoned with and therefore should slowly, steadily pull buyers into its alternative camp.

After achieving its best sales results ever in 2017, Nissan Canada has yet another sales milestone to celebrate, albeit this one is a global affair. The Leaf, which was the first mass-produced plug-in…

Best-selling Nissan Leaf passes 300,000-unit benchmark

2018 Nissan Leaf
The all-new redesigned 2018 Nissan Leaf should increase its sales growth even further. (Photo: Nissan)

After achieving its best sales results ever in 2017, Nissan Canada has yet another sales milestone to celebrate, albeit this one is a global affair.

The Leaf, which was the first mass-produced plug-in electric vehicle when it went on sale in 2010 and has since become the world’s best-selling EV as well, surpassed the 300,000-unit delivery benchmark.

This is an impressive feat for a dedicated EV that’s only been on the market for eight years, no doubt most recently spurred on by the totally redesigned second-generation 2018 model that launched in Japan and some other markets in September of last year.

2018 Nissan Leaf
The new 2018 Leaf’s sportier design should be more appealing to a larger consumer base than the quirkier first-generation model. (Photo: Nissan)

“These numbers prove that the Nissan LEAF remains the most advanced car in the world, with the widest reach and the greatest availability,” said Nissan Executive Vice President Daniele Schillaci. “The new Nissan LEAF is the icon of Nissan Intelligent Mobility because it delivers an even more exciting drive and enhanced ownership experience and contributes to a better world. It will take Nissan’s EV leadership even further.”

2018 Nissan Leaf
Increased performance and considerably more EV range will make the new Leaf an easier decision for those still sitting on the plug-in fence. (Photo: Nissan)

The “Intelligent Mobility” Schillaci speaks of is the Leaf’s ProPILOT Assist and ProPILOT Park technologies, a suite of semi-autonomous advanced driving assistance systems that would have the ability completely take control of the Leaf’s steering wheel and other driving functions if our laws allowed for fully autonomous driving.

The new 2018 Leaf, boasting styling that’s arguably more appealing to the masses than its predecessor, is also a more powerful car with much greater EV range of 241 kilometers from a single charge, while its $35,998 MSRP makes it thousands more affordable than competitors with similar capability.

2018 Nissan Leaf
The 2018 Leaf improves on every aspect of the already impressive outgoing model, especially inside. (Photo: Nissan)

What’s more, the new Leaf’s five-passenger compact volume continues to be more accommodating than key rivals, while its increased cargo capacity, now measuring 668 litres, improves its load hauling capability over the outgoing model as well as EV challengers.

2018 Nissan Leaf
This configurable digital instrument cluster comes standard in the redesigned Leaf. (Photo: Nissan)

Standard features with base S trim include auto on/off LED headlights with LED signature daytime running lights, proximity-sensing keyless access, pushbutton ignition, a 7.0-inch colour TFT configurable gauge cluster, automatic climate control, a 5.0-inch infotainment touchscreen, a rearview parking monitor, Bluetooth phone connectivity with audio streaming, hands-free text message assist, satellite radio, a USB port, a heatable steering wheel, heated front and rear seats, a quick charging port, a portable charging cable, automatic emergency braking, Nissan’s e-Pedal that pushes back on your right foot as a reminder to drive more conscientiously, and more.

2018 Nissan Leaf
Interior roominess and comfort was already good in the first-generation Leaf, and continues to be a strong selling point in the new model. (Photo: Nissan)

Mid-range SV trim, which starts at $39,598 plus freight and fees, adds fog lamps, 17-inch machine-finished alloy wheels, a larger 7.0-inch touchscreen with NissanConnect, voice recognition, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, navigation, NissanConnect EV telematics allowing for remote connection from your smartphone, auto high beams, adaptive cruise control, ProPILOT Assist, upgraded intelligent emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blindspot warning, lane departure warning and intervention, rear cross traffic alert, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a universal garage door opener, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, an eight-way powered driver’s seat with two-way lumbar support, a cargo cover, and more.

2018 Nissan Leaf
Rear seat roominess is generous, and cargo capacity is amongst the best in class. (Photo: Nissan)

Lastly, top-line SL trim that starts at $41,998, includes standard leather upholstery, an Intelligent Around View Monitor with moving object detection, a driver alert system, a seven-speaker Bose audio upgrade, side mirrors with integrated turn signals, and more.

The new Leaf, which will be sold in more than 60 markets worldwide, is now available throughout Nissan’s Canadian dealership network.