Surprisingly, Car and Driver Didn’t Completely Trash the Nissan Frontier

Even though the 2020 Nissan Frontier hasn’t seen a true redesign since its introduction in 2005, it’s still a popular mid-size truck. Car and Driver took a close look at the 2020 Nissan Frontier. Even though they’ve called Frontier a “vehicular fossil,” they had several favorable things to say about the mid-size truck as a competent, affordable vehicle.

Tow ratings and powertrain options

The Frontier can tow up to 6,710 pounds which is impressive for a mid-size truck. While it can’t tow what the Canyon, Colorado, or Jeep Gladiator can, the Frontier can tow up to 6,710 pounds. Its payload capacity is pretty good too as it’s able to carry as much as 1,430 pounds in its bed.

The V6 found in the newest Frontier is the least powerful in the class and paired with an antiquated five-speed transmission. Let’s get that out of the way. However, Frontier is still a competitor when it comes to towing capacities. If you opt for the four-cylinder model with a five-speed manual gearbox or the optional six-speed manual, you gain a little more power.

The Car and Driver team tested a 2020 Nissan Frontier with an optional V6 and the off-road equipped Pro-4X trim. In testing, they didn’t feel that the performance was sluggish in everyday usage. The V6 engine sounded a little rough and the automatic transmission wasn’t quick on either up or downshifts.

Still, they found a comfortable ride in most of their travels. There was a lot of extra body motion and the steering feedback was slow to respond. The slower steering and softer suspension were great on the trails for off-roading. For evasive maneuvers? Not so much.

The configuration they tested was good at protecting passengers from the rougher impacts on the road. Those same roads unveiled protesting sounds, shudders and squeaks, all through the interior. It needed 189 feet to stop from 70 mph. That’s longer than it takes the others in its class with the exception of the Honda Ridgeline which needs 195 feet.

Pricing and options

So each Frontier model gives you a choice of the extended King Cab or the four-door Crew Cab with a five-foot cargo bed. You can get a 6.1-foot bed with the Crew cab models. There’s not a lot of room in the backseat of the Crew cabs so Car and Driver stated a preference for the King cab.

When the mid-range SV trim level is added to the King cab model, you get 4WD and the optional V6 engine. The configuration is not only faster but that will serve you well in winter weather and whenever you need to go off-road. They found the Value Truck package for the King cab ideal for all the upgrades it offers. The package gives you heated front seats, in-bed channel system with tie-downs you can adjust, rear parking sensors, a spray-in bed liner, and a trailer-hitch receiver. You also get a shift knob and steering wheel wrapped in leather.

The base price for the 2020 Nissan Frontier starts at a very reasonable $20,500. The SV trim level brings the price up to $25,000. Other trim levels include the Desert Runner at $28,000, Pro-4X at $34,500, and the top-level SL at $35,000. The Value Truck package costs $1,890.

Cargo box and rugged interior

Nissan Frontier Pro-4X
Nissan Frontier Pro-4X | Nissan

The interior of Frontier hasn’t seen a real update since 2005. But if a cabin full of tech and convenience features aren’t deal breakers for you, it might work just fine. All the hard plastic used in the cabin works well for those using the truck for work. The vertically-angled steering wheel is a drawback for many and there’s no getting around it.

You also won’t find wireless charging, heated steering wheel, or cooled front seats here. There aren’t many infotainment features here nor are there any high-tech driver-assist features.

The interior space is roomy with limited space in the back seat of the Crew cab. The available beds offered by Frontier are smaller than their peers. Still, there’s a good amount of storage space inside. The truck Car and Driver tested held 10 carry-on items in its back seat. It’s not innovative storage space, granted, but there’s a lot of places to keep loose items. There’s a configurable cargo box, a cubby over the center stack, and a tray under that for small things.

While no one can say the 2020 Frontier is an ultramodern truck in today’s market, it’s still highly useful, comfortable, and reasonably priced.