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2022 Nissan Frontier First Look


The 2022 Nissan Frontier marks the debut of this midsize pickup truck’s third generation. And not before time. The second generation appeared as long ago as 2004 — the same year that Oldsmobile made its last car.

Understandably, that Frontier was overtaken by competitors from Toyota, Chevrolet and Ford. Now there’s an automotive leap-frog as a new Frontier is finally launched. Normally, we might say all-new. But that’s not quite the case here.

The 2022 Frontier keeps the 3.8-liter V6 and 9-speed automatic transmission Nissan put into the 2020 model. Otherwise, this third-generation Frontier takes a richer road than the barren trail followed by its predecessor.

It still deploys traditional body-on-frame construction, but it brings so many more tech features for the infotainment system and in the safety department. For example, this is the first vehicle where Nissan offers a 360-degree camera system with both moving object detection and an off-road mode when 4-wheel drive is installed. This allows a driver to tackle rough terrain without needing a spotter to stand outside and guide the truck around (or over) any hard-to-see rocks or moving critters.

The standard wheelbase is the same as before (126 inches — the long wheelbase is 139.8 inches), but the 2022 Frontier is a few inches longer overall. It will still fit into a regular garage, though. Nissan has improved the approach and departure angles, as well as the ground clearance.

Which brings us to the exterior and how the whole thing looks simultaneously chunky and modern. The styling is a new direction for Nissan. It’s arguably a good one.

The cabin has also been redesigned with the same chunky/modern aesthetic. Nissan has made sure there’s plenty of storage space in the center console and door pockets, plus under the rear seats. And the optional 9-inch infotainment touchscreen is one of the largest in this midsize pickup class.

What’s New for 2022?

Virtually everything except for the drivetrain and the name. See the 2022 Nissan Frontier models for sale near you

What We Like

  • Powerful drivetrain
  • Choice of cabs and beds
  • Styling inside and out
  • Good balance of work/play appeal

What We Don’t

  • The really good driver aids cost extra
  • Nissan ProPilot (partially autonomous driving) not available

How Much?

TBA. We expect the 2022 Frontier to start just above $28,000 and go up to around $38,000. Exact pricing will be announced nearer to the summer 2021 on-sale date, but Nissan has said that the new generation will cost more than the outgoing model.

Fuel Economy

As mentioned earlier, the 2022 Frontier employs a 3.8-liter V6. It’s naturally aspirated (no turbos or superchargers) and develops a class-leading 310 horsepower with a respectable 281 lb-ft of torque.

This engine connects to a 9-speed automatic transmission. Rear-wheel drive (RWD) is the default arrangement; 4-wheel drive (4WD) with a high/low transfer case and hill descent control is available.

At the time of compiling this review, there were no fuel economy estimates from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The figures from 2020 are 18 miles per gallon in the city, 24 mpg on the highway and 20 mpg in combined driving (RWD) or 17 mpg city/23 mpg highway/19 mpg combined (4WD). Nissan says the new truck’s figures will be similar.

Maximum towing capacity for a properly equipped 2022 Frontier is 6,720 pounds.

Standard Features and Options

The new 2022 Nissan Frontier midsize pickup in King Cab form (think of it as an extended cab) comes with a 6-foot bed and in S or SV trims. Crew Cab versions have a 5-foot bed as standard, but offer the 6-foot bed for the SV long-wheelbase model. The Pro-X and Pro-4X variants have Crew Cabs with 5-foot beds.

Four-wheel drive is optional in most versions, although it’s not available in the Pro-X. And it’s standard in the Pro-4X.

When Nissan releases detailed information, we’ll circle back and itemize which equipment comes with which trim level. We’ll also add the individual prices.

For now, though, we know that a dampened tailgate is standard in the base S trim, along with 16-inch steel wheels, trailer sway control, hill start assist, built-in bed step, Zero Gravity front seats, cloth upholstery, 7-inch driver information display, forward collision warning (but not with automatic emergency braking), driver attention monitoring, rear door alert, Easy Fill tire pressure system, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone integration, USB-A port, USB-C port, and an 8-inch infotainment touchscreen.

SV trim has a 6-way power-adjustable driver’s seat.

The Pro-4X is the off-road specialist, with Bilstein front shock absorbers, underbody skid plates (for the engine, transfer case and fuel tank), all-terrain tires, Dana rear axle, and an electronic locking differential. The rear-drive-only Pro-X has the Dana axle and Bilstein shock absorbers, but otherwise resembles the Pro-4X more cosmetically.

Among the additional features for the 2022 Frontier range are a spray-in bed liner (for the SV or Pro-4X), LED bed lighting, heated side mirrors, powered moonroof, leather upholstery, heated front seats, heated steering wheel, 17-inch alloy wheels, 110-volt outlets, 9-inch infotainment touchscreen, wireless charging, Wi-Fi, and a Fender-branded 9-speaker audio system upgrade.

Nissan’s set of driver assistance features, known collectively as Safety Shield 360, is optional for every trim level. This adds automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, rear automatic braking, blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, lane departure warning and automatic high beams.

The 2022 Frontier will also offer adaptive cruise control, rear parking sensors and road sign recognition, plus the 360-degree camera system with moving object detection and an off-road mode.

Safety

Standard safety equipment includes eight airbags, brake discs at each wheel, and a rearview camera. The Toyota Tacoma and Ford Ranger come with features such as automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control and automatic high beams as standard, which are optional in the new Frontier.

We recommend the optional Nissan Safety Shield package. These systems could end up paying for themselves in terms of accidents avoided.

The 2022 Frontier is too new to be rated for crash-worthiness.

Behind the Wheel

We would have preferred best-in-class torque instead of horsepower, since not many buyers will be interested in the ultimate performance credentials of a midsize pickup. But we’ll gladly take whatever muscle is there.

Once again, we’ll update this section when we get to drive the 2022 Frontier, but we’re already intrigued. Nissan has added new hydraulic cab mounts that reduce vibration by a claimed 80%, along with urethane suspension components for a supposedly smoother ride.

Handling is also said to be up there with the best in the midsize pickup class. And the steering has been retuned for fast responses and optimum on-center feel. The steering system is hydraulically assisted, as opposed to the more common (these days) electric assistance. Which precludes the new Frontier from offering any kind of partial driving assistance like active lane keeping or highway cruising.

The company has improved sound insulation as well, adding acoustic glass for the front side windows, nicer carpeting and extra deadening. This should help combat driver fatigue, in conjunction with Nissan’s “NASA-inspired” Zero Gravity front seats as standard. It sounds like marketing malarkey, but we’ve tried them in other Nissan vehicles and they really are comfortable and supportive.

Other Cars to Consider

2021 Toyota Tacoma — Just like with full-size pickups, there doesn’t seem to be a bad choice in midsize trucks. The Tacoma is a big-seller — justifiably so, considering its range and talents.

2021 Chevrolet Colorado — Handles well, offers a torquey diesel engine. The ZR2 version is wonderful. Updated for 2021.

2021 GMC Canyon — The Canyon is the mechanical twin of the Colorado, so the same description applies here pretty much, except that there isn’t a direct ZR2 equivalent. Also updated for 2021.

2021 Ford Ranger — Has a gutsy yet smooth turbocharged 4-cylinder engine. Impressive overall, but there’s no off-roading variant yet.

Used Ford F-150 — Always a smart call among full-size pickups, especially if greater capability is required. Check out Ford’s certified pre-owned (CPO) program.

Autotrader’s Advice

We’ll have to reserve any specific choices until the official pricing is announced. Right now, though, it looks like the Pro-4X could be a competitive contender for off-roading adventures. And those who desire something simpler will be well served by the S and SV trims. Find a 2022 Nissan Frontier for sale

Nicole Wakelin
Nicole Wakelin is an author specializing in reviews of the latest cars. Her work has appeared in numerous magazines, newspapers, and enthusiast sites. These include the Boston Globe, Autobytel, TrueCar, CarTalk, US News and World Report, and CarGurus. She is a co-host on the Wheel Bearings podcast and a juror for both the North American Car, Truck, and Utility of the Year and Women’s World Car... Read More about Nicole Wakelin

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