First Drive: The 2022 Nissan Frontier Is More Than Just a New Look

The redesigned compact pickup truck may have been worth the 16-year wait

2022 Nissan Frontier Photo: John Powers/Consumer Reports

Since the second-generation Nissan Frontier went on sale in 2005—back when YouTube was officially launched and 3G cell service felt speedy—the compact truck market has seen radical changes. Segment mainstays such as the rudimentary Ford Ranger and the Chevrolet Colorado have gone on multiyear hiatuses and been reintroduced laden with technology. All that time the Frontier remained fundamentally unchanged—a dial-up option in a high-speed world.

But Nissan has redesigned the Frontier for the 2022 model year, giving the old analog truck a makeover for the digital era.

Demand for small trucks is rapidly building, spawning traditional, rugged body-on-frame options like the Frontier and Ranger, as well as new car-based models such as the Ford Maverick and Hyundai Santa Cruz.

Nissan’s goal for the redesigned 2022 Frontier is relatively simple. It aims to rekindle interest in the model from consumers shopping for a compact pickup without compromising the functionality and capability the Frontier is known for.

Although the 2022 Nissan Frontier uses updated versions of its predecessor’s steel frame and basic body structure design, key structural and suspension modifications were made to improve ride and handling characteristics. The revised architecture is walled in modern, angular sheet metal and houses a fully redesigned interior with contemporary convenience, connectivity, and critical active safety systems, including forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection.

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Nissan also swapped the Frontier’s outdated and inefficient powertrain with a new standard 3.8-liter V6 and nine-speed automatic transmission introduced on the 2021 model. The engine makes a stout 310 horsepower, and it can be configured with rear- or part-time four-wheel drive.

Our first drive findings are based on both the 2022 Frontier SV 4x4 Crew Cab and Pro-4X we rented from Nissan. We will buy our own Frontier when it goes on sale this fall.

Our initial expert assessment of the redesigned Frontier here is available to Consumer Reports members. Once we buy our own model and complete 2,000 break-in miles, we’ll put the Frontier through more than 50 tests at the CR Auto Test Center, including those that evaluate acceleration, braking, fuel economy, handling, car-seat fit, and controls. CR members will have access to the full road-test results as soon as they’re available.

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What we rented: 2022 Nissan Frontier PRO-4X
Powertrain: 310-hp, 3.8-liter V6 engine; 9-speed automatic transmission; rear- or four-wheel drive
MSRP: $37,240
Options: Technology Package, $990; PRO Convenience Package, $1,990; PRO Premium Package, $2,790; floor mats, $155
Destination fee: $1,150
Total cost: $44,315

What we rented: 2022 Nissan Frontier SV Crew Cab
Powertrain: 310-hp, 3.8-liter V6 engine; 9-speed automatic transmission; four-wheel drive
MSRP: $35,140
Options: Technology Package, $990; SV Convenience Package, $1,990; SV Premium Package, $2,790; floor mats, $145
Destination fee: $1,150
Total cost: $42,205

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