Nissan’s 2022 Frontier brings much needed updates, but doesn’t ruin the recipe

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A truck that leans towards its heritage without exploiting it, the 2022 Nissan Frontier debuted with an all-new look that brings the 15-year reign of the second-generation truck to a close. With a focus on refining an already popular package, Nissan hopes the updated Frontier will slot into the mid-sized truck market with a few key advantages over its competitors from Ford, Toyota, and GM.

It’s not just the updated styling that gives the 2022 Frontier a more upright look over its compadres. It’s actually a couple inches narrower than the rest of the “mid-sized” segment, thus prompting Nissan to market it as the right-sized pickup. Truth be told, with today’s mid-sizers all flirting with the dimensions of yesteryear’s full-size trucks, the effort to restrain the Frontier’s footprint is admirable. Nissan did reach into its nostalgia reserves to resurrect the original Hardbody pickup’s boxy fender flares, but otherwise the 2022 truck wears a clean-sheet design, pulling minor cues from the Titan. It’s modern without trying too hard, eschewing the acres of chrome and drywall-punching aggression that plagues modern pickup styling.

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Underneath the sheetmetal, the changes are less significant. The new 3.8-liter VQ that debuted last fall in the outgoing 2020 Frontier returns with 310 hp and 281 lb-ft of torque, matched to Nissan’s new nine-speed automatic. The bump in power is welcome, but it’s the additional gear-split of the nine-speed unit over the outgoing five-speed automatic that new owners will notice, we expect, since the nine-speed will keep the V-6 in its power band for longer. Missing from the spec sheet is the Frontier’s beloved six-speed manual, which was eliminated after last year’s update. While the towing capacity remains unchanged at 6720 pounds, trailer sway control is now standard for all Frontier trims.

Inside the cab, Nissan has prioritized practicality. The cabin’s look and feel is utilitarian, with splashes of color adding necessary pizzazz to an otherwise modest interior.  Infotainment will support Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and wireless charging and mobile internet come optional, along with modernized I/O ports that include the increasingly common USB Type-C connector. The usual suspects return for trim levels, along with the selection of either an extended “King Cab” or a practical quad-cab. New for 2022 is the introduction of the two-wheel drive Pro-X off-road package, which dips into the Pro-4X’s milkshake and grabs some of its off-road guise and gear, such as the stout Bilstein shocks.

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Will this be a Tacoma killer? Only time will tell. We still need to dip the new Frontiers treads into the dirt but, at first glance, the 2022 truck seems to retain everything Frontier fans have appreciated about Nissan’s best-selling pickup and and add enough modernization to carry us at least into the 2030s without another revamp.

Of course, by then, we may be in a newly electrified frontier.

 

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