By Malcom Gunn
It has been a long time coming — 18 model years to be exact — but Nissan has finally launched a new generation of its light-duty Frontier pickup. Sooner would have been better, but let’s examine if it’s worth the wait.
As you might expect, the Frontier has grown up, both in stature and content. What had been a somewhat handsome model is now a rugged-looking rig with broad shoulders (fenders), available LED lighting and a modern interior. The result is a closer kinship with Nissan’s full-size Titan pickup.
The new Frontier is larger than before, but only in terms of length and height, which grew by 11.5 and five centimetres, respectively. Other key dimensions such as width and distance between the front and rear wheels are the same. Even the new model’s passenger volume barely moves the needle.
This closeness isn’t surprising when you realize the Frontier’s previous ladder-type frame carries over to the new model, but with some updates. Both the front and rear suspension, including a larger-diameter front sway bar and a new rear sway bar, are claimed to improve on- and off-road comfort and control. Changes to the steering rack are designed to deliver quicker turning responses with greater precision.
The cabin appears better finished than the previous Frontier’s, with its plastic-y dashboard and controls. For 2022, there are extended-length King Cab and four-door crew cab models.
An 8.0-touch-screen or an optional 9.0-inch unit are integrated with the dashboard. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity are included, along with Siri voice assistant. A standard 7.0-inch driver information display is located between the tachometer and speedometer.
Many of the clearly marked switches on the steering wheel should be easier to use because of their increased size. Also on the larger side is the console storage bin between the front seats, as well as the oversized front and rear door pockets.
The 3.8-litre V-6 actually made its debut in the previous truck for the 2021 model year. Connected to a nine-speed automatic transmission, it delivers 310 horsepower and 281 pound-feet of torque, which is 41 horsepower more than the previous 4.0-litre V-6. The peak torque number was unchanged.
Fuel consumption is rated at 12.8 l/100 km in the city, 9.5 on the highway and 11.3 combined.
Although the powertrain is largely carryover, towing capacity increases to 6,570 pounds (2,990 kilograms) from 6,100 (2,770 kilograms). Maximum payload is rated at 1,480 pounds (670 kilograms).
A five-foot-long bed is standard with all four-door crew cab Frontiers. A six-foot-long variant is optional, but the King Cab gets it as standard equipment. Each box gets a dampened tailgate opening and dual lights at the rear of the bed. A factory-applied spray-on bed liner and special cargo dividers are available.
The Frontier’s standard four-wheel-drive system uses a two-speed, part-time transfer case with high and low ranges plus hill-descent control. This holds the truck to a fixed (low) speed when heading down steep inclines without the driver having to use the brakes.
The base S King Cab starts at $40,000, including destination charges. Included are the usual power features along with forward-collision warning, emergency braking and pedestrian detection.
The mid-grade SV comes with heated front seats and steering wheel, dual-zone climate control, eight-way power driver’s seat and 17-inch alloy wheels (16-inch steel wheels are standard).
The 4×4 Pro-4X trim is outfitted with an electronic locking differential, Bilstein-brand off-road shocks and aluminum underbody skid plates.
Optional with the Pro-4X is an around-view monitor with an off-road mode that displays side views, which literally can keep drivers out of tough scrapes with nearby rocks and tree stumps.
Whatever the activity, the new Nissan Frontier finally has the looks, the guts and the technologies that most buyers expect in any pickup.
What you should know: 2022 Nissan Frontier
Type: Four-wheel-drive midsize pickup
Engine: (h.p.): 3.8-litre V-6 (310)
Transmission: Nine-speed automatic
Market position: At long last, Nissan has launched a re-engineered Frontier with contemporary looks, respectable power and many of the current safety bells and whistles as either standard or optional.
Points: Great styling fits in with current design trends for small- and full-size pickups. • The interior is more practical and loses its dated materials, for greater visual appeal. • The V-6 carries over from the outgoing model, but horsepower and fuel economy outdo the previous 4.0-litre V-6.
• The Pro-4X trim is the one to order if you plan to travel into the hinterland. • Most active safety tech is optional.
Driver assist: Blind-spot warning with cross-traffic backup alert (opt.); forward-collision warning (std.); front/rear emergency braking (opt.); inattentive-driver alert (n.a.); lane-departure warning (opt.); pedestrian detection (std.)
L/100 km (city/hwy): 12.8/9.5 (RWD)
Base price (incl. destination): $40,000.
The Frontier’s 3.8-litre V-6 arrived in the 2021 model. The one and only transmission is a
nine-speed automatic. PHOTO: NISSAN
The interior layout is certainly more modern than before, with a neatly integrated 7.0-inch
information display between the tachometer and speedometer dials. It’s also less plastic-y in there. PHOTO: NISSAN
The Pro-4X is the off-road model and comes with special shock absorbers, skid plates and a locking rear differential.
The 2022 Nissan Frontier uses the previous frame, but there are some
updates. The handling and steering are also claimed to be more precise.
Four-wheel-drive is standard. PHOTO: NISSAN
B Y C O M P A R I S O N
GMC Canyon 4×4
Base price: $43,000
Chevrolet-Colorado clone offers 3.6-litre V-6 as standard with 4×4 versions.
Ford Ranger 4×4
Base price: $37,000
Both extended- and crew-cab versions come with a 270-h.p turbocharged I-4.
Base price: $40,300
Toyota’s midsize pickup has a reputation for toughness. Opt. V-6 makes 278 h.p.