Sunday, October 17, 2021
First Reviews 2022 Nissan Frontier First Drive: Focus Adjustment on Refinement

2022 Nissan Frontier First Drive: Focus Adjustment on Refinement

The Nissan Frontier evolves with refinement and technology for the 2022 model year


  • Base pricing for the new Frontier starts at $39,998 in Canada, $27,840 in the US.

  • The Frontier gains 21st-century technology and a handsome new look.

  • Above all, the new Frontier is far more refined than ever. 


Small trucks have roots that run very deep in North America. Unfortunately, we above the Snowbelt rarely ever get to see these “roots” as most old trucks were long ago reduced to dust. Travel to California, Mexico, and other Southern states and you’ll quickly be reminded that the new Nissan Frontier’s ancestors are still alive and well.

2022 Nissan Frontier | Photo: Olivier Delorme

The Nissan Frontier started out as the Datsun 220 way back in 1959. Many remember, at least I do, the Nissan Hardbody sold from 1985 to 1997 as being the small pickup that truly set the stage for the Frontier. The 80s were incredible years for Japanese trucks – think back to the 1985 Toyota SR5 4×4 from BTTF…

Though both the first (98-04) and second (05-20) generations of the Frontier did well, truth be told, the second hung around for far too long. In the face of mounting competition and expectation, one would be excused for thinking that Nissan had abandoned the truck over the last five years. But clearly, they haven’t.


Improving drivability

2022 Nissan Frontier | Photo: Olivier Delorme

What Nissan’s done is take the best elements of the previous Frontier and scrapped all the rest. Specifically, the new third-generation Frontier rides on the same ladder frame and retains several important components including the 4×4 system and chassis configuration.

Powering the truck is an old-new powertrain. For the 2020 model year, Nissan fitted a 3.8-litre V6 to the Frontier for the US. It returns in the new truck and continues to develop 310 horsepower and 281 lb.-ft. of torque. With it comes a standard 9-speed automatic transmission and, according to Nissan Canada, both it and the engine have been thoroughly revised for the new truck. These improvements were not however done in the name of capability.

2022 Nissan Frontier | Photo: Olivier Delorme

The main goal was on-road performance, acceleration, and efficiency. On the first two fronts, Nissan’s met its goals. The new Frontier pulls consistently harder than the 4.0-litre it replaces. And the automatic transmission is geared to maximize the use of the available power. Throttle response is occasionally dull but not out of step for a truck. The updated powertrain has changed nothing to increase the Frontier’s capabilities as towing capacity remains at roughly 6,500 lbs. and the payload is 1,430 lbs.


Tops in refinement

This is telling as the main takeaway from driving the new 2022 Nissan Frontier is the increased and incredibly noticeable levels of refinement. Among the many upgrades, the Frontier’s cab now sits on hydraulic mounts. The latter now features more sound-deadening materials and acoustic side glass. The improvements in NVH are massive. The ride quality is equally extraordinary thanks to a larger front stabilizer bar and new rear stabilizer bar, and an additional steering dynamic damper. To note, steering is extremely heavy but not overly so.


Pro-4X attraction

2022 Nissan Frontier | Photo: Olivier Delorme

The models driven were all top-trim Pro-4X, the version Nissan expects to make up for the largest portion of sales. The rugged Pro-4X is fitted with Bilstein off-road dampers which are known to not only make short work of tough terrains but increasing the level of on-road comfort. To put it succinctly, the Pro-4X is more comfortable on-road a Toyota Tacoma TRD or a Ford Ranger Tremor. It still trails behind a Chevrolet Colorado ZR2. Unlike the others, the Pro-4X does include a boost in ground clearance. At 9.6-inches, it’s 0.1 inches more than the standard Frontier – the difference likely a result of the more aggressive tires.

The Frontier Pro-4X has everything going for it which explains why, even at $45,598 for the Canadian-exclusive King Cab or $47,498 for the Crew Cab, it will sell well. Beyond the dampers, the Pro-4X also throws in a rear electronic locking differential, skid plates, unique 17-inch wheels, and numerous lava-red accents.


Handsome, more tech, and smart configuration options

2022 Nissan Frontier | Photo: Olivier Delorme

Physically, the Frontier is far more rugged-looking than the previous truck. Its front fascia was inspired, if only a little, by the Hardbody. The latter’s high shoulders, strong fenders, and grille are reminiscent of the truck. Overall, the new Frontier is attractive, especially in the Pro-4X guise.

In Canada, King Cab and Crew Cab configurations will be available. The King Cab will be delivered with a 6-foot box while the Crew Cab will get a 5-foot box. The 6-foot box will be available with the Crew Cab, a rare combination in this segment.

2022 Nissan Frontier | Photo: Olivier Delorme

The cabin is a far cry from the 2005-2020 truck. The new Frontier’s dashboard remains simple but with a very modern take. Standard for all is an 8-inch touchscreen display that will feature Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The Pro-4X will see the screen grow to 9 inches and be coupled to a 7-inch instrument display. Comfortable zero-gravity seats are included which can be leather-covered when the optional Luxury package is selected with the Pro-4X version.

Nissan has made a visible effort when designing the new Frontier’s interior. Some surfaces are extremely plain, but the result is clean and updated. The controls are easy to operate, and Nissan’s built-in plenty of storage spots. One downside is the steering column which is not telescoping – a rear omission in 2021.


Growing competition

2022 Nissan Frontier | Photo: Olivier Delorme

Nissan’s timing for launching the new Frontier could not be better. The rapidly-growing small-midsize truck segment has never been more complete. At $39,998, the Frontier S is more expensive than the Ford Ranger XL and the Toyota Tacoma 4×4 Access Cab without offering more. As we know, volume belongs to better-equipped models and here, the Crew Cab SV, at $43,998, slightly narrows the price gap with its two main competitors.

About the competition, the Frontier will face off with the Jeep Gladiator, the Ranger, the Chevrolet Colorado, the GMC Canyon, the Tacoma as well as the Honda Ridgeline, Ford Maverick, and Hyundai Santa Cruz. If I think Nissan will manage to come in third in overall segment sales after its first full year of sales, it will be the result of two factors: One, the Maverick will not be considered as an opponent, and two: The Nissan Frontier is a revered and desirable truck thanks in part to its history and reputation.

The new 2022 Frontier is assembled at Nissan’s Canton, Mississippi, plant. It is destined for the US and Canadian markets and is on sale now.

2022 Nissan Frontier | Photo: Olivier Delorme

2022 Nissan Frontier | Photo: Olivier Delorme

2022 Nissan Frontier | Photo: Olivier Delorme

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Matt St-Pierre
Trained as an Automotive Technician, Matt has two decades of automotive journalism under his belt. He’s done TV, radio, print and this thing called the internet. He’s an avid collector of many 4-wheeled things, all of them under 1,500 kg, holds a recently expired racing license and is a father of two. Life is beautiful. Send Matt an emai

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