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After more than 16 years without a major update, the Nissan Frontier is getting a new look inside and out. Although the frame and chassis are the same as the 2020 model, the sheet metal is all new and the interior gets a much-needed upgrade.
The old Frontier was long past its prime, with a bare-bones interior, a rough ride, poor fuel economy, and lackluster crash-test results. The 2022 Frontier’s fuel-economy numbers aren’t out, and the new model has yet to be crash-tested, but forward collision warning (FCW) and automatic emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian detection now come standard. So does a damped tailgate that won’t slam open, tons of interior storage, and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility.
Nissan showed off the 2022 Frontier during an online event. Here’s what we’ve learned about the new truck so far.
When it comes to a vehicle as long in the tooth as the Frontier, any improvement is welcome. Although Nissan didn’t redesign the Frontier from the ground up, it sure seems like the automaker has put a lot of effort into getting the most out of the design. We plan to buy a new Frontier as soon as it goes on sale this summer. Once we’ve finished evaluating it, we’ll offer our full opinion.
Unlike the outgoing Frontier’s swept-back hood and rounded corners, the new model has an imposing grille and squared-off edges. It’s in keeping with the latest trends in truck design, and Nissan uses words like “rugged,” “aggressive,” “massive,” “chiseled,” “athletic,” and “tactical” to describe the look.
We’ve only seen the most rugged version—the off-road-ready PRO-4X trim level with an optional blacked-out grille—so we’ll have to reserve our full opinion until we catch a glimpse of less aggressive models.
Extended-cab versions—King Cabs, in Nissan’s parlance—get a 6-foot bed, while Crew Cab models get a 5-foot bed. Crew Cab SV buyers can also opt for a 6-foot bed. A factory spray-on bedliner is available, as are bed rails and bed lighting. Regardless of which you choose, the new Frontier measures about 5 inches longer and about 3 inches taller than it would in the same configuration on its predecessor. For 2022, 16-inch steel wheels come standard; 17-inch alloy wheels are optional.
The interior is totally changed, with a modern touch screen anchoring the center of the dashboard, a 7-inch vehicle information display between the analog gauges behind the steering wheel, and a lot more in-cabin storage throughout the truck. There are nooks under the rear seats, crannies between the front seats, pockets in the doors, and space in the overhead console. A larger touch screen and wireless phone charging are optional extras, as are red interior trim accents.
We thought the outgoing Frontier’s rear seat felt cramped even in Crew Cab configuration. The new model doesn’t look to be much of an improvement, but we’ll make sure testers of all sizes try it out as soon as we get one in for testing.
What Drives It
There’s only one engine and transmission choice: a 310-horsepower, 3.8-liter V6 that was introduced on the 2020 Frontier and a nine-speed automatic transmission. Buyers can choose between rear- and four-wheel drive. We measured a lousy 15 mpg overall when we last tested a Frontier with the 4.0-liter V6, which was discontinued in 2019. We certainly hope the new truck is much more fuel-efficient.
Nissan says it has improved the Frontier’s steering, with a faster response that requires less effort and a promise of a truck that’s easier to drive. Nissan also seems to have made some changes that would address our complaints about the outgoing Frontier’s punishingly stiff ride, including new hydraulic cab mounts that promise to reduce road vibrations, and an upgraded double-wishbone front suspension that makes for more nimble handling and a smoother ride. The rear still gets leaf springs and a solid axle, though, so don’t expect too much cushiness.
The PRO-4X model gets goodies like an electronic locking differential, Bilstein shocks, and underbody skid plates. And in S and SV trim, a rear-wheel-drive Frontier can tow up to 6,720 pounds. A rear-wheel-drive SV can carry 1,610 pounds in the bed. Trailer Sway Control—which automatically applies the vehicle’s brakes to stop any swaying it detects from an attached trailer—comes standard on all models.
Safety and Driver Assistance Systems
We’re glad to see that Nissan made FCW and AEB available for the first time, and it’s standard on the Frontier. That already puts it ahead of the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon, which can’t even be ordered with the important safety features.
Buyers can also opt for more advanced safety and driver convenience features including blind spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert with AEB, lane departure warning, and adaptive cruise control.
As for crash-test results, we’ll have to wait for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to put the new Frontier through its paces. The outgoing model scored a Marginal in both of the IIHS small overlap front crash tests, which show how well a vehicle would perform in a frontal collision with a tree or pole, or with the corner of another vehicle.