First Drive: Nissan Frontier Goes From Worst to First

August 11, 2021 by Jerry Hirsch, @Jerryhirsch

Anyone waiting for the long-delayed redesign of the Nissan Frontier pickup truck will be well rewarded. It’s gone from worst to first.

The current model dates back to the 2005 model year and was long surpassed by every other offering in the segment.

But a test drive of the 2022 Nissan Frontier in the mountains near Salt Lake City found that it handles better, is more comfortable, has more safety technology and accelerates faster than the vehicle it replaces. Its only disappointment is worse than average fuel economy ratings for the midsize pickup truck group.

The Frontier is agile off-roading and tackles twisty paved mountain roads with ease. On the highway, it almost drives like a sedan. Another nicety is that the new truck is a touch smaller than the other competitors in the segment. It’s still big but is easier to park and drive through urban areas than the competition. And the slightly smaller size doesn’t intrude on cabin size or truck bed utility.

Nissan needed a vehicle like the Frontier. At one point, it trailed only the Toyota Tacoma in the midsize truck market but slid down in the rankings as Chevrolet, Ford, Honda and Jeep all came up with competitive rivals. The Frontier is now poised for a dramatic sales climb.


With the new Frontier, Nissan has gone for a single engine strategy, figuring its choice will provide enough power and torque for the hauling and towing needs of most owners of trucks in this class. The standard 3.8-liter direct-injection V6 engine yields 310 horsepower, making it the strongest standard engine of the group. The Chevrolet Colorado falls short, with a standard four-cylinder engine with 200 horsepower. Toyota’s midsize Tacoma has a standard four-cylinder engine rated at just 159 horsepower.

Nissan mated the Frontier’s engine to a smooth-shifting new 9-speed automatic transmission.

While more than adequate, the 2022 Nissan Frontier does not have the best torque in class. With a 281 pound-feet of torque rating, the Frontier trails the Ford Ranger’s 310 pound-feet of torque.

The Frontier’s towing capacity reaches 6,720 pounds and it has a payload capacity of 1,610 pounds. Trailer sway control comes standard.


Inspired by Nissan’s Hardbody from the 1980s and 1990s, the all-new 2022 Nissan Frontier has a complete redesign featuring a modern and rugged exterior. With an elevated stance, the Frontier’s front-end features new precision interlocking headlights, a new grille and a chiseled hood. Nissan designers made the truck look like they milled it from a single metal block.

Though the new Frontier has the same 126-inch wheelbase as previous generations, the truck’s body has grown by almost five inches.

Nissan will offer five and six-foot beds in multiple trim levels.


Nissan designed the new Frontier with a smoother drive in mind. It brought back hydraulic rack-and-pinion steering gear for a better steering feel. The automaker also redesigned the front and rear suspensions to improve comfort both in everyday driving and off-road. Nissan says their new hydraulic cab mounts will reduce road vibrations by 80 percent.

The new Frontier has 4 liters of space in its center console, which Nissan says is more than any other midsize pickup, 5.7 liters of rear-door-pocket storage and 6.5 liters of front-door-pocket storage.

The 2022 Frontier is quieter and more comfortable than its predecessors. It has improved seats and higher quality carpeting. Nissan added insulation and front-door acoustic laminated glass to create a quieter ride. People familiar with the current model will quickly notice less noise as soon as they start to drive the new truck.

Nissan equipped the new Frontier with significant technology improvements, including a standard 8-inch display screen and the option to upgrade to 9-inches. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard on all models. The dashboard has a 7.0-inch Advanced Driver Assist Display as well.


Automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection and forward collision is standard. Other important safety features include rear cross-traffic alert, automatic rear braking, blind-spot warning, lane departure warning and automated high beam lights are upgrades.

2022 Nissan Frontier interior

Interior of the 2022 Nissan Frontier.

Four cameras mounted on the outside of the vehicle stitch together views to create the first Around View Monitor, which provides a birds’ eye view of the vehicle.


With an electronic locking differential, Bilstein off-road shock absorbers and underbody skid plates, the Frontier PRO-4X is a good option for off-roading.

The PRO-4X model comes with a new off-road mode, which helps drivers negotiate tight trails without having an external spotter. Off-road mode functions when the vehicle moves forward at slow speeds and the 4WD system is set to 4LO.


The two-wheel-drive S model starts at $27,840 for the king cab and $29,340 for the larger crew cab. Prices rise quickly from there to a starting price of $37,240 for the Pro-4X trim. There’s also an extra $1,150 delivery fee. All truck versions have either an option for a four-wheel-drive configuration or only come in that configuration.

According to the EPA, the two-wheel-drive Frontier will achieve 18 mpg in city driving, 24 on the highway and 20 combined. The four-wheel-drive model carries a fuel economy rating of 17 mpg in city driving, 22 on the highway and 19 combined.

Jerry Hirsch August 11, 2021
A first drive of the 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz found that the truck-like SUV offers a great ride and clever utility.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.


Subscribe to our mailing lists

Choose one or more topics: