The model that was the first compact truck in the U.S. is all-new again. Marking the sixth generation of the cult-like nameplate, the Datsun 220 Hardbody that arrived on these shores in 1959, Nissan has redesigned its Frontier. The new truck hits the streets and trails with new looks outside and in, an improved powertrain and chassis, upgraded safety and technology, and an updated collection of elements that enhance its ability for work and play. The rugged and utilitarian model has sold more than 4 million units and created a segment that is one of the most popular in the market. Its remake is timely as America’s truck market heats up and, although appreciated for its stalwart capability, the previous generation Frontier lacked some of the latest technology and amenities that today’s truck buyers expect.
The 2022 Frontier goes on sale late summer and comes in 2WD and 4WD versions and S, SV, SV LWB, PRO-4X trims; the new PRO-X desert runner trim comes in 2WD only. The S trim in 4 x 2 with a King Cab starts at $27,840, while the S Crew Cab version begins at $29,340. The truck is available with 5 ft. and 6 ft. beds, it now has a taller bed height and seven percent more volume, plus standard trailer sway control. It can tow up to 6,720 lbs. and has a maximum payload of 1,620 lbs.
While the powertrain is the same as before, almost every other part of the Frontier has been redesigned.Nissan
Notable is the pickup’s styling changes. It’s been designed with a more aggressive overall look, with sculpted and blocky cues, large fender flares and a high bodyside. It sports a larger and wider, machined-out grille and newly-styled lights with LEDs and daytime running lights in the front and LEDs in the rear. The back-end sports embedded tow hooks on 4WD models. The newest model is 5 inches longer, with the same wheelbase, and claims a best-in-class approach angle, a benefit for backcountry forays. Of note is an integrated bumper step and the built-in spoiler and interlocking handle on the tailgate and increased bed illumination. Among the options is Kicker Audio’s portable tailgate set-up.
The recrafted cabin is more upscale than the previous truck. It sports Zero Gravity front and rear outboard seats, has the largest-in-class 9-in. color touchscreen and largest-in-class 7-in. driver assist display, along with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, smart phone integration, wireless charging, Wi-Fi hotspot availability and up to four USB ports. A new center console and shifter, new premium accents and trims, along with eight beverage holders and more stowage compartments, including under-seat storage in the rear, make the interior more user-friendly.
A single powertrain motivates the truck that has been re-engineered with 93 percent new parts; the 3.8-liter V6 gets 310 hp. /281 lb.-ft of torque and is shifted through a 9-speed automatic, with a 99-percent wider gear range. Nissan says it has best-in-class horsepower against competitors Toyota Tacoma, Chevy Colorado, and the Ford Ranger. The electronically-controlled 4WD system has 4H and 4L settings, as well as 2WD and Hill Descent Control, when four-wheel drive is engaged. Hill Start Assist is standard.
The 2022 Frontier’s interior is more upscale and tech-forward than before. Nissan
A cadre of automotive testers put the new midsizer through a one-day evaluation of nearly 150 miles motoring on a collection of roadways near Provo, Utah, as well as along a lengthy off-road track with high-mountain hill climbs that had sections of rocky and rutted terrain. I drove a pre-production version of the PRO-4X that stickered at $44,315, including destination and delivery (the base price is $37, 250). This toughened trim has a host of off-road goodies that includes larger underbody skid plates, an electronic rear differential, beefed-up Bilstein shocks; 17-in. beadlock style alloy wheels with aggressive all-terrain tires and an array of badging that enunciates its identity. Options on the model I drove included Nissan’s Technology Package, the PRO Convenience Package and the PRO Premium Package that brought add-ons ranging from heated outside mirrors, steering wheel and seats to bed upgrades with a spray-in bedliner to the Utili-track system bed system for carrying a wide variety of items to power outlets and a trailer hitch. Other notable items were the Fender premium audio with 10-speakers, leather seats and an Intelligent Around View Monitor with Off-Road Mode.
Throughout my test drive, the Frontier had great power on tap and seamless shifting as well as strong linear braking. Nissan says the new hydraulic rack-and-pinion steering and upgrades to the steering gear and stabilizer bar will make drivers more confident with driving maneuvers overall and when towing. I found it a bit heavy-handed, especially in slow-speed maneuvers, however, I like the weight and size of the steering wheel and it was competent at all speeds. I was impressed by the upgraded suspension set-up with bigger front and rear stabilizer mounts, plus new urethane jounce bumpers and hydraulic cab mounts that reduce road vibration. Also of note is the quietness of the cabin as a result of 41 new parts applied to reduce wind, engine and road noise.
There’s plenty of room for passengers and gear.Nissan
The truck performed well off-road with good angles of approach and departure, 8.5 inches of ground clearance and efficient low-range gearing. Unlike many other systems today, the Frontier does not have terrain programs, but it handled steep climbs and rutted track with ease.
Nissan says the Frontier is “right-sized” for garages and urban life. And, with 80 available options, buyers can set it up for their own adventures and personal needs. With a base work truck available and pricing that starts below many others in its class, it likely to be a homerun.