2022 Nissan Frontier Review: The C Student of Midsize Trucks

A significant overhaul makes the Frontier more competitive, but the truck does not excel.

Capital One

Review QuickTakes:

Back in 2005, Nissan redesigned its Frontier pickup truck, giving it ruggedly handsome styling, a slick interior reflecting the company’s design ethos of that decade, and a capable, optional V6 engine. That Frontier served Nissan, with few changes, for more than 15 years, an eternity in the modern automotive industry.

At long last, the new 2022 Nissan Frontier brings substantial changes to the midsize pickup truck. But the 2022 Frontier is not completely redesigned. Instead, it sits on the same frame as before, with fresh mechanicals, a new body and interior, and upgraded infotainment and safety technologies. That means that the new Frontier remains a bucking bronco of a truck intended for serious work and play.

2022 Nissan Frontier Pro-4X, Tactical Green, rear quarterChristian Wardlaw

Nissan may be acknowledging the relative lack of refinement by choosing to emphasize the Frontier's utility, almost as if to soften the blow of high expectations. Nevertheless, a rugged and unrefined approach could work for Nissan. After all, the best-selling model in the segment, the Toyota Tacoma, is not the most sophisticated truck either.

For this 2022 Nissan Frontier review, I test-drove the PRO-4X crew cab in Southern California. It came with the Pro Convenience and Premium option packages, the Technology package, and the Bed Access package, bringing the manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) to $47,620, including the $1,225 destination charge. Nissan provided the vehicle for this Frontier review.

2022 Nissan Frontier Pro-4X, Tactical Green, side viewChristian Wardlaw

2022 Nissan Frontier Review: The Design

Though the previous-generation Frontier’s styling proved to stand the test of time, the new model is much more appealing. In my opinion, it’s the best-looking Frontier ever. The test vehicle had more than $2,300 in cosmetic extras that you should skip: extra-cost paint, a sport bar, and off-road-style step bars. Those step bars only serve to get in the way when you enter and exit the Frontier.

Nissan calls the Frontier’s cabin “utility-centric” and “inspired by adventure gear.” While there is plenty of interior storage, nearly everything is rendered in hard plastic. That’s great for a work truck or cleaning up after a particularly grueling adventure, but not for daily driving. Plus, elements of the cabin recall the old Frontier, including some of the switchgear and the shapes of the windshield pillars, which takes some of the shine off of the redesign.

New front seats adopt Nissan’s Zero Gravity attempt to replicate the neutral body posture astronauts feel in the weightlessness of space to reduce fatigue and increase comfort. From my experience, Nissan applies this Zero Gravity design more successfully in some of its models than in others.

2022 Nissan Frontier Pro-4X interior, dashboardChristian Wardlaw

In the new Nissan Frontier, the driver’s seat is not only off-center to the steering wheel and instrumentation, but the chair also feels narrower. The result is an unnatural driving position. Cloth seats are standard, with leather upholstery available as an option. You can also get dual-zone automatic climate control, heated front seats, and a heated steering wheel. In addition, the driver’s seat features a manual or power height adjuster, depending on the trim level.

Because the Frontier uses the same frame as before, the truck’s wheelbase is unchanged. In turn, that means the crew cab model’s back seat is still cramped. My legs were flush against the front seatbacks, and the rear seatback felt like it had no recline angle, forcing an upright seating position. Depending on the model, Nissan provides rear-seat passengers with USB ports and a 120-volt electrical outlet, but air conditioning vents are unavailable.

2022 Nissan Frontier Pro-4X interior, back seatChristian Wardlaw

Quieting the interior was another one of Nissan’s goals with the new Frontier. The company claims reductions in engine, road, and wind noise, which might be accurate, but at 70 mph on the freeway, the Frontier remains loud inside.

Loading cargo is easier thanks to a new dampened tailgate that lets you release and drop it with one hand. The 5-foot and 6-foot cargo beds also hold more than before thanks to taller sides, with 40.1 cubic feet of volume in the 5-footer and 49.2 cu-ft in the 6-footer. Upgrades include a spray-in bedliner, LED cargo lights, a 120-volt power outlet, and Nissan’s Utili-Track system of rails and adjustable tie-down cleats. The maximum payload rating is 1,610 pounds.

2022 Nissan Frontier Pro-4X interior, navigation map screenChristian Wardlaw

2022 Nissan Frontier Review: The Technology

Every Frontier features a new touchscreen infotainment system equipped with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and satellite radio. In S and SV trims, the display is 8 inches. Upgrade to one of the PRO models, and the screen measures 9 inches.

The 9-inch unit offers NissanConnect Services, including access to a Wi-Fi hotspot. Embedded navigation is also standard with this upgraded infotainment system, employing a smartphone app to continue providing instructions after you leave the truck and set out on foot. In addition, a Fender premium sound system is available with SV and PRO trims, while wireless smartphone charging is exclusive to the PRO models.

During the evaluation, the test truck’s voice recognition system proved troublesome. For example, it could not find the nearest Chipotle without including the Mexican Grille part of the company’s name. It could not find the White House when requesting directions to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C. When asking for directions to the closest hospital, it added other medical facilities to the list that were not hospitals. It could not find a favorite local restaurant using only the establishment’s name and street name, either.

2022 Nissan Frontier Pro-4X interior, driving assist systems display, instrument cluster binnacleChristian Wardlaw

As far as safety equipment is concerned, every Frontier crew cab has a Rear Door Alert system to remind you to check the back seat for a child, pet, or something important that you may have placed in the rear seat before driving the truck. Nissan’s Intelligent Forward Collision Warning system is also standard, looking two vehicles ahead to anticipate trouble predictively. It pairs with a standard pedestrian detection system and automatic emergency braking.

Nissan Safety Shield 360 is optional on the new Frontier. It adds blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, lane-departure warning, automatic rear braking, and automatic high-beam headlights. Additionally, adaptive cruise control is available, and the PRO-4X models offer a surround-view camera system that can detect moving objects behind the truck. It also comes with an Off-Road Mode front camera. If the driver activates the four-wheel drive (4WD) system’s 4-Lo transfer case setting, the infotainment screen automatically switches to the Off-Road Mode camera view to improve visibility when the going gets tough.

The test truck included all of these driver-assist features, and they worked as expected without any surprises. The Off-Road Mode cameras were especially helpful while navigating a somewhat treacherous trail.

The 2022 Nissan Frontier scores an Acceptable side-impact crashworthiness rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), but the agency’s other crash ratings were unavailable as this review was written. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gives the ’22 Frontier an overall safety rating of four stars out of a possible five.

2022 Nissan Frontier Pro-4X V6 engine under hoodChristian Wardlaw

2022 Nissan Frontier Review: The Drive

Most midsize pickup trucks employ rugged body-on-frame construction, but none uses a frame that dates back to the mid-aughts. Nissan says it updated the Frontier’s underlying hardware to reduce vibration, improve steering feel and response, and smooth the ride quality. Still, the new Frontier drives like an old Frontier.

Starting under the hood, a 3.8-liter V6 engine is standard, explaining the Frontier’s lofty, near-$30,000 starting price. Only the Honda Ridgeline and Jeep Gladiator are more expensive in base format. Chevy, Ford, GMC, and Toyota have four-cylinder engines for their base, midsize pickups, thus saving thousands of dollars. However, all but the Ford Ranger’s turbocharged four-cylinder are underpowered.

Nissan sees the Frontier’s standard six-cylinder engine as a selling point, and it is. The V6 delivers 310 horsepower at 6,400 rpm and 281 pound-feet of torque at 4,400 rpm, and pairs with a nine-speed automatic transmission and rear-wheel drive. Shift-on-the-fly 4WD is optional with S and SV trim and standard on PRO-4X models. Nissan says the maximum towing capacity is 6,720 pounds, and trailer sway control is standard.

2022 Nissan Frontier Pro-4X, Tactical Green, front quarter rightChristian Wardlaw

The new powertrain was ready for prime time before the rest of the 2022 Frontier, so Nissan bolted it into the 2020 and 2021 versions of the old truck. Thus, it carries over into the new 2022 Frontier. It provides satisfying acceleration and decent passing power, but, like many other midsize pickups, the Frontier can quickly lose steam on inclines. For example, while using the adaptive cruise control, the truck lost significant velocity on one local mountain pass before the transmission kicked down and returned the Frontier to cruising speed.

Frontiers still use hydraulic rather than electric steering, which is less efficient and contributes to the Frontier’s unimpressive fuel economy ratings. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the 2022 Frontier should return 20 mpg in combined driving with two-wheel drive and 19 mpg with four-wheel drive. Unfortunately, that’s no better than a Jeep Gladiator, which is hardly a model of aerodynamic efficiency. With that said, the Frontier returned an unexpected 21.4 mpg on the evaluation loop.

Getting back to the steering, Nissan claims it supplies a better on-center feel at speed on highways, quicker response to inputs, and reduced steering effort. Unfortunately, it is hard to validate those claims without driving the Frontier back-to-back with the old truck. However, I can say the steering still feels slow, heavy, and generally unpleasant, especially when parking or executing three-point turns on a trail.

According to Nissan, new hydraulic cab mounts reduce road vibration by 80 percent. The automaker also says that suspension modifications provide a smoother ride over potholes, rough roads, and when off-roading. In addition, when taking curves and corners, the new Frontier allegedly suffers less body roll.

2022 Nissan Frontier Pro-4X cargo bed and stepChristian Wardlaw

Again, I can’t validate these claims without sampling the new truck and the old truck on back-to-back drives. What I can tell you is that the new Frontier, regardless of any improvements, still drives like a traditional pickup truck.

When driving over speed bumps, the Frontier bucks. It gets skittish over potholes and bumps or when traveling across railroad tracks. You are irritatingly aware of every irregularity on the road surface, and I test-drove the Frontier in sunny Southern California, where the pavement is comparatively smooth. Areas of the country where weather ravages the roads will undoubtedly result in constant discombobulation.

My PRO-4X test truck came with upgraded Bilstein off-road shock absorbers. Near as I can assess, they allowed the Frontier to zoom over speed humps at 35 mph without any trouble, did a fine job of controlling body motions on undulating pavement, and contributed to impressive off-roading performance.

When you choose PRO-4X trim, you get the Bilsteins, four-wheel drive, an electronic-locking rear differential, all-terrain tires, and underbody skid plates. These components complement the steel front skid plate and Hill Descent Control that come with every Frontier 4WD. Ground clearance measures 9.4 inches.

2022 Nissan Frontier Pro-4X, Tactical Green, rear-quarter rightChristian Wardlaw

The Frontier is most in its element off the pavement. It feels indestructible, though it may not be as capable as a Jeep Gladiator Rubicon, or Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro, those trucks boasting greater approach and departure angles. The Gladiator also beats the Frontier’s ground clearance by more than an inch. Outward visibility over the tall dashboard and hood and past the thick windshield pillars isn’t great, which is why the Off-Road Mode camera is so helpful.

Brake pedal activation can feel mushy or grabby depending on the situation, but modulation is easy enough once the four-wheel discs engage. Also, the Frontier’s standard Easy Fill Tire Alert system makes it simple to maintain proper tire pressures or to air-up after driving on certain types of terrain.

Oddly, I think I liked the old Frontier better. Before Nissan added the new drivetrain in 2020, it was the undisputed value in the segment, a back-to-basics kind of truck with a low price. That was the Frontier’s sweet spot, its differentiating factor, the thing that made it worthy of consideration.

Now, the new 2022 Frontier is trying to compete head-to-head with other midsize trucks, and it has ceded that entry-level, budget-friendly appeal to other models without finding a new way to compel consideration. Nevertheless, change was indisputably necessary.

2022 Nissan Frontier Pro-4X sport barChristian Wardlaw

Is the 2022 Nissan Frontier a Good Truck?

The answer to this question depends on your definition of good. Most likely, the new Frontier will prove reliable over time, and, in my opinion, it offers decent off-roading capability.

However, base prices are relatively high and fuel economy ratings are relatively low. Furthermore, the Frontier does not lead its segment regarding towing and payload capacity. Nissan doesn’t offer anything extra in the way of ownership perks or nifty, class-exclusive features, either.

Aside from class-leading base-model horsepower, there appears to be a dearth of distinguishing factors that set a bar among midsize trucks or differentiate the Frontier from its competition. That doesn’t mean it’s not a good truck. It just means it’s not the best truck in any significant way.

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Christian Wardlaw
My first word was “car.” That’s what I’m told, anyway. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been obsessed with them. The design. The engineering. The performance. And the purpose. I’m a car enthusiast who loves to drive, but I’m also most interested in the cars, trucks, and SUVs that people actually buy. Anybody can tell you that a sports car is fast. What you need to know is whether or not you should buy that new SUV, and why. My life purpose is to help you make that decision.