The third-generation Nissan Frontier is the first to be built for US customers, and it shows. Nissan previewed the new truck's powertrain in the outgoing model -- which was so old it couldn't be called competitive -- and now we finally get the full-fat upgrade with all the bells and whistles. It was worth the wait.
By the time of its demise, the pre-2022 Nissan Frontier was a frumpy-faced pickup that looked like it was hermetically sealed in a dealership showroom from 2008. By comparison, the 2022 Frontier resembles a concept vehicle, with its chunky fenders and rectilinear design cues across the front and rear ends. It's real sharp, especially in my Pro-4X tester's case, which adds some off-road aesthetics by way of chunky 265/70R17 Hankook all-terrain tires, beadlock-style wheels (part of a $2,790 Pro Premium package), step rails ($750) and the sport bar over the bed ($1,095).
The Frontier's innards picked up some big changes, too. Sure, some of the switchgear dates back… a ways, but the dashboard as a whole no longer looks like it was built in 2006. The truck's new arrangement is more modern and better aligned with Nissan's current design language. There's a greater emphasis on smooth angles and material variety. All the controls remain within easy reach, and the swath of physical buttons on offer means operating the truck with gloves isn't a problem.
From a daily livability standpoint, the Frontier's interior delivers. There is ample space in both rows of the crew cab. Storage options abound, from a decently capacious armrest cubby to sizable door pockets and cup holders. Second-row storage is good, too, thanks to seat bottoms that fold up to reveal additional stowaway solutions, although at times I wish the whole seat assembly could flip in favor of a fully flat floor. Loading things into the bed is pretty easy, thanks to a folding rear bumper step, and there are plenty of places to tie things down.
The only thing I'd consider an issue here is the steering column, which only packs tilt functionality. Without the ability to telescope, in conjunction with a lack of adjustable pedals, the seating position can feel as awkward for my 6-foot frame as it does in the Toyota Tacoma, where I'm either constantly too close to or far away from the dashboard.
Nissan has never led the charge with its cabin tech, but in a field of ever-aging midsize trucks, the 2022 Frontier makes a competitive case for itself. My tester sports the optional 9-inch touchscreen running Nissan's traditional infotainment system, which offers the usual things: a Wi-Fi hotspot, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The embedded navigation has a rather old-looking map, but the whole shebang is sufficiently responsive and easy to use with minimal distraction. Charging comes by way of both USB-A and USB-C ports, but there's a wireless device charger between the shifter and armrest cubby if you prefer to ditch the cords.
When it comes to safety tech, it's a bit of a mixed bag. A $990 Technology Package loads the 2022 Frontier with nearly everything a buyer could want from a midsize truck, including automatic emergency braking, rear parking sensors, lane-departure warning, adaptive cruise control and blind-spot monitoring. That said, the only bit of safety tech that comes standard across the lineup is forward-collision warning. It would've been nice -- and a smart way to help stand out from the crowd -- if all the other safety features were standard, even if that meant a slightly higher base price. To cap it off, the federally mandated backup camera has the fidelity of a flip-phone video, which is kind of depressing in 2021.
To say the 2022 Nissan Frontier feels better than its predecessor on the road is a big ol' understatement. The Frontier drives far more comfortably than it has in years past; it no longer feels annoying as a commuter. Upgraded suspension components definitely play a part, with the cabin suffering less body-on-frame jostling over undesirable patches of pavement. The steering can be a little heavy at lower speeds, but not so much that it's difficult to maneuver through a parking lot. The fully hydraulic rack also means lane-keep assist is not on offer, one of the trade-offs of keeping it old-school.
Under the hood is a 3.8-liter V6 that produces 310 horsepower and 281 pound-feet of torque. It's not enough to elicit excitement, per se, but there is more than enough grunt to get up to speed on any road without worry. The standard nine-speed automatic transmission is a smooth operator, although downshifts can take the computer a little longer to calculate, a process that I wish was a little snappier. My tester is a smidge more efficient than Frontiers past, achieving the EPA-estimated economy of 17 mpg city and 22 mpg highway without much conscious effort, although going past those figures isn't easy, especially with all the optional off-road stuff affecting the truck's aerodynamics.
The 2022 Frontier does truck stuff as well as the competition, too. Depending on trim level and drivetrain layout, the Nissan can tow up to 6,570 pounds (S trim, 4x2) and haul up to 1,480 pounds (SV trim, 4x2), but every other trim isn't very far behind -- all versions have payload ratings above 1,160 pounds and max tow ratings north of 6,270 pounds, which is plenty competitive. If you dig off-roading, the Pro-4X Crew Cab configuration offers 32.3-degree approach, 23-degree departure and 19.6-degree breakover angles, in addition to 9.4 inches of ground clearance.
The 2022 Nissan Frontier may be the newest body-on-frame pickup in the midsize segment, but Honda's Ridgeline is also new, and its unibody construction makes it more livable in daily use than a traditional pickup without sacrificing much capability. The Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon are nearly a decade old and they feel like it inside and out, although niche trims like the ZR2 try to keep things interesting. The Ford Ranger is soon to be replaced with a design that wasn't several years old when it arrived in the US, although it's an excellent truck underneath. And the Toyota Tacoma soldiers on like a post-apocalyptic cockroach with a few thoughtful quality-of-life upgrades every couple of years.
The Frontier can be cheap or, um, not cheap, depending on how crazy you want to get. A base Frontier S King Cab 4x2 will only set you back $29,015 including $1,175 in destination charges, while a larger Crew Cab body only bumps that base price up to $30,515. My tester's Pro-4X trim is the most expensive in the lineup, starting at $35,415 in Crew Cab 4x2 guise (Pro-4X isn't available in King Cab format), with my tester rising to $46,570 thanks to several options packages.
Combine a mostly-aging competitive set with a styling overhaul that drags it into the 21st century, and the 2022 Nissan Frontier sits pretty at the forefront of an ever-busy segment. This midsize truck offers interesting style and plenty of capability without feeling like a bear during daily use.