After 16 years without a major update, the Frontier finally got a redesign for the 2022 model year. The new version benefits from a strong powertrain and a modern infotainment system, but it still suffers from a rough ride. It scores better than its traditional midsized pickup-truck competitors, such as the Chevrolet Colorado, Ford Ranger, and Toyota Tacoma, in part thanks to its excellent powertrain, easy-to-use controls, and short stopping distances. But it’s no match for the more car-like Honda Ridgeline or Hyundai Santa Cruz when it comes to comfort and refinement.
The Frontier’s pairing of a brawny-and-smooth 310-horsepower, 3.8-liter V6 with a slick-shifting nine-speed automatic transmission is the truck’s best aspect. The engine feels meatier and with more readily available power than the Ford Ranger’s turbo four-cylinder, for example. The Frontier scampered from 0 to 60 mph in 7.5 seconds, a competitive showing among most other midsized pickups. Fuel economy of 18 mpg overall for our 4x4 model is a 3-mpg improvement over the outgoing version, but it’s a couple mpg off the class leaders, and even the full-sized Ford F-150 with its 2.7-liter turbocharged V6 does better, at 19 mpg overall.
The Frontier rides slightly better than the old model but still feels very “trucky,” with a stiff and jittery character that causes the rear end to bounce around on rougher roads. Our drivers also were put off by the Frontier’s unusually heavy steering at low speeds. Their biceps got a workout just maneuvering around a parking lot. On the plus side, the Frontier posted a higher speed through our avoidance maneuver—which simulates swerving quickly, with a left-right-left steering sequence, to avoid a vehicle or obstacle on the road—than its rivals (other than the Ridgeline) due to strong tire grip and a well-tuned electronic stability control (ESC) system. It also stopped much shorter in our braking tests than all of them.