Outdated design. The 2020 Nissan Frontier is an ancient pickup truck with bones that date back to the 2005 model year. Not a lot has changed for the Frontier in those 15 years.
This means the exterior and interior look nearly identical to the Frontier from 2005. Compared to new competitors like the Jeep Gladiator, Ford Ranger, and Chevrolet Colorado, it’s not a good look.
Things are slightly more modern on the inside, but not by much. You now get a 7-inch touchscreen, but it doesn’t come with Android Auto or Apple CarPlay. The Frontier’s lack of modern tech features is one of its major drawbacks from its old age.
New engine. Interestingly, while the body, chassis, and technology all stay the same for the 2020 model year, the Frontier benefits from a new engine.
Both last year's four-cylinder and V6 engines have been dropped and replaced with a 3.8-liter V6. While smaller in displacement than the previous V6, the new engine is more powerful, rated at 310 horsepower and 281 pound-feet of torque. It's paired to a new nine-speed automatic transmission.
Towing capacity doesn’t change for the Frontier, as it’s still rated at up to 6,720 pounds. That puts it toward the bottom of the pack, just ahead of the Honda Ridgeline.
Fuel economy is up, as the Frontier can now get 20 miles per gallon combined. Last year's V6 returned 19 mpg combined.
The new engine is a welcome addition to the Frontier. The V6 has a generous amount of power, while the nine-speed automatic shifts smoothly. The new 3.8-liter V6 is more polished than the outgoing 4.0-liter V6 engine and always delivers its power smoothly. It’s also one of the more powerful engines in the class.
Poor safety scores. Compact pickup trucks aren’t exactly known for their safety, but the Frontier has some of the lowest scores in the class.
The NHTSA gave it a four-star overall safety rating. In the IIHS’ crash tests, the truck earned "Marginal" ratings in both of the small overlap front tests and an "Acceptable" rating for its head restraints and seats. The pickup’s headlights earned the lowest rating possible of "Poor."
The Frontier’s bad safety scores are further exacerbated because of the lack of advanced safety features. The only ones that are available are a rearview camera and rear parking sensors. Even for the segment, that’s terrible and falls behind nearly every other competitor.
Relatively strong value. One of the Frontier’s strongest qualities is just how much of a value option it is. Pricing for the 2020 model starts at $27,885 including destination.
The Frontier's new V6 is a lot more powerful than the four-cylinder engines found in more affordable competitors. The base trim is no longer a bare-bones vehicle, either, as it comes with remote keyless entry, push button start, power door locks, and power windows.
While it may not be as affordable as last year’s model, the Frontier is still a strong value option for consumers that want to get more for their money, as long as you stay away from higher trim levels.
Final thoughts. The 2020 Nissan Frontier is an odd proposition. An all-new Frontier, which is direly needed, is right around the corner. This year's Frontier is more of a taste of what’s to come, offering consumers the old body, platform, and tech with the all-new engine.
For consumers that want an old-school truck with a modern engine, the Frontier continues to offer that.
Compared to the competition, the Frontier falls behind in quite a few main areas. It doesn’t have the same crash test scores, advanced safety features, modern infotainment system, or fuel economy as newer options. There’s a lot that stops the Frontier from being a leader in the class.
Whether you choose the Ridgeline, Ranger, Gladiator, Colorado, GMC Canyon, or Toyota Tacoma, you’re getting a better truck. The Frontier is one of the oldest vehicles on sale and is desperate need of a full update.
If you’re looking for a pickup with a comfortable ride, the latest safety features, and an upscale interior, the Ridgeline is the best pick. For the best towing capacity, an available diesel engine, and a modern infotainment system, the Colorado is a good choice.
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