(Photo/Sean McCoy)

Tacoma Killer? 2022 Nissan Frontier First Drive

The 2022 Nissan Frontier is completely redesigned with a powerful engine, bold looks, and a people-pleasing interior. Will it be enough to dethrone the long-in-the-tooth Tacoma from overlanding supremacy?

Bumping down a rough forest road in the Colorado Rockies, my wife laughed so hard she cried. “It’s like I’m Hula dancing,” she said, holding onto a conveniently placed “oh S#*T handle” above the passenger door. Her hips rocked and swayed wildly in the “zero gravity” bucket seats as we traversed a rock garden maybe a little too fast.

I was behind the wheel of the 2022 Nissan Frontier and I loved every minute of it. From a few quick errands around the city to a fast drive up I-70 into the mountains, I found the all-new Frontier to be an ideal midsize truck in many ways. Read on for all my first-drive impressions.

2022 Nissan Frontier Review: A Powerful Midsize Pickup

2022 Nissan Frontier PRO-4X
The 2022 Nissan Frontier PRO-4X in Colorado; (photo/Sean McCoy)

For 2022, Nissan loaded the Frontier with a 310-horsepower V6 mated to a 9-speed automatic transmission. Those numbers eclipse both the Toyota Tacoma and Ford Ranger and measure up almost identically with a top-tier Chevy Colorado. What that means in the real world is that this truck is peppy and at the same time smooth.

In hard acceleration, I was surprised that the truck revved up to nearly the 7,000 RPM redline. For an engine that packs 281 pound-feet of torque, that thing really spins up! The truck accelerated smoothly and quickly. And it merged and passed safely with no problems.

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As for towing, I didn’t get a chance to test this (important) aspect during my 3-day loan. But Nissan claims the 2022 Frontier’s towing capacity at up to 6,720 pounds. The Nissan Frontier can also handle a 1,610-pound payload.

For a relatively small pickup, those are good numbers, which stack up very similar to a vehicle that dominates the midsize category, the Tacoma.

Nissan Frontier PRO-4X Off-Road Driving

To really put the Frontier through its paces, I took it on a moderate forest road at about 11,000 feet in the Rocky Mountains. While the road isn’t super difficult, it’s great to get impressions of how the truck handles both rough terrain and altitude.

2022 Nissan Frontier pickup truck
(Photo/Sean McCoy)

The Frontier was, in a word, capable. The PRO-4X edition I tested rolls off the showroom floor with Hankook AT2 tires, an electronic locking rear differential, Bilstein off-road shock absorbers, and one front aluminum and three steel underbody skid plates (oil pan, transfer case, and fuel tank).

All that means that this truck is ready for some decent off-road action straight from the lot. The road I drove is a decent test for off-road vehicles, with many people opting to leave cars at the bottom and hike up the 3 miles to the alpine lake at the end.

I was confident in the Frontier throughout the drive. While it was certainly a rough ride (cue the Hula dancing comment), the 2022 Nissan Frontier handled the off-road with no problems.

However, those who really push their vehicles will probably want a little lift and bigger tires. How the 9-speed transmission and engine hold up to the rigors of off-road builds remains to be seen. But given the looks of this truck, I hope to see a thriving aftermarket for those who want to take it to the next level.

Looks, Interior, Pricing

The 2022 Nissan Frontier pricing starts at $27,840 and rolls up to about $45,000 depending on configuration and features.

2022 Nissan Frontier pickup truck interior dash
(Photo/Sean McCoy)

I also love the interior of the 2022 Frontier. The fully loaded PRO-4X edition does come with a hefty price tag of $44,315 as specced on my test model. But the pleasant environment inside, which includes a spectacular Fender stereo and all sorts of safety and entertainment tech, is wonderful.

The touch points are all soft and comfortable. But the interior isn’t overly soft. The dash and doors, for example, are a nice material that seems like it would be easy to clean. This is clearly a truck meant for real-world use.

The human-centric design seems evident. For example, the driver gets a great dead-pedal, and the passenger gets two handles above the door for rough riding. The infotainment system is simple to use and has excellent cameras for driving in tight spaces.

Overall, the interior is a nice place to be. But it’s not so cushy that it feels like a sedan. This is a truck first, but still very nice inside.

2022 Nissan Frontier Review

I only had the Frontier for a couple of days. But in that time, it left a really good impression on me. From the hiker who said, “Hey, nice truck!” as I drove past to the easy off-road experience, it hit me as an excellent choice for a midsize pickup.

2022 Nissan Frontier pickup truck
(Photo/Sean McCoy)

Now, will that mean the Frontier can take on the Tacoma (and now Ranger and Colorado) to earn king-of-the-trail honors? Well, only time will tell.

Tacoma’s reputation is largely founded on reliability, and that only comes with time. My hunch is that these modern trucks will all hold up great with proper maintenance, which even the Tacoma requires, sometimes in spades. In fact, our editor hated his “dream” Tacoma and put in a ton of work to … ahem … make it great again.

My take? If you’re in the market for a midsize pickup, give the Frontier a look. It looks cool, but it also walks the off-road walk as well as you’d expect for any off-the-floor vehicle.

Sean McCoy
By

Editorial Director Sean McCoy is a life-long outdoorsman who grew up hunting and fishing central Wisconsin forests and lakes. He joined GearJunkie after a 10-year stint as a newspaperman in the Caribbean, where he learned sailing and wooden-boat repair. Based in GearJunkie's Denver office, McCoy is an avid trail runner, camper, hunter, angler, mountain biker, skier, and beer tester.