The graybeard of the truck segment is finally getting a major makeover, Nissan today revealing the 2022 Frontier midsize pickup.
Though the outgoing model has had some modest updates during the past decade — getting a new, 3.8-liter V-6 a year ago — the Nissan Frontier has largely become an afterthought for truck buyers, largely pushed as the bargain option. With a significant update to its looks, as well as the addition of new features and improved functionality, the automaker is hoping to take on more popular options like the Toyota Tacoma and Chevrolet Colorado.
“Frontier carries with it a legacy of a lot of satisfied customers,” said Jared Haslam, vice president of product and services planning for Nissan North America. “Now, we’re bringing out a new, more capable truck and we know it’s right where our customers want it in terms of size, enhanced utility and the latest in technology.”
Frontier’s 62-year legacy
The Frontier certainly has quite a backstory, the truck dating back to 1959, though the Frontier badge only appeared on the 1998 model. Then known as the Datsun 720, it was the first model produced at the big Nissan assembly plant in Smyrna, Tennessee.
Though small pickups were popular in the early driving years of the Baby Boomers, demand started to fade with the new millennium. So, like its competitors, Nissan limited its investment in the Frontier – though it didn’t walk away from the market like a number of other manufacturers. Now as the segment rebounds – midsize pickup sales expected to reach 650,000 or so annually – Nissan is playing catch-up with more newly updated offerings like the Tacoma and Colorado, as well as Ford’s recently revived Ranger and the newly redesigned Honda Ridgeline.
Nissan is calling the 2022 Frontier “all new,” but that’s a matter of semantics. The chassis of the old truck has been heavily modified but not entirely replaced, officials acknowledged during a background media briefing. That’s likely to matter little to potential buyers.
Visually, the 2022 Nissan Frontier picks up on some key design cues from the 1986 Hardbody model, though it is no retromobile, said lead designer Hiren Patel. Like the Hardbody, the new Frontier adopts a more solid and upright appearance with a bolder, less derivative front end. The V-Motion grille no longer looks like it was lifted off a Nissan passenger sedan.
The goal was to make the 2022 pickup look like it’s made up of “integral, interlocking blocks,” said Patel.
All models get enhanced ground clearance and enhanced approach and departure angles, with a prominent front skid plate.
Nissan adds off-road Pro-4X model
For those who are serious about off-roading, there’s a new Pro-4X version featuring an electronic locking differential, Bilstein off-road shock absorbers and underbody skid plates. That could enhance Frontier’s appeal to those who might otherwise consider the Toyota Tacoma, for many the off-road benchmark of the segment. The Pro-4X is all-wheel-drive but for those who want a 2WD model, the new Pro-X adds LED head, DRL and fog lights for a more rugged appearance.
Of course, utility is critical in a pickup, whatever the size, and the 2022 Nissan Frontier adds a dampened tailgate assist feature, a built-in bed step up, improved bed lighting, factory spray-on bedliner and a 110-volt outlet.
One of the key differences with today’s pickups is the customer demand for more car-like features. The new Frontier gets a much-needed upgrade in terms of the overall look and feel of the cabin, leather surfaces now among the options. It gets a new WiFi hotspot and Qi wireless smartphone charging and an optional 9-inch touchscreen for the infotainment system which now allows both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. There’s also a standard 7-inch Driver assist display Nissan is billing as “largest-in-class.”
Plenty of tech features for 2022 Frontier
Options include an updated version of the now-familiar Nissan Around View Monitor which provides a birdseye view of the vehicle to make it easier to park, among other things. The system now adds an off-road view, operable in forward or reverse at up to 6 mph.
All 2022 Frontier models will get the basic Nissan Safety Shield 360 suite of safety features, including forward collision warning and the automaker’s easy-fill tire alert system. Available features include automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blind-spot monitoring and, new for 2022, traffic sign recognition.
Other features include a decidedly larger center console storage bin, and added storage in door pockets, as well as the Nissan ZeroGravity seats that have won kudos from those who spend a lot of time behind the wheel.
Nissan signaled it had something big coming for the midsize pickup segment when it introduced an all-new powertrain for the last year of the outgoing Frontier. For 2022, the automaker no longer will offer a base, inline-4 option. All versions of the 2022 Nissan Frontier will be powered by a 3.8-liter V-6 punching out 310 horsepower and 281 pound-feet of torque through a nine-speed automatic. The truck can haul a hefty low, with a maximum tow rating of 6,720 pounds.
Some increase in pricing likely
With the truck not set to roll into showrooms until summer, Nissan isn’t ready to reveal pricing but officials did note that they hope to see average transaction prices – what a typical buyer spends after factoring in discounts and options – to go up a bit. That’s likely to be driven by at least a modest increase in pricing, from an apples-to-apples comparison. But Nissan also plans to walk away from the bargain basement, entry-truck niche with the new Frontier.
There’s no question the truck needed a serious makeover. With the launch of the 2022 Nissan Frontier, the automaker hopes to present a much more viable option in a growing market for midsize pickups.