The 2022-23 Nissan Frontier Shows How An ‘Old Fashioned’ Truck Falls Short in The Modern Market
I’m a big fan of old-fashioned trucks. Heck, my daily driver’s a 1988. But I know from experience that a classic comes with trade-offs, and I certainly wouldn’t pay new truck prices for one. But thousands of drivers shelled out for the 2022 Nissan Frontier before reviewers uncovered that it was just an old Frontier with a facelift.
The 2022 and 2023 Nissan Frontier is ruggedly handsome
Let’s get the positives out of the way. I love how way the new Nissan Frontier looks, and so do many other critics. It’s a midsize pickup truck with a blocked-off grille and chunky front end. But that front end is broken up by its high skidplate and bright tow hooks.
Next, the 2022 Nissan Frontier proved itself a very capable midsize work truck. Its 310 horsepower naturally-aspirated V6 (developed for the 2020 model year) makes a respectable 310 horsepower. As a result, its payload capacity is up to 1,708 pounds (in lower-weight configurations) and it can tow up to 6,720 pounds. The problem is that it accomplishes these things with technology leftover from the old generation, engineered in 2005.
What’s the result? According to MotorTrend, this brand new truck sufferers from a bouncy ride, sluggish transmission, heavy steering, excessive engine noise, and poorly laid out cabin. Even the Pro-4X model only has a locking differential in the rear and struggled to keep up with its top-trim competitors.
Reviewer Alex Kierstein said, “”It feels more like a 15-year-old truck.” But most buyers disagreed.
Nissan doubled its sales numbers in 2022
Back in 2021, Nissan was only selling 10k Frontiers a quarter. Then Nissan gave its midsize truck a complete visual makeover and in Q1 of 2022 it sold 22,406 Frontiers. This made it more popular than the Chevrolet Colorado and Ford Ranger, only lagging behind the Toyota Tacoma.
What’s interesting is that Nissan very clearly targeted the Toyota Tacoma’s performance numbers when it redesigned its Frontier, and the Tacoma itself is lagging behind its midsize competitors in most performance metrics with a Tacoma that hasn’t received a full redesign since 2015.
Has the market spoken? Is the reputation and design of a midsize truck much more important than the latest, greatest technology? Are automakers such as Chevy and Ford, with truly cutting-edge drivetrains in midsize and compact trucks, doing it all wrong? I think there’s one major problem with Nissan’s approach.
What’s wrong with a good old-fashioned truck?
One reason the Tacoma has such a strong reputation for reliability is that Toyota hasn’t historically thrown any experimental technology into its pickup trucks. Some might even say that the Tacoma has consistently been a few years “outdated.” But as a result, the automaker rarely deals with unexpected mechanical failures. There are benefits to a more “old-fashioned” pickup truck.
Another interesting example is the Ram 1500 Classic. When the automaker redesigned its half-ton pickup truck in 2019, it did away with the two-door “regular” cab configuration and upgraded all of its interior materials. But it knew that some buyers, such as fleet owners, would need an entry-level pickup truck. So Ram has continued to build and sell its fourth-generation half-ton, badged as the Ram 1500 Classic. This pickup is currently the cheapest full-size option on the market, and its buyers probably consider it a good deal.
This brings me to the only real problem with the Nissan Frontier. There’s nothing at all wrong with leaning on older technology and offering a reliable, no-frills truck at a bargain price. But Nissan is not offering a cost-effective midsize truck: the Frontier is the most expensive option on the market.
MotorTrend reviewer Scott Evans had a well-thought-out conclusion after his 2022 Nissan Frontier test:
“The new Frontier is a rough-and-tumble little truck, and for half the price I might be interested. As it sits, it’s a lot of money for not much improvement over the 17-year-old model it replaces.”Scott Evans
Next, find out the 1 midsize pickup truck recommended by Consumer Reports or watch MotorTrend’s Frontier review in the video below: