Weekly Craigslist Hidden Treasure: 2002 Nissan Xterra

Car Culture

The beater SUV you've been looking for.

The closest Nissan you can buy new today to the departed Xterra SUV is the Frontier mid-size pickup truck. The served as the basis for both the first and second generation Xterra. While the Frontier is still alive and well today, the Xterra, clearly, is no longer with us. And that's a darn shame.

When the original Xterra debuted for the 2000 model year it was immediately praised for its honesty, ruggedness, and bonafide SUV credentials. It was also the first Nissan vehicle to be conceived, designed, and manufactured in the US. This is evident throughout the vehicle, inside and out.

The first-gen Xterra can be broken down into two parts: pre- and post-facelift. Today’s subject, a 2002 Xterra, clearly falls into the latter category. When it launched in 1999, the Xterra had a choice of two engines, a 2.4-liter inline four with 143 hp and 79 lb-ft of torque and the optional 3.3-liter V6 with 170 hp and 96 lb-ft. Both could be paired to either a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission. Rear-wheel drive, obviously, came standard and there was a part-time 4WD system.

What also helped to set the Xterra apart were several of its features, including a roof rack, side step rails, a sunroof, and carpeted floor mats. While those may seem relatively basic today, nearly 20 years ago they were typically optional and, in some cases, aftermarket. Nissan read the American SUV desires correctly. It also listened to customer feedback.

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For 2002, the Xterra received a hearty set of upgrades, including a more powerful V6, now rated at 180 hp but with the same torque rating. But the real treat was the V6 receiving a supercharger, which boosted output to 210 hp and 246 lb-ft of torque. Manual-equipped versions had 231 lb-ft. This refresh also saw slightly restyled front-end styling, now with round instead of rectangular headlights, a new dash design, pullout rear cup holders, and a foot-operated pedal parking brake, among others.

In short, the Xterra had become the complete SUV package and was particularly appealing to those who didn’t have the money for a Land Rover. But the Xterra was also reliable in ways the Land Rover was not. Its honesty was its virtue. A redesign arrived for 2005 with a new platform that made the Xterra bigger in every dimension. The base inline-four was dropped entirely and the new 4.0-liter V6 with 261 hp and 146 lb-ft became the sole engine.

Unlike today, this SUV didn’t become a car-based crossover, retaining its body-on-frame chassis. And as we all know, this second-gen Xterra remained with us until 2015. To date, there is no replacement. .

But in case it doesn’t, this facelifted first-generation Nissan Xterra up for sale on can be yours for only $3,999. The seller is clearly a used dealership (in New Jersey) so everything is negotiable. Generally speaking, this 2002 Xterra appears to be in decent shape, considering it has over 112,000 miles on its clock. It’s listed in ‘Good’ condition but there’s clearly some wear and tear, which looks fixable. This Xterra also has the supercharged V6 paired to the four-speed slushbox. For $4 grand or so, this ’02 Xterra can be the beater SUV you’ve been looking for.

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