Although Nissan (and Datsun) really got its start in the US thanks to a pickup, the last couple of decades have been a rough time to be a fan of Nissan trucks. The Frontier has been its midsize offering here in the US since the late 1990s, but its most recent generation has been stretched out for about 15 years. Finally, however, things are changing with the unveiling of the all-new 2022 Nissan Frontier, which is set to really bring back the style and pedigree of the Nissan midsize truck legacy.
To fully understand why so many Nissan fans are really excited about the new Frontier and what it’s bringing to the table, you have to understand the history of this truck series. It goes back more than 80 years and tells not only the story of one series of trucks but of the company behind it and how it made a name for itself here in the US. I’m going to take you through this interesting bit of automotive history so you, too, can appreciate what this new model represents for fans of Nissan trucks. Then we’ll take a look at the all-new 2022 Nissan Frontier and see just what it has to offer.
Going Back: The Datsun Truck
Before I get into some of the details of the 2022 Nissan Frontier, let’s take a step back and dig into the background of the truck series that has become the Frontier. It all started with the original Datsun Truck, which first went into production in 1934 and continued to be built until 1944. Following World War II, the Datsun 1121 was the first Datsun truck developed in 1946, and it had similar designs to the pre-war trucks.
You might’ve noticed that I’m talking about Datsun trucks, even though you came here to read about the 2022 Nissan Frontier. Datsun is an automotive brand owned by Nissan, in much the same way that General Motors owns Chevy and Cadillac – so the modern Frontier owes its heritage to those old Datsun models. In 1955, the Datsun 120 was introduced, which was the first of a new series of Nissan trucks; this was also among the first Nissan models available in Europe, though it wasn’t sold here in the US.
The Datsun 220
That honor falls to the Datsun 220, which was first introduced in 1957 and designed as a successor to the 120. The Datsun 220 used a Nissan engine, as many of the previous Datsun truck models had, and a number of different models and configurations were available for it. In 1958, the Datsun 220 was featured at the Los Angeles Auto Show, alongside the Datsun 210 sedan model, which was the first time these vehicles were showcased here in the US. Soon after the show, the Datsun 220 began arriving here in America, and it was really the model that made a name for Datsun in our auto market.
Datsun Generations That Followed
In 1961, the Datsun 320 was released and was offered as either a standard single cab or a double cab model. The Datsun 520 was released in 1965 (they skipped the model number “420” due to linguistic bad luck related to Japanese – not for reasons some might imagine today), with an updated 1.3L 67hp Nissan engine. More powerful engines were available on later models in the Datsun 520 series, and the Datsun 521 was the first compact half-ton pickup sold in the US, essentially creating the midsize truck market.
The Datsun 620 was released in 1972 with a regular cab, while an extended King Cab model became available in 1977. Here in the US, this pickup was often referred to as the “Little Hustler” and was quite popular as an all-around vehicle rather than a dedicated work truck. It was released with a four-speed manual transmission standard, though a five-speed became available starting in 1977, and a three-speed automatic transmission was also available – the first time this was offered on the Datsun truck.
In 1979, the Datsun 720 was introduced with a 2.0L engine, and it was available in the US with either a regular cab or King Cab. This truck was offered here until 1983, when it was followed by an all-new vehicle: the Nissan D21 truck. In some parts of the world, this was sold as the Nissan Datsun Truck or as the Nissan Navara. But here in the US, it was called the Nissan Hardbody.
The Nissan Hardbody
At last, we’ve reached the true predecessor to the Nissan Frontier: the Hardbody was first released in 1985 here in the US, and the name referred to the double-wall bed and the overtly aggressive stance and design of the truck. It was available with either a standard or King Cab and had a standard 6-foot bed or long 7-foot bed available. Both 4-cylinder and V6 engines were available, and at this point, you’re really looking at the forefather of the modern Nissan Frontier. There was a refresh for the Nissan Hardbody in 1993, though its run came to an end here in the US not long after.
Introducing the Nissan Frontier
Finally, we come to the Nissan Frontier, which was sold as the Nissan Navara or NP300 in some other countries. Released in 1997, the Frontier was initially a compact pickup, but a 2005 update redesigned it as a midsize truck. This has been a very popular model among midsize truck fans, but there’s been one major problem: that 2005 update was the last major one it saw. So for more than 15 years, the Frontier has been largely the same, and it’s certainly started to feel its age.
The 2022 Nissan Frontier
That’s where the all-new 2022 Nissan Frontier comes into play, as this is the start of an entirely new generation with a bold new design and fully updated interior. The high-strength steel ladder frame of the Frontier was recently updated, so the new generation uses this to build upon, with numerous options and features available. It comes with either a crew cab or extended King Cab and has both rear-wheel drive and four-wheel drive available, with either a 5-foot or 6-foot bed.
The 3.8L V6 engine that it features was just released last year, so it’s no surprise that the updated model will keep it, and it delivers up to 310 hp and 281 lb-ft of torque. Even though this engine didn’t feel like a massive upgrade last year, it was still in the older design, so having it in the all-new 2022 model is going to be a real treat. Towing capacity looks to be more than 6,700 lbs, and it will have a maximum payload of up to 1,610 lbs, which is a marked improvement over last year’s model.
Perhaps the most exciting aspect of the 2022 Nissan Frontier update is the all-new interior, which has been fully redesigned and updated. It features soft-touch surfaces, a digital driver display, an infotainment display with physical volume and tuning knobs, and much more. This update also introduces a number of available driver assistance safety features, including Blind Spot Warning, a Rear Cross Traffic Alert, a Lane Departure Warning, and Adaptive Cruise Control. Automatic Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection and Rear Automatic Braking are also part of the impressive new Nissan Safety Shield 360 package, creating a new standard for midsize trucks.
Time for a Change
As you can see, the Nissan Frontier has come a long way from its start as the Datsun truck, and this all-new generation looks better than ever. It’s about time that we got an update to Nissan’s pickup offering, and this one is shaping up to be a real contender in the market. We can’t wait for this model to roll out so we can see all the exciting features Nissan has decided to add and changes they made.