Car Life Nation

When Driving is about Lifestyle, Car Life Nation is the Answer

When Driving is about Lifestyle, Car Life Nation is the Answer

A grey 2022 Nissan Frontier Pro-4x is shown from the front during a 2022 Nissan Frontier vs 2022 Ford Ranger comparison.

Who Will Reign the Future Mid-Size Pickup Market? The Frontier or Ranger?

A lot is going on in the world right now, impacting us all in unexpected ways, including the automotive industry. For the pickup market, trucks are getting bigger, smaller, more athletic, and electrified, all at the same time. The Nissan Frontier and Ford Ranger have long, intricate histories, and rumors have been swirling about both brands being discontinued for several years. However, the Nissan Frontier is new for 2022, and the recently returned Ford Ranger is slated for a new generation in 2023. It may seem that comparing the 2022 Nissan Frontier vs 2022 Ford Ranger is unfair for this reason, but it may also be the best time to compare these two long-running favorites.

Does the mid-size pickup truck have a future beyond 2023? Has the time come for smaller trucks, or is this the last hurrah while we await the flying cars science fiction has promised us for nearly a century? Take a look at the Frontier and Ranger, and judge whether these pickups have a future or belong to the past.

A Brief Look at the Evolution of Both Vehicles

In many cases, the history of a particular pickup truck isn’t necessarily as interesting as the cool features offered in any particular model year, especially after experiencing a recent, significant refresh, as both of these models have. However, both the Nissan Frontier and the Ford Ranger have been staples of the pickup truck driving community for a significant amount of time, and the changes observed since they first came on the market may be very telling as to what we can expect in the coming years from this unique segment.

Nissan’s pickup truck history is fascinating, as its 1959 Datsun 220 was the first compact truck in the US. The Nissan Frontier model first appeared on the US market in 1998, equipped with a 2.4L four-cylinder engine producing 143 hp. Soon after, the Frontier was given another engine option: a 3.3L V6 that increased the horsepower to 180 hp, along with the choice of a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission.

The mid-size pickup had begun to make a name for itself as a modest-sized truck capable of navigating busy city streets combined with the power to tow 3,500 lbs. While its competitors have seen several stages of change in the following years, the Frontier remained vastly the same through its second generation in 2005. In fact, prior to the 2022 third-generation release, many critics were concerned that Nissan had completely forgotten their mid-size truck offering.

The Ford Ranger has an equally interesting history. Originally, “Ranger” was a trim name for the F-Series, which has historically been a larger, mightier truck. When Ford was looking to replace the Mazda-manufactured Ford Courier compact truck, the 1983 mid-size Ford Ranger standalone model was born. It was discontinued in the US after the 2011 model year, only to return in 2019. The modern Ranger is generally considered by many drivers as a smaller version of the F-Series: capable and captivating but on a smaller scale.

So why are these trucks getting a new lease on life? It could be because Americans are just starting to warm up their appetite for smaller trucks after a few decades of disinterest. Some critics speculate that drivers are motivated by rising fuel costs, but the widening divide between “full-size” and “mid-size” trucks is becoming increasingly apparent. Therefore, it is entirely possible that the 2022 Nissan Frontier and 2022 Ford Ranger may be an anomaly that will boggle future historians.

A white 2021 Ford Ranger Tremor is shown from the front while parked off-road.

What Do the Present Day Models Offer When It Comes To Engine Options?

One interesting observation many drivers make about the mid-size truck segment is the simplicity of the vehicles. While larger trucks are offered in a mind-boggling array of trims, packages, and options, both the Frontier and the Ranger are offered in just enough versions to provide most drivers with exactly what they want to find behind the wheel. Both the 2022 Nissan Frontier and 2022 Ford Ranger are offered with one engine option. While this is a familiar concept in the Nissan truck lineup, with the Titan offering just a 5.6L V8, Ford drivers are more acquainted with half a dozen engine options, each with its own distinct capabilities.

The Frontier comes equipped with a 3.8L V6 that ranks as best-in-class with 310 hp and 281 lb-ft of torque. Paired with a nine-speed automatic transmission, it comes in both two and four-wheel drive options. The two-wheel drive option will give you an EPA-estimated combined fuel economy of 20 MPG, while the four-wheel drive models come in with a combined economy of 19 MPG.

The Ranger is powered by a turbocharged 2.3L four-cylinder engine that produces 270 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque. Two and four-wheel drives are offered throughout the Ranger lineup, though fuel economy depends on engine and trim. The Ford Ranger Tremor model has the best fuel economy, getting a combined EPA-estimated rating of 19 MPG.

What Does the Future Hold For These Models?

As of this writing, both the Nissan Frontier and Ford Ranger are expected to release a 2023 model, which leaves many drivers and experts wondering what the next steps for mid-size trucks will be. After almost two decades, the 2022 Nissan Frontier received a fresh redesign, leaving behind the bare-bones concept of previous models to create an allure that invites drivers to a brand-new Frontier-driving experience. That means adding Nissan’s Zero Gravity seats to provide maximum comfort for both the driver and front passenger. It also includes a newly-refreshed infotainment system controlled by either an 8 or 9-inch touchscreen, depending on the trim.

The Frontier’s exterior has received an impressive makeover as well, with a retro-inspired, more aggressive look. The suspension has been carefully re-tuned to be more durable without sacrificing passenger comfort, while some driver assistance technology is now standard on all trims, such as hill start assist and intelligent driver alertness, which notices any strange driving patterns and sounds alarms to make sure the driver is paying attention. The optional Technology Package adds even more assist features like blind spot warning and a rear sonar system for drivers interested in more coverage on the road.

Details have been scarce about what new modifications will be made to the 2023 Ranger, but we can look to the 2022 model to get an idea of what might be offered, though it continues to look exactly as a modest, mid-size truck should look. The recently returned Splash Package offers the black-and-orange graphics that were familiar in the 1990s, though it seems the exterior styling hasn’t changed too considerably since the original 1990s debut. Those who select the XLT or Lariat trim have access to their infotainment system via an 8-inch touchscreen, while the base XL model includes a 2.3-inch productivity screen. A rear-view camera and pre-collision automatic emergency braking are now standard on all models, but other features may be relegated to upper trims or packages only. Hopefully, more safety and comfort features will continue to become standard with next year’s model.

A grey 2022 Nissan Frontier Pro-4x is shown kicking up dust off-road.

Ready for 2022 and Beyond

As the American appetite for mid-size trucks continues to grow, it will be interesting to see how the Nissan Frontier and Ford Ranger evolve. Drivers covet these trucks today for their overall simplicity. From engine to trims, this segment is known for providing drivers with a straightforward truck with just the right amount of creature comforts. However, as large truck and SUV drivers begin to see the appeal of more compact trucks, will this change? Are the Frontier Platinum and Ranger Limited on the horizon as drivers select smaller, more nimble trucks? And with electric vehicles at the forefront of current production headlines, will mid-size trucks be the next for electrification? The future may be uncertain for the 2022 Nissan Frontier and the 2022 Ford Ranger, but given how these trucks have evolved and are ready for 2023, it seems that car manufacturers will continue to put their faith in these brands.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *