I compared the Frontier to the Ford Ranger extended cab, the GMC Canyon quad cab (it's first year out at the time), the Dodge Dakota, and the Toyota Tacoma. The Ford was outclassed (no quad cab) and the GMC was its first model year so I got turned off by the "all-new 5 cylinder engine" at that time.
I walked into the Toyota dealership and thought maybe I'd mistakenly walked into a Rolls Royce dealership with the arrogance of the salesperson. When I asked about the benefits of the Tacoma over the Frontier in relation to the $6000 price difference between comparably equipped Tacoma versus Frontier, I got "Well... It's a Toyota... I don't know anything about what you've been looking at... (imagine a sarcasm-ladled voice saying that) " And the encounter pretty much went into the toilet after that so I left that dealership.
I liked the Dakota for its interior size, but the bottom line was that I wanted as big a box as I could get with a quad cab, so with its 6 foot box, the Frontier was the biggest in it's class (Dakota was 5 feet at that time).
It is adequately powered with the 3.3 litre V6; not underpowered, but no barn-burner. The automatic works well under load. I pull a small tent trailer once or twice a year, and the truck handles the weight just fine. I have loaded a yard of soil at a time in the back, which is pretty much the truck's limit. The handling is competent at all times.
The rattle as outlined above is a thorn in my side. The selling dealer and another dealership both failed me, for this as well as other concerns. I am not a fan of any of the local Nissan dealerships. I bought this truck because I wanted "Japanese quality", something I had enjoyed with my previous Hondas and Toyotas (all those were purchased used with at least 80,000 km).
Sadly the fit and finish isn't quite up to my Hondas. It is still very good however, and I'd put it up against the North American three anytime. My plan was and is to keep this truck until it's towed to the junk yard. I'm sure that in spite of the rattle, this truck will do me well for many years.
I bought this model because it had been on the market for 4 previous years and based on the 1st gen Frontier from 98, so a good likelihood that the bugs were well worked out.
The other reviews touch on the same issues I have had;
1) Slightly rough idle (nothing too annoying).
2) Less than perfect paint quality; seems to be quite susceptible to paint chipping (I expect a lot from my "Japanese quality").
3) Adequate but not great seat comfort - I compare every seat to my Volvo, and there's no comparison, it's just not that comfortable for whatever reason, but to be fair, the Volvo was hella more money when it was new anyway.
4) A/C system turns on whenever the truck is started with the defroster on, and you cannot turn it off by simply turning the defroster over to floor or dash vent. There is some software setting that leaves it running until the vehicle is turned off. The solution is that you don't leave it on defrost when first starting the truck. For some reason the software will allow it to be turned on and off by the defrost/ vent/floor switch if it was not in the defrost position on startup. (Yes, yes, I know that having the A/C system on during defrost is beneficial for taking moisture out of the air... but sometimes you don't want the A/C system on, you just want the ambient air temperature coming through the vents or floor.)
5) The "automatic" hubs in this vehicle are the same style as what was offered in the late 80's on their trucks, which means you have to be moving no more than about 15 km/hr before engaging the 4X4 the first time in order to lock them. Once locked you can shift in and out of 4X4 at any speed. The book says up to 40 but I did that a couple of times and what a WHAM/BANG type reaction! Once you're used to locking them at the start of your trip, it's no problem. They of course become unlocked whenever you back up 6 feet, but again that's just something to get used to and be aware of. Having said that, Jeeps have been offering a true shift on the fly setup since at least 1990 when I owned one, so it surprises me that Nissan didn't figure that out until 2005.
What do I like about the truck? It is a good looking vehicle. It does a solid job every time when put to work. It gets consistent and respectable gas mileage (though not great). Heating and A/C system do a good job though it does take awhile to get the good hot heat out of the heater. My Hondas never heated up as well as this truck. The quad cab give the extra rear space that the king cab doesn't; a baby seat sits in the back just fine. The base CD stereo 6 speaker system works great. And overall, I still believe that in another 10 years, it will still be a better running truck than a comparable North American product.