MONTEBELLO, QUÉBEC – Nissan’s Frontier has often been called “the forgotten one”. While its rivals have seen many updates and redesigns over the years, the midsized pickup truck has soldiered on with nary an update since 2005. Last year Nissan put a new powertrain into it for certain markets, but obviously, a full redesign was needed. We were invited to Montebello to take a spin in the completely redesigned 2022 Nissan Frontier.
Available in multiple configurations, Canadian buyers can spec their 2022 Frontier as a King Cab model or Crew Cab model, and either a short (five-foot) or a long bed (six-foot). 4×4 is standard on all Canadian models, which is unsurprising considering the market – our friends down south can opt for a 4×2 model if they desire. The new Frontier’s blocky but rugged stance almost resembles the Tacoma, which isn’t a bad thing in the slightest. The PRO-4X model adds a bunch of visual cues that really help set this truck apart from the pack.
Up against serious competition from the likes of the Toyota Tacoma, Ford Ranger, Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon, the Frontier benefits from a reliable, no-nonsense powertrain. Under the hood lies a 3.8-liter naturally aspirated V6, good for 310 horsepower at 6,400RPM and 281 lb-ft. of torque. The only available transmission is a nine-speed automatic, and this combination works very well. We observed smooth acceleration, reasonable quick reflexes, and a transmission that knows what it’s doing.
The third generation Frontier still rides on a body-on-frame layout that isn’t quite all-new, but Nissan has made considerable revisions to the suspension that make it feel much more modern than its architecture actually is. Venturing off the beaten path will allow drivers to use the 360-degree camera system with a dedicated off-road mode, to provide maximum visibility and confidence. Features like Hill Start Assist and Hill Descent Control are both standard on the Frontier, including an electronically controlled transfer case with shift-on-the-fly modes.
Unique to the PRO-4X off-road trim are a electronic locking rear diff, Bilstein off-road shocks, underbody skid plates, and off-road appearance bits. This is also where the Around View Monitor comes in, as well as an off-road display in the seven-inch digital gauge cluster which can show pitch, etc. The PRO-4X model also gets a 32.3-degree approach angle. All models get bigger stabilizer bars and urethane jounce bumpers, to increase capability as well as refinement. An interesting move is to retain the hydraulic steering rather than move to an electrically assisted rack – the result is authentic steering feel.
The interior is where the outgoing Frontier showed its age the most. Here, we have a fresh cabin with all of the safety features expected today. Nissan’s Safety Shield 360 adds all of the active safety tech, and of course, the optional nine-inch touchscreen (an eight-inch unit is standard) offers both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Nissan claims it to be the largest touchscreen in its segment. USB-C connectivity is on board too, but best of all – the materials are all fairly nice. There are still some visible plastics, but the layout is quite good and the driving position is comfortable. It still doesn’t feel quite as modern as it should though, with some touches that Nissan really does need to do away with at this point.
Another point of criticism with the old Frontier was cabin noise – Nissan has addressed these complaints with added insulation just about everywhere, including laminated glass, reinforcement, and improved sound deadening. We observed fairly quiet road manners, notably better than all of the Frontier’s domestic competitors and almost on par with unibody trucks like the Honda Ridgeline. At the end of the day though, the Frontier still drives like a truck. It’s rugged, feels heavy, and makes all of the right noises expected from a truck.
Bed conveniences include a 120-volt power outlet as well as LED lighting in the bed, making loading at night much easier. The Frontier can also tow up to 6,490-pounds, or haul a payload of up to 1,430-pounds. Trailer Sway Control is standard across all trims, which is a nice touch. Towing capacity is less than most competitors, but fuel efficiency overall has been improved significantly. We observed 11.0L/100km in combined driving, which is about expected for a truck like this.
Nissan Canada prices the Frontier from $39,998 for a base King Cab S model. The Crew Cab only starts at the SV trim, which includes things like heated front seats and steering wheel, and starts at $43,998. We drove the PRO-4X trim that includes the off-road bits like additional underbody plates and Bilsteins, which comes in at $47,498 in Crew Cab form. A $2,000 Luxury package on the PRO-4X adds leather seats, Fender premium sound system and an auto-dimming mirror. A Sport package on the SV Crew Cab adds 17-inch wheels, step rails, and LED lighting for $1,400, which is the real value buy for most Canadian shoppers.
The new Frontier is a pretty competent, rock-solid feeling midsize truck. Once dubbed a compact, the Frontier just like its rivals has grown into a much larger truck than it used to be. It’s a far better choice than the aging Ford Ranger, and has a much nicer interior than the GMC Canyon and Chevy Colorado. The Frontier is more comfortable inside than the Tacoma, and a smidge nicer to drive, just don’t expect it to have that killer resale value or unparalleled reputation for reliability.
The 2022 Nissan Frontier brings quite a lot to the table. Its fresh styling is quite handsome from every angle, and even differentiates it from its big brother, the Titan more than expected. It has road presence, drives well, and offers enough capability for the average midsized truck buyer. A fresh look from the ground up should give this forgotten little beast a well-deserved new life.