The Car Connection Nissan Frontier Overview
It may have taken 17 years, but the Frontier finally got a full redesign for 2022 and the updates have transformed it completely. Styling, technology, and suspension updates make the Frontier the best all-around mid-size truck in this class, something that was hard to imagine after so many years with the outgoing model.
For 2020, Nissan dropped in a new powertrain in the old truck but that was just a teaser for what was to come. That powertrain was a bit of a mismatch for the rest of the Frontier, with its old frame and suspension sticking out even more against a modern powerplant. But now that the rest of the truck has caught up, the Frontier is massively improved.
MORE: Read our 2022 Nissan Frontier review
The Frontier competes in a growing segment of mid-size trucks that include the Toyota Tacoma, Chevrolet Colorado, and GMC Canyon.
The new Nissan Frontier
Though the new Frontier keeps much of the old truck's frame (the wheelbase length remains the same in fact), everything around it has been updated. That includes new hydraulic mounts for the cab, beefed up front and rear stabilizer bars, and newly tuned hydraulic steering. This has transformed the Frontier's ride quality completely, it remains composed at highway speeds rather than wandering around its lane and the cabin is shockingly tranquil for a pickup truck.
Power comes from a 310-hp, 3.8-liter V-6 that makes 281 lb-ft of torque and is mated to a nine-speed automatic transmission. Short gearing moves the Frontier through the first three gears quickly and it moves with some quickness off the line. Most Frontier's come with rear-wheel drive standard, save for the off-road oriented Pro-4X. That model also adds standard Bilstein off-road shocks, a Dana rear axle, electronic locking rear differential, extra underbody protection, and all-terrain tires to round out its capability.
Styling is much more rugged, to keep up with the times. The high sculpted hood gives the Frontier more presence and boxy fenders make the previously flat truck look much more substantial. Inside the look has been modernized as well, with a standard 8.0-inch touchscreen sitting high atop the dashboard and an also standard 7.0-inch screen takes up the middle of the instrument panel. Pro-X and Pro-4X models get a larger 9.0-inch touchscreen with navigation, though all models features Android Auto and Apple CarPlay phone mirroring. Further options include a surround-view camera system, wi-fi hotspot, Fender audio, and a wireless charging pad. Cloth upholstery is standard on all trims and the only trims to offer leather are once again the Pro models.
Automatic forward emergency braking with pedestrian detection is standard, along with rear door alerts. Nissan also offers a comprehensive suite of safety technology, including blind-spot monitors, automatic high beams, adaptive cruise control, active lane control, and rear automatic braking on all of the Frontier's trim levels.
Nissan Frontier history
The Nissan Frontier is the successor to what was once called the Nissan Hardbody. That pickup brought Nissan out of its Datsun years, and became a staple of the small-truck market.
Introduced for 1998 and lightly updated over the course of a decade, the Frontier started to establish its current style in 2001 when it gained a more rugged appearance that mainly involved clipped-on wheel well flares, plus a chunkier-looking grille and front air dam.
These models did quite well with the standard 148-horsepower, 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine; the 168-hp, 3.3-liter V-6 engine was a decent choice for those who towed or hauled heavy loads. Most Frontiers of this vintage are regular or King Cab (extended) body styles, though a Crew Cab model was introduced for 2000.
Nissan introduced a new Frontier for 2005, and that same basic truck continues to be offered today, a decade later. The current Frontier is based on the company's F-Alpha architecture, which was first introduced for the larger Titan pickup. This Frontier is larger and slightly heavier than the one it replaced. Because of this, Nissan markets its smaller pickup as a mid-sizer.
With its 2005 redesign, the Frontier made some major advances in safety. For a few years, the Frontier was rated "Good" in many tests by the IIHS—unlike compact trucks like the Ranger and last-generation Colorado and Canyon. Since then, not much has been done in the way of crash testing, however.
For 2007, a longer-bed Crew Cab model was first offered, which gave the Frontier nearly full-size proportions. In 2009, Nissan gave the Frontier a mid-cycle refresh, with slightly different front-end styling as well as revised interior trim. A more focused PRO-4X off-road model was also released. More recently, the Frontier received a small fuel-economy boost, and a new Desert Runner package. Bluetooth became standard on most models, and Nissan expanded availability of dual-zone climate control, navigation, a rearview camera, and rear parking sensors.
Today's Frontiers don't do nearly as well with the 152-hp, 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine, which feels overwhelmed even on the limited models in which it was available. But the 261-hp, 4.0-liter V-6 that's offered with this generation is strong and smooth, with plenty of torque and a relaxed character with the automatic transmission.
A choice of extended- and crew-cab body styles are offered, as is four-wheel drive. Many Frontiers get a standard spray-on bedliner, while the Utili-track channel and tie-down system is handy for securing smaller heavy items like an engine or a small ATV. Both were market standouts when introduced but have since been adopted by other truckmakers.
For 2017, the Frontier was largely unchanged aside from a new body-color rear bumper on the base S trim level and a new Work Truck package for that model that adds utility-minded features like a spray-in bedliner and rubber floor mats. The 2018 model gained a standard rearview camera and air conditioning.
In recent years, Nissan has moved production of the Frontier from Tennessee to its newer truck, SUV, and commercial-vehicle plant in Mississippi.
For 2020, the Frontier ditches the old 2.5-liter inline-4 and manual transmission for a new 310-horsepower 3.8-liter V-6 with a 9-speed automatic transmission, and a part-time four-wheel-drive system is once again optional.