Forgotten Frontier? The State of Nissan's Aging Midsize Pickup
Often overlooked between the midsize pickup offerings from Ford and GM and Toyota's beloved Tacoma is the Nissan Frontier, which despite having been around without major changes since 2004 and being forgotten by many buyers, still managed to sell over 70,000 units in 2019.
So what's the deal with this truck? What has Nissan done to keep it fresh over the years and what's in store for its future? Let's take a look.
Second Gen Frontier
The current second generation Frontier first debuted in 2004 as a 2005 model, sporting styling inspired by the full-size Nissan Titan pickup and moving solidly into the midsize truck segment, leaving its "minitruck" roots behind.
It was offered with two different engine options, a 2.5L four-cylinder engine and a more common VQ40DE 4.0L V6, with both manual and automatic transmissions available.
It was also offered in a few different configurations, with both standard and long beds available as well as both extended and full four-door cabs.
For off-roading enthusiasts, the trim to get was the Nismo version, which was later replaced by the PRO-4X model—factory out-fitted for adventuring in the same way Toyota's TRD Off-Road Tacoma is.
In the mid 2000s the Frontier was a modern, competitive pickup that offered a lot of capability, a more manageable size and a more affordable price tag.
The problem was that it would carry on like that for a very long time. The 2009 Frontier saw some minor updates but the truck would go on for another decade before receiving any major changes.
The Current 2020 Frontier
While pickup buyers have a tendency to go for proven tech, simplicity and reliability over new-fangled features, the outdated feel of the Frontier has become extremely apparent, especially when looking inside the cabin. By and large, the interior of the 2020 Frontier doesn't look much different than the one that debuted in 2004.
Yet, even having been eclipsed by much of its competition, the Frontier has always had its fans. As mentioned a moment ago, about 70,000 of them were sold in 2019 and those numbers have remained surprisingly constant during the Frontier's long model run.
Change is on the way though. While you can't tell from the outside the 2020 model year Frontier got a brand new powertrain, a 3.8L V6 that replaces both of the old engines and makes a much-improved 310hp.
It also got a new nine-speed automatic transmission replacing the obsolete five-speed automatic from the old setup. The result was improved performance, fuel economy and refinement helping narrow the gap between the Frontier and its newer competition.
That's just the beginning though. After 15 model years without a model change, a new Frontier is imminent and should be revealed sometime within the next year.
What's Next for Nissan's Midsize Pickup?
Nissan has already teased the look of the next gen Frontier, and it looks like a big departure from the current truck. Rumor has it that the underlying structure from the current truck will carry over, but along with the new body and other modernizations, the interior will be getting a much-needed redo as well.
Having one of the longest production runs of any modern vehicle, the current generation Frontier has earned plenty of fans in the last 15+ years, but we imagine both Nissan loyalists and potential midsize pickup buyers will welcome the long overdue next gen model when it arrives in the near future.
More From Driving Line
- Speaking of popular Japanese pickups, here's a history lesson on the Toyota Tacoma.