2022 Nissan Frontier Revealed With All-New Design To Better Compete
9 February 2021 - motor1
The rival to the Toyota Tacoma and Ford Ranger finally gets a competitive redesign.
The current Nissan Frontier is ancient in automotive years, arriving on the market at the tail end of George W. Bush's first term as president. Since then, the midsize pickup segment has changed more than American politics, its entrants serving increasingly as suburban family cars, as well as work trucks and off-roaders. In that first role, the old truck struggled, but not to worry: The redesigned 2022 Nissan Frontier is finally here.
The updates go further than crisp new styling and an attractive interior. Alongside those skin-deep changes is a new suite of safety and technology features, integrating standard forward collision warning, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, and more. A standard 3.8-liter V6 and nine-speed automatic transmission send 310 horsepower and 281 pound-feet (231 kilowatts and 381 newton-meters) to the rear or all four wheels, depending on configuration. Remember, that engine arrived in 2020, giving the previous-generation Frontier the only significant update during its 17-year production run.
New, Modern Styling
Nissan says the 2022 Frontier takes inspiration from the legendary Hardbody compact truck it marketed from 1986 to 1997. We're not sure we see what they're talking about, except perhaps the new truck's husky, flared front fenders. Even without the supposed retro link, the 2022 pickup looks distinctively Nissan-like, thanks to a front grille shape and kicked-up beltline that tie the Frontier to its big sibling, the Titan. Like the facelifted 2021 Armada, the Frontier makes use of a notched headlight design with vise-shaped LED accents.
The truck seen here – a Pro-4X model – features a high-clearance front bumper with unusual, vertical slashes where it meets the wheel arches, leading us to draw some comparisons with the current Chevrolet Silverado 1500. Those aforementioned front fenders give way to Titan-like door skins and rear fenders that bulge out where the bed meets the cab, ending in C-shaped taillights that echo the headlight design somewhat. A tailgate stamped with a subtle ducktail spoiler and "FRONTIER" wordmark invite more Titan inspiration.
The 2022 Frontier is a huge departure from its predecessor, which is why we're somewhat surprised to learn that it makes use of the old truck's basic chassis and cab structure. That's apparent in the shape of the windshield, roof, and rear window, as well as the door openings. However, Nissan stylists were obviously very careful to ensure that almost every other square inch of sheet metal and glass are different from the outgoing truck – the new one looks far more contemporary and attractive.
Looking at the spec chart, the shared bones become more apparent. King Cab (Nissan parlance for "extended") and crew cab short bed trucks ride on a 126.0-inch wheelbase, an increase of just 0.1-inch relative to 2021. Meanwhile, the crew cab long bed's 139.8-inch wheelbase is 0.1-inch shorter than before. At 210.2 inches long, the standard 2022 pickup is 4.7 inches bigger bumper to bumper – the same can be said of the 2022 crew cab long bed's 224.1-inch length. Width is likewise up 0.2-inch, to 73.0 even.
Underneath its techno-chic new styling is a likewise-new interior that takes direct aim at the exuberantly styled Toyota Tacoma's cabin, particularly given the Lava Red accents that appear liberally on the Pro-4X. A beam-like structure houses the instrument cluster, seemingly cutting through the center stack before emerging as a stitched fascia panel in front of the passenger. Identical HVAC outlets for the both front-seat occupants and a climate control binnacle flanked by a 12-volt outlet and the four-wheel-drive selector create visual symmetry and an appealing design.
The Frontier will come standard with an 8.0-inch infotainment display, the largest standard screen on offer from any pickup manufacturer – only the Titan's identically sized base display matches it. Additionally, the midsize truck will offer a 9.0-inch screen, giving it that all-important best-in-class distinction. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto will be standard, as will a USB-A and USB-C port up front. A wireless charger, Wi-Fi hotspot, and surround-view monitor will be optional. Nissan says the center console is almost twice as large as most midsize trucks, at 4.0 liters, while added rear door pockets improve stuff storage as well.
While the exterior is a drastic departure from the old truck, the cabin looks a bit more similar – the shape of the door panels, for example, is a near-exact riff on the theme we've seen since 2005. And hard plastics look like they'll abound in the new truck, including the top of the dash, glove box, door panels, and center console. Padded plastic shows up on the armrests, dash fascia, and console-mounted grab handles only, if our eyes are to be believed. But the Chevrolet Colorado, Ford Ranger, and Toyota Tacoma also feature Rubbermaid-spec interiors, so the Frontier should at least be class-competitive.
Brawn and Brains
In addition to a few structural components, the 2022 Frontier also includes a carryover powertrain, a standard 3.8-liter V6 introduced last year. Offering class-leading power and more than enough low-end torque, the V6 should be a good option for pickup buyers, and its nine-speed automatic transmission does a good job of selecting the right gear for the job. In our test of the 2020 Frontier Pro-4X, we found the V6 engine to be more tractable than the wheezy 3.5-liter V6 of the Toyota Tacoma or the high-strung 3.6-liter found in the Chevrolet Colorado, both of which require far more revs to gather momentum.
Unfortunately, its husky engine doesn't net big towing or payload numbers for the 2022 Frontier. Nissan says the midsizer can haul up to 1,610 pounds of payload or tow up to 6,720 pounds. The Tacoma, for example, can lug 1,620 pounds of stuff in the bed and tow a 6,800-pound trailer, while the Ranger can tow 7,500 pounds and haul 1,920 pounds. The gas Chevy Colorado tows 7,000 pounds, while its available diesel ups the ante to 7,700. The Frontier pips its Bow Tie competitor in payload, however – the Colorado can only haul 1,569 pounds. It also beats out the Honda Ridgeline in both metrics.
Helping modernize the old Frontier’s somewhat sketchy handling characteristics is the work of a larger front stabilizer bar and a new rear stabilizer bar, with class-exclusive urethane jounce bumpers improving damping performance over bumpy roads or through corners. Nissan says the 2022 Frontier also gets hydraulic cab mounts, which reduce vibrations and harshness by 80 percent. A retuned hydraulic rack-and-pinion steering setup brings a 16-percent-faster ratio, improving response from the helm.
Safety: The Final Frontier
Unlike its sparsely equipped predecessor, the 2022 Nissan Frontier includes several advanced safety and driver-assist features. Forward collision warning is standard, while automatic emergency braking and intelligent cruise control are optional. Fully loaded, the Frontier's Nissan Safety Shield 360 suite of technology also includes lane departure warning, blind spot monitoring, and class-exclusive rear automatic emergency braking. Nissan Pro-Pilot Assist technology isn't available, which means no lane centering or navigation-linked cruise control, but otherwise, the new Frontier is a huge improvement over its predecessor.
Still, the base Frontier lags behind the Ranger, which offers automatic emergency braking and collision monitoring standard, and Tacoma, which also includes adaptive cruise at no cost. However, the Frontier is more advanced than the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon, neither of which include any sort of collision warning or intervention features on their base models. In fact, automatic emergency braking and adaptive cruise aren't available on any of GM's midsize truck offerings – not even the luxury-oriented Canyon Denali.
Like its predecessor and the larger Titan, the 2022 Nissan Frontier will again feature a rugged, stylish Pro-4X variant. Along with the Lava Orange interior and exterior accents, the Pro-4X gets an electronic locking rear differential, underbody skid plates, and specially tuned Bilstein shock absorbers. The 2022 model will also add an Off-Road mode for the 360-degree camera, which engages at low speeds when the transfer case is in 4-Low. The forward-facing camera helps the driver spot obstacles on the trail, preventing damage and scrapes.
If it's anything like the outgoing truck, the 2022 Nissan Frontier should offer surprising off-road capability. In fact, the 2020 Pro-4X's suspension performance in rough terrain is equal to that of the more expensive Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro, owing particularly to those well-tuned Bilsteins. Here's hoping Nissan left well enough alone, because the Frontier is a hidden gem among factory off-roaders.
Wheelin' And Dealin'
The 2022 Nissan Frontier will come in four different grades (S, SV, Pro-4X, and Pro-X), two cab styles, and two bed lengths. The King Cab pickup is offered with two- and four-wheel drive in either S or SV trim, paired exclusively to a 6.1-foot bed. The crew cab will come with two- or four-wheel drive in the S and SV trims, while four-wheel drive will be standard on the Pro-4X. Like its name suggests, the Pro-X crew cab offers many of the styling updates of the Pro-4X, but with two-wheel drive. And the Frontier SV crew cab will offer either a 5.0- or a 6.1-foot bed; all other four-doors get the short box only.
We think the 2022 Frontier should achieve fuel economy ratings that are similar to its predecessor – 18 miles per gallon city, 24 highway, and 20 combined with two-wheel drive and 17 city, 23 highway, and 19 combined with four-wheel drive. However, nothing official has been announced regarding efficiency or pricing. On that front, we expect the new Frontier to offer a compelling balance of value and features, with prices rising only slightly from 2021. Plan on spending about $28,000 for a base, two-wheel-drive S King Cab, rising to $40,000 or so for a Pro-4X crew cab.
The 2022 Nissan Frontier will hit dealers this summer.