2022 Nissan Frontier

PHOENIX — For 16 years the Nisan Frontier has remained largely unchanged and in automotive speak a rolling fossil where new Oldsmobiles were still in dealer showrooms.  For reference, there wasn’t even such a thing as the iPhone. Yet while it was well past its freshness date the popular mid-size pickup still sold in respectable numbers. That’s not surprising, the old Frontier still looks good, it did most things extremely well and not everyone gets overly excited with the latest high tech and digital stuff they’ll never figure out how to use or even want to know.

But sales is the name of the game and since 2018 those number have been dropping while competitors have been increasing and it was time to put the ancient Frontier out to pasture. Thus, for 2022 there’s an all-new third-generation Frontier that’s been completely revamped with an attractive and stylish if not downright rugged look and is considerably improved over the outgoing Frontier.

The new Frontier still rides on a solid truck frame and towing capacity is equal to the same 6,720 pounds as the previous Frontier but less than competitors like the Jeep Gladiator and Chevrolet Colorado who boast at least 7650 pounds. The maximum load capacity increases by 160 pounds from 1450 to 1610 pounds.

 Nissan did make structural and suspension modifications resulting in a noticeably improved ride and handling characteristics.

Also unchanged is the 310 horsepower 3.8-liter V6 with 281 lb.-ft of torque that debuted in the Frontier in 2021. A 9-speed automatic transmission is standard along with a choice of 2WD or 4WD offered in 2WD and 4WD King Cab S and SV trim levels. Crew Cab models also come in 2WD and 4WD S, SV SWB standard bed and S LWB long bed grades along with the Crew Cab PRO-4X (4WD only) tested here and PRO-X (2WD only).

4WD versions of the 2022 Frontier get a shift-on-the-fly 4-wheel drive system, which supports 2WD/4HI/4LO modes with an electronically controlled part-time transfer case. Optional is a 4-wheel limited-slip system, that can shift power around more dynamically depending on which wheel has most grip. Hill Start Assist is standard on all 2022 Frontier models, while Hill Descent Control is standard on 4WD pickups.

The new Frontier exterior design features a larger grille and sculpted hood. Fenders are larger, blistered and accented to add a more muscular look. There’s also new headlamps and taillamps and the overall look is modern, updated and handsome.

The King Cab model comes with a 6-foot bed while Crew Cab models including our Pro-4X has a standard 5-foot bed. Only the SV Crew Cab model offers both bed lengths.

Inside, Frontier’s interior is completely new and vastly improved with fresh styling, quality materials and an ample mixture of soft-touch material. Frontier also gets a revamped infotainment system as part of the redesign. It now comes with a standard 8-inch or optional 9-inch touch screen.

The interface is intuitive with controls that are easy to reach and use. Previously unavailable Apple CarPlay and Android Auto is now standard. The driver gets a 7-inch display along with analog gauges. All 2022 Frontier trims get two front USB ports – one Type-A, one Type-C – and two 12V outlets. SV and PRO-X/PRO-4X trims can add a pair of 110V 400W outlets, one in the rear and one in the bed, as well as a Fender Premium Audio system.

Our Pro-4X test truck gets a 9-inch infotainment touchscreen that’s well laid out and simple to use, with clear text and graphic. It’s worth noting that almost all the vehicle’s settings are located within the instrument cluster screen however controls mounted on the steering wheel isn’t easy to scroll through and most are most are unavailable while driving. Adding a Bluetooth device is simple with an easy-to-follow menu.

Wireless phone charging and Wi-Fi hotspot are available on the PRO-4X and PRO-X. All trims get tire pressure monitoring, forward collision warnings, and rear door alert, while Nissan Safety Shield 360 – with Automatic Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection, Blind Spot Warning, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Lane Departure Warning, High Beam Assist, and Rear Automatic Braking – is optional. So, too, is intelligent cruise control and traffic sign recognition, plus the 360-degree camera. Sadly, there's no option to add ProPILOT Assist, which combines adaptive cruise and lane-keeping assist.

There’s plenty of head, leg, hip and shoulder room up front along with excellent visibility but a major drawback is the steering wheel that tilts but doesn’t telescope adjust. That’s a major problem for tall drivers who must move the seat closer to the dashboard than is comfortable.

Frontier uses Nissan’s Zero Gravity seats that provide good support and are extremely comfortable. The center console is nice and low and there’s a pair of grab handles at the front of the console that serve more as design than functionality.

On the road we really appreciated the performance of Frontier’s 310-horsepower V6 engine that delivers plenty of smooth and linear acceleration when needed, with smooth and linear power across the broad-spectrum range resulting in excellent low-end power for passing or getting up to highway speed when entering the interstate. We really liked the nine -speed automatic transmission with its smooth up and down shifts.  

Fuel economy was a big disappointment where we averaged just under 18 mpg in combined suburban and highway driving during our week of testing. We were also disappointed with the heavy steering feel at low speeds that makes it especially challenging when parallel parking.

While our Pro-4X is especially designed for off-road challenges with its standard electronic locking differential, Bilstein off-road shock absorbers, and underbody skid plates, we didn’t get the opportunity to test its capabilities in that setting since most off-road trails in Arizona where I tested our Frontier are closed due to high fire danger restrictions. We expect however that consistent with previous Frontier Pro-4X editions it’s up to the challenges thrown at it.

Overall, the new Frontier earns high marks and is significantly improved over the previous generation model. If you’re shopping for a mid-size pickup, you’d do well to include Frontier on your “must test drive list” of vehicles.

Vital Stats
Base Price: Base Price $37,240
Price as Tested: $46,965
Engine-Transmission: 310-horsepower V6 with 281 lb.-ft torque paired with 9-speed automatic transmission.
EPA Fuel Economy: 17/22/19 MPG – City/Highway/Combined
Seating: 5

Crash Test Safety Ratings: The Frontier received the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)'s Frontal Overall-crash rating of 4-star and Side-crash Overall rating of 5-star. It has not been crash tested by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) as of this writing.

Where Built: Canton, Mississippi

Competes With:
Chevrolet Colorado
Ford Ranger
GMC Canyon
Honda Ridgeline
Toyota Tacoma

All new for 2022 and significantly better in almost every way
Intuitive and easy to use infotainment and technology features
Attractive styling, well-built
Comfortable with composed handling and smooth ride

Heavy low-end steering feel
No telescoping steering wheel
Disappointing fuel economy

— Jim Prueter