The 2022 Nissan Frontier Is Finally a Good Truck, but Now Faces Stiff Competition From the Hyundai Santa Cruz

Consumers and critics long regarded the Nissan Frontier as an unappealing fossil of a truck. It sorely lacked interior technology and couldn’t perform as well as rivals. Finally, the redesigned Frontier looks much better. But now it has to face a midsize Hyundai pickup.

The 2022 Santa Cruz is Hyundai’s first truck, or “sport adventure vehicle,” as the automaker has marketed it. The Santa Cruz might not be an established name yet, but its fresh design already sets it apart from the Nissan Frontier. Here’s how the two trucks stack up.

The new Nissan Frontier

A mud-colored 2022 Nissan Frontier traveling on a dirt road up a hill
2022 Nissan Frontier | Nissan Motor Corporation

The 2022 Nissan Frontier’s engine remains unchanged, a 310-hp V6 paired with a nine-speed automatic transmission. It can get 18/24 mpg city/highway at best, slightly lower than other trucks its size. Automatic four-wheel drive is available, and the maximum towing capacity remains 6,720 pounds. All Nissan Frontiers can haul up to 1,460 pounds, The Car Connection reports.

Despite the identical frame, Nissan promises the new suspension components will provide a smoother ride. Car and Driver confirms this, praising its seamless acceleration and refined steering. Testers also found the updated Frontier Pro-4X a worthy off-roader compared to previous incarnations.

Nissan completely updated the Frontier’s interior, swapping out clunky plastics for more soft-touch surfaces. It also upgraded the standard touchscreen to eight inches and added more USB ports, plus smartphone integration. The Car Connection also appreciated nice options like the Fender sound system and wireless charging pad. All Nissan Frontiers now offer a bevy of useful safety features, though automatic emergency braking is strangely absent.

According to Nissan, the new Frontier will start at $27,840 for the Crew Cab model and $29,340 for King Cab. Adding 4WD will cost $3,000 extra for Crew Cabs and $3,200 more for King Cabs. All trims and body styles should be available at Nissan dealerships next month.

The unconventional Hyundai Santa Cruz

The 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz comes with a 191-hp turbo-four instead of a V6, paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission. A larger turbo-four on tap produces 281 hp and comes with an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox. The base engine might be underpowered, but it gets great gas mileage at 21/26 mpg city/highway.

With the bigger turbo-four and optional all-wheel drive, the Hyundai Santa Cruz can tow up to 5,000 pounds. That’s enough to compete with the Honda Ridgeline, but its short bed is a point of contention amongst truck fans. It measures only four feet long and can carry up to 1,586 pounds. The Santa Cruz with the base engine can haul 1,906 pounds.

This makes it slightly less capable, but it also has a versatile in-bed trunk and locking tonneau cover for added security. The truck’s unique styling actually won TCC’s approval, particularly the bulldog-style grille. On the inside, the Santa Cruz’s comfort is comparable to a midsize SUV.

Hyundai officially released the 2022 Santa Cruz in April and has delivered more units all summer. The base trim costs only $23,990. Models with the upgraded engine start at $35,680.

So, which pickup truck is better?

Thanks to the Hyundai Santa Cruz’s short bed, the Nissan Frontier offers more utility. However, the latter truck’s performance is still slightly underwhelming. The 2022 Frontier is also more expensive than rivals, Jalopnik notes.

The Hyundai Santa Cruz is still a great, affordable vehicle for SUV shoppers who want a truck-like aesthetic. But we’ll have to wait until the 2022 Nissan Frontier comes out to determine which truck is more popular.

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