2022 Nissan Frontier vs. 2021 Honda Ridgeline: Compare Trucks

November 9, 2021

There are big changes to this year’s small pickup segment. After a 17-year run, Nissan redesigned the 2022 Frontier pickup truck to groom its rugged good looks with modern conveniences, and Honda refreshed the 2021 Ridgeline by chiseling some machismo into its soft-riding, well-mannered dad bod. 

The two mid-size pickup trucks are more alike than at any other point in their shared past, yet their differences remain stark. As in years past, the Frontier excels at doing truck things like towing and scrambling through the brush, but it performs its truck duties with more safety and comfort. The Honda Pilot-based Ridgeline extends the utility of its related SUV with a clever bed and more off-road prowess this year, but it's still limited by its architecture compared to body-on-frame trucks like the Frontier. 

For this comparison, we pitted the newest trims with the latest packages against each other: The 2022 Nissan Frontier Pro-4X had the Tech ($990), Convenience ($1,990), and Premium  ($2,790) packages to bump its price from $38,390 to $44,315, including destination; the $40,860 2021 Honda Ridgeline AWD Sport comes with an HPD package that is mostly a cosmetic upgrade. 

2021 Honda Ridgeline HPD, left, and 2022 Nissan Frontier Pro-4X, right

2021 Honda Ridgeline HPD, left, and 2022 Nissan Frontier Pro-4X, right

2021 Honda Ridgeline HPD, left, and 2022 Nissan Frontier Pro-4X, right

2021 Honda Ridgeline HPD, left, and 2022 Nissan Frontier Pro-4X, right

2021 Honda Ridgeline HPD, left, and 2022 Nissan Frontier Pro-4X, right

2021 Honda Ridgeline HPD, left, and 2022 Nissan Frontier Pro-4X, right

The HPD’s polarizing 18-inch bronze alloy wheels and massive fender flares look best on a black body trimmed in plenty of black cladding. Honda already squared off the grille, bulged the hood, and lifted the rear bumper to show off its twin tailpipes in an effort to make it look less like the Passport and Pilot and more like, well, the Nissan Frontier. 

Getting its first new body since 2005, the 2022 Frontier retains many of the same characteristics, though it’s four inches longer and 2.0 inches taller, and the bigger creased hood sits higher. Pro models add skid plates protruding between red front tow hooks, and vertical air intakes raise the profile while rectangular LED headlights sandwiched by DRLs broaden the face. The Pro 4X trim buffs up the crew cab and short bed with 17-inch alloy wheels wrapped in 32-inch Hankook all-terrain tires rolling under flared fenders. It looks more like a Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro, if not larger full-size trucks. 

The Frontier’s powertrain embodies the traditional truck character with a 3.8-liter V-6 tuned to 310 hp and 281 lb-ft. A 9-speed automatic provides quick, confident shifts off the start and up the gears; it can hesitate when downshifting out of overdrive gears for passing moves. The gearing helps the Frontier return an EPA-rated 18 mpg city, 24 highway, 20 combined. With rear wheel drive it can carry 1,600 lb and tow 6,720 lb, which is on the lighter side of body-on-frame trucks of this size; the Toyota Tacoma can tow up to 6,800 lb, while the Ford Ranger can tow up to 7,500 lb. The 4X with the short bed and 4WD can tow 6,270 lb and haul 1,230 lb. 

2022 Nissan Frontier

2022 Nissan Frontier

2022 Nissan Frontier

2022 Nissan Frontier

2022 Nissan Frontier

2022 Nissan Frontier

A part-time four-wheel-drive system with an electronically locking rear differential and hill descent control can be optioned, and the Pro 4X model adds Bilstein shocks for more low-speed off-road articulation and higher-speed stiffness. The most surprising thing about the new Frontier is the improved ride quality thanks to hydraulic cab mounts and front and rear stabilizer bars. Not only does it shed the worst trait of the outgoing model, it edges into Ridgeline turf.

If you didn’t know beforehand, and couldn’t see the bed behind you, it would be difficult to discern riding in a Ridgeline from the Pilot. The calm and quiet ride, complemented by good steering feel, overcomes the capacity shortcomings of its powertrain. The 3.5-liter V-6 makes 280 hp and 262 lb-ft, and the Ridgeline’s 9-speed has smoother shifts than the Frontier’s 9-speed, but it’s tuned for efficiency more than readily available power. The Ridgeline and its standard all-wheel-drive system get 21 mpg combined. It tows up to 5,000 lb and has a 1,583-lb payload, but it can’t handle off-road trials as well as the Frontier. 

2021 Honda Ridgeline HPD

2021 Honda Ridgeline HPD

2021 Honda Ridgeline HPD

2021 Honda Ridgeline HPD

2022 Nissan Frontier

2022 Nissan Frontier

2022 Nissan Frontier

2022 Nissan Frontier

The Ridgeline’s bed opens up more versatility, however, with a tailgate that can drop as well as swing open on a side hinge. An in-bed trunk that can double as a cooler with a drain plug helps the bed hold nearly 34 feet of space total. Its crew cab has room for three passengers in the spacious back seats. 

Forget about rear passengers in the Frontier’s extended cab, unless you want passengers to know you want them forgotten. Rear leg room stretches from 26.2 inches to 33.2 inches with the crew cab, but that’s still more than three inches shorter than the Ridgeline. Underseat storage can be had in either truck. Frontier Pro models come standard with the crew cab and short bed. A 6-foot bed is available and can hold nearly 50 cubic feet; the short bed holds about 40 cubes. The Frontier’s beds can do more, but the Ridgeline’s bed makes it more fun to do things. 

2022 Nissan Frontier

2022 Nissan Frontier

2022 Nissan Frontier

2022 Nissan Frontier

2021 Honda Ridgeline

2021 Honda Ridgeline

2021 Honda Ridgeline HPD

2021 Honda Ridgeline HPD

Both trucks come standard with automatic emergency braking, but the Ridgeline’s higher starting price also makes it better equipped with active lane control and adaptive cruise control. Those items cost extra on the Frontier, and it remains to be seen if the Nissan will earn the same five-star crash-test rating as the Honda.

The Ridgeline Sport HPD comes with keyless start, cloth upholstery, power features, 18-inch wheels, and an 8.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, whereas the more expensive Frontier Pro 4X has similar features, a 9.0-inch touchscreen, and all the off-road equipment. 

Therein lies the differentiator. For weekend truck duty but with most weekdays spent on the road running around town, the Ridgeline makes the most sense, earning our nod with a TCC Rating of 7.0 out of 10. For more utilitarian needs, and for a work truck that doubles as a nice passenger vehicle, the Frontier and its TCC Rating of 5.6 out of 10 reflects that need.

Summary

7.0
Expert Rating
The 2021 Honda Ridgeline is the just-right pickup most users really need.
5.6
Expert Rating
The redesigned 2022 Nissan Frontier is thoroughly modernized with big improvements in ride quality and technology.

Styling

7.0
Expert Rating
New looks this year make the Ridgeline look more like a pickup.
Read More
7.0
Expert Rating
Pro-4X models are not only more capable, they are the best looking as well.
Read More

Performance

7.0
Expert Rating
The 2021 Honda Ridgeline rides and handles well for a pickup.
Read More
7.0
Expert Rating
The Frontier’s redesign transforms the pickup’s dynamics to make ride quality a strength.
Read More

Comfort & Quality

8.0
Expert Rating
There’s not a more useful pickup on the market for most drivers than the 2021 Honda Ridgeline.
Read More
5.0
Expert Rating
The Frontier’s surprisingly tranquil cabin is a big upgrade over the last generation truck.
Read More

Safety

8.0
Expert Rating
Tons of safety tech and good crash-test scores make the 2021 Honda Ridgeline a good choice.
Read More
We are still waiting for crash test ratings for the 2022 Frontier.
Read More

Features

8.0
Expert Rating
Honda offers a few well-equipped trims of the 2021 Ridgeline.
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6.0
Expert Rating
The Frontier offers a pair of screens in all models, giving it solid technology features on any trim.
Read More

Fuel Economy

4.0
Expert Rating
By pickup standards, the 2021 Honda Ridgeline is fairly frugal.
Read More
3.0
Expert Rating
Fuel economy ratings match the 2020 model.
Read More

MSRP

from $36,490
from $27,840

Invoice

from $34,015
from $26,815

Fuel Economy - Combined City and Highway

21
20

Engine

Regular Unleaded V-6, 3.5 L
Regular Unleaded V-6, 3.8 L

Drivetrain

All Wheel Drive Read Full Specs
Rear Wheel Drive Read Full Specs
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