2022 Nissan Frontier Pros and Cons Review: An Old Truck in New Clothes

Pros

  • Handsome styling
  • Reasonably good at most truck chores
  • Marginally better than before

 Cons

  • Dated ride/handling, power, 4WD hardware, safety technology
  • Heavy steering
  • Uncomfortable back seat

We waited nearly two decades for a new Nissan Frontier, so perhaps we let our expectations for the all-new 2022 model creep a bit too high. The styling did nothing to dampen our hopes; the new Frontier’s looks captivated us. We found it handsome and chunky, aside from the accessory “sport bar” we thought ruined the pickup’s proportions. (Still, we’ll keep its availability in mind should we ever feel the need to employ the Frontier for an overlanding expedition.)

But once we drove the Frontier at our 2022 Truck of the Year competition, delight quickly turned to disappointment. We knew the new model was built around a modified version of the old truck’s frame—no big sin there—but we didn’t expect the whole creation to feel so dated. The almost complete lack of innovation was a real letdown. Features editor Christian Sebaugh summed up our thoughts: “It’s like reanimating a corpse: new heart, new lungs, but the bones are old and brittle. This was the perfect time for Nissan to raise the bar. Instead, it did … this.”

While most of our editors acknowledged the Frontier as solid, capable, and most likely reliable, our notes contained a lot of minor complaints. Among them: Noisy engine, jiggly ride, dated switchgear, tilt-only steering column, few active safety features, indecisive transmission, silly ergonomics—”Why are the diff lock and stability control switches down by my left knee?”—low-rent trim for a top-of-the-line model, and an uncomfortably upright rear seat back. And nearly every editor posed an identical question: “Why is the steering so heavy?”

Nissan made no bones about targeting the old Toyota Tacoma (akin to setting the difficulty level to “beginner”). Mission accomplished, to be sure, but it seems like the company was so focused on Toyota that it ignored the rest of the midsize pickup field. More than one Truck of the Year judge wondered aloud if anyone at Nissan had driven or even sat in a Chevy Colorado or a GMC Canyon.

We all agreed the new Nissan Frontier is a solid truck that is good at doing basic trucky things, but there is nothing new or groundbreaking about how it does them. Even the 310-hp engine, a mostly new 3.8 liter V-6 introduced in the 2020 Frontier, is virtually obsolete compared to the turbocharged, electrified, and all-electric powerplants found in other TOTY contenders. With only a lockable rear diff to augment its simple low-range transfer case, the Frontier Pro-4X model we tested struggled to put power to the ground on the sandy off-road course. “It feels more like a 15-year-old truck resculpted to resemble a 2021 truck than a modern vehicle built with modern parts,” senior editor Alex Kierstein said.

Indeed, judges needed little time during our deliberations to dismiss the Frontier as a serious contender for this year’s Truck of the Year title. We agreed the 2022 Nissan Frontier might have been a contender in 2015, but not now. As features editor Scott Evans said: “The new Frontier is a rough-and-tumble little truck, and for half the price I might be interested. As it sits, it’s a lot of money for not much improvement over the 17-year-old model it replaces.”

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