- After a decade pr so, Nissan reinvents the Frontier pickup with new styling, a better cabin and a long list of technological features
- The new design is aggressive, and harkens to Nissan’s past pickups
- New front/rear LED lighting is brilliant – visually and practically
- Towing capacity is excellent, though to get the most useful cargo bed features, you need to pay extra
- Fuel economy is mediocre
- 4WD system is hardly modern and the turning circle is massive
After a week of testing, I paid $112 to fill up the 2022 Nissan Frontier, an aggressive-looking “midsize” pickup with a 310-horspower mill and a rather primitive shift-on-the-fly four-wheel-drive system (4WD).
This renovated-for-2022 rig is a big beast, with an enormous turning circle, a modern, technologically-sound cabin and even a useful Intelligent Around View Monitor for spotting hidden stuff behind and helping with hitching up a trailer.
As work trucks go, it’s just fine, though hardly cheap. Nor is it city-sized like, well, a 20-year-old Nissan Hardbody pickup – a true hobby-farm runabout that also fits into the underground parking garages that dot my ultra-urban neighborhood.
Here’s an eye-popping number for you: $47,848. That the price of my King Cab PRO-4X, taxes, fees and such all-in. That’s a big chunk of change, even in today’s hyper-inflated new-car marketplace.
I mention the 2002 Hardbody because Nissan’s designer do, too, in their description of this latest Frontier’s shapes and creases. Apparently, this truck is something of an homage to the “iconic” Hardbody. At 2x scale, as you can see.
The ’22 truck has a huge grille and a square-jawed presence that is anything but aerodynamic. Thus, the inflated gas bill. The highlight of this design isn’t the sheetmetal, though. The look here is just standard pickup fare these days.
Rather, take note of the “interlocking headlights” up front and the clamped-to-the-body lighting in the rear. The pricy PRO-4X takes the lighting theme further with LED headlamps, LED daytime running lights and LED fog lights. At night, the nose is an LED standout.
Nissan brags about the Frontier’s storage spaces in the centre console, rear- and front-door pockets, and at the top of the instrument panel. Yet in practice, the entire package feels like a suit with small pockets. In a nutshell, the Frontier needs spaces to store laptops and iPads, not Gummy Bears and small change. What’s here is not creative enough.
Yes, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard on all models, as they should be in 2022. Visually, however, the cabin is a winner, with modern materials. The interior is also quiet, thanks to rich carpeting and laminated acoustic glass. The so-called “Zero Gravity” seats are among the better pickup buckets I’ve experienced. Long-distance-sitting fatigue is not an issue.
And credit Nissan with giving at least some thoughts to gizmos and gadgets. On the PRO-4X model, you get wireless smartphone charging, NissanConnect with WiFi Hotspot, and two 110V outlets with 400-watt capability – one in the rear, one in the bed.
All Frontiers get two front USB ports (one Type-A, one Type-C), two front 12V outlets and Siri Eyes Free. A Fender audio system with nine speakers is available, but probably not worth the extra coin.
A pickup needs a useful cargo bed. This one is big enough, but you must pay extra for all the best features of a so-called “high-utility bed.” That gets you a spray-on bedliner and Utili-trackChannel System with its cross-section rails and four fixed bed tie-down hooks. The dampened tailgate assist is totally standard. Yet LED cargo bed lights are extra and shouldn’t be.
Did I mention towing capacity? It’s up to 6,490 pounds (2,944 kg) and Trailer Sway Control — which detects sway and automatically applies the brakes to eliminate it – is standard. So, the Frontier can tow, but if you do, your fuel bill will skyrocket beyond anything I’ve moaned about so far.
Which brings us to the driving part. The only engine is a 310-horsepower/281 lb-ft torque, 3.8-litre direct injection V6 engine. This is the old engine, just reworked with 93 per cent new or redesigned parts, says Nissan.
The gearbox is a 9-speed automatic transmission, versus the previous and thoroughly ancient five-speed. This new tranny delivers quick and smooth shifts. Steering response is fine, though, as I said, the turning circle is massive. The ride quality of the reworked suspension is okay.
The shift-on-the-fly 4-wheel drive system (2WD/4HI/4LO) is controlled electronically, however, the part-time transfer case is a place where Nisan saved money. In 4H, I experienced a bit of wind-up, which I found disconcerting on snowy days. Hill Start Assist and Hill Descent Control are standard.
If you get the PRO-4X version, you have an electronic locking differential, Bilstein off-road shock absorbers and underbody skid plates for the most fierce of off-road adventurers. That’s a lot of expensive kit, and I question how much owners fiercely venture into the unknown outback.
Everyone, though, seems quite alert to safety features. Aside from the Around View Monitor — very useful — you get what Nissan calls its “Safety Shield 360: Automatic Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection, Blind Spot Warning, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Lane Departure Warning, High Beam Assist, class-exclusive Rear Automatic Braking and more. Note that Intelligent Cruise Control is standard and you’ll likely use it a lot, city and highway.
Nissan sells both King Cab and Crew Cab versions of the Frontier, though all Crews get 4WD. King Cab is offered in 4WD for all grades. You can also get a long bed or a standard six-foot bed, or the standard five-foot bed on the PRO-4X Crew.
I’d rate the newest Frontier competitive in its class, though Nissan needs to hurry up and deliver fuel cost relief in the form of a hybrid version. These days, good is simply not good enough.