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2020 Nissan Frontier vs. 2021 Honda Ridgeline: Which Is Better?


The 2020 Nissan Frontier offers a mix of the old with what’s next while the 2021 Honda Ridgeline shows off a handsome new face.  Which is better?

Quick Facts:

  • Nissan Frontier: New engine for upcoming model; due soon for complete makeover
  • Honda Ridgeline: Increased capability; new looks

2020 Nissan Frontier

2020 Nissan Frontier2020 Nissan Frontier Crew Cab starting price: $27,885 / Read 2020 Nissan Frontier Review 

What we like: 2020’s new modern engine will show up in next-gen Frontier; proven reliability; choice of configurations.

What we would change: This is still a new engine in a 16-year-old truck; dated interior.

Overview: The Nissan Frontier has been around for quite a while, but still offers capability and value. A new powertrain helps solve some problems of the past, while at the same time matching mileage and exceeding the acceleration of newer rivals.

What’s new for 2020: New motivation comes as a result of next year’s engine in this year’s truck.

Features and technology: Now 15 years old in its current form, the Nissan Frontier previews its next-generation power with a new 3.8-liter V6 engine and smooth-shifting 9-speed automatic transmission. Despite the heart transplant, the interior is still pretty basic. It’s missing a big touchscreen display with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, adaptive cruise control, and lane departure prevention. If they are must-haves, you might look elsewhere-or hold out for the next-gen Frontier.

Despite this, the Nissan Frontier is still a capable truck with max-towing capacity of 6,720 pounds. When equipped with four-wheel-drive, it has more than 10 inches of ground clearance. Order the available PRO-4X version with off-road features like high-pressure shocks, all-terrain tires, skid plates, and electronic rear differential, and it’s a guarantee you’ll need to bring the Deep Woods Off bug spray along for the ride.

What does the future hold: A 2021 model enters production in December 2020, and should be available soon. See 2020 Nissan Frontier models for sale near you

2021 Honda Ridgeline

2021 Honda Ridgeline2021 Honda Ridgeline Standard Crew Cab starting price: $36,000 EST / Read our 2021 Honda Ridgeline Review

What we like:  Quick acceleration from smooth V6 power; refined ride; roomy standard crew cab; multifunction tailgate; in-bed trunk

What we would change: Not for extreme off-roading; FWD tows 3,500 pounds; AWD is 5,000-pound tow-capable

Overview: The 2021 Honda Ridgeline features one of the smoothest rides in the segment. Some capabilities are less than other mid-sized rigs, but the Ridgeline is a fuel-efficiency leader. Seriously, though, we would feel guilty getting it dirty. 

What’s new for 2021: The 2021 Ridgeline has been revamped from the windshield pillars forward. A new Honda Performance Development (HPD) package gives the appearance of toughness, with flared fenders, a blacked-out grille, and new 18-inch wheels. Small changes inside include a revised infotainment system. 

Features and technology: The Honda Ridgeline is fresh with a restyling for 2021. Power is delivered by an award-winning 3.5-liter 280 horsepower V6 engine producing 262 lb-ft of torque. This Honda’s standard nine-speed automatic transmission delivers power to the front-wheel-drive system, while AWD is an available option. The Ridgeline jumps off the line quickly and scores similar mileage that other mid-sized trucks get from a diesel powerplant.

This truck is well-behaved thanks to its unibody construction with coil spring independent rear suspension. As a result, it drives like a car or SUV rather than a body-on-frame truck. That’s also one of the reasons this Honda is less robust off-road than some of its heartier competitors.

Inside an 8-inch touchscreen display along with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto bring the connectivity. Specific models can be ordered with an in-bed audio system which will liven up any tailgate party.

What the future holds: Unconfirmed rumors suggest a Ridgeline Hybrid might appear later in 2021 as a 2022 model. Find a 2021 Honda Ridgeline for sale near you

Frontier vs. Ridgeline: Strengths Comparison

Nissan Frontier benefits: Diesel powertrain, with best in class towing.

Honda Ridgeline benefits: Reliability; Substantial resale value; Impressive capabilities.

2020 Nissan Frontier vs. 2021 Honda Ridgeline: Which is better?

The Nissan Frontier is a capable though an older example of a mid-size body-on-frame pickup truck. The Honda Ridgeline is the new breed, with unibody construction, good ride quality and if ordered correctly, decent towing power. For these reasons, our choice is the Ridgeline! Find a used 2020 Nissan Frontier for sale or Find a 2021 Honda Ridgeline for sale

2020 Nissan Frontier 2021 Honda Ridgeline
Popular Powertrains
Engine 3.8-liter V6 3.5-liter V6
Horsepower 310 hp @ 6,400 rpm 280 hp @ 6,000 rpm
Torque 281 lb-ft @ 4,400 rpm 262 lb-ft @ 4,700 rpm
Transmission 9-spd automatic 9-speed automatic
Fuel Economy 21 mpg (20 city/23 highway) 22 mpg (19 city/26 highway)
Also Available AWD; Cabs & Beds, long wheelbase  AWD
Specs
Warranty 3years/36,000 miles 3 years/36,000 miles
Powertrain Warranty 5 years/60,000 miles 5 years/60,000 miles
NHTSA Safety Rating N/A 5 star
Max Seating Capacity 4 5
Wheelbase 125.9 inches 125.2 inches
Overall Length 205.5 inches 210.0 inches
Width 72.8 inches 78.6 inches
Height 69.7 inches 70.2 inches
Turning Diameter 43.5 feet 44.4 feet
Headroom, Front 39.7 inches 40.1 inches
Headroom, Rear 36.6 inches 38.8 inches
Legroom, Front 42.4 inches 40.9 inches
Legroom, Rear 25.4 inches 36.7 inches
Shoulder Room, Front 58.3 inches 62 inches
Shoulder Room, Rear 54.9 inches 61.5 inches
EPA Passenger Volume 107 cubic feet 109.7 cubic feet
Payload Capacity 1,460 pounds 1,465 pounds

 

Mark Elias
Mark Elias is a writer and photographer specializing in automotive topics ranging from new and used cars to classics and motorsports. His first car was a Matchbox Jaguar D-Type. From there, things have only become larger. During his professional career, he has been a staff photographer for the Associated Press, a contract photographer for Bloomberg News, and a contributor to automotive outlets... Read More about Mark Elias

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