The 2022 Nissan Frontier represents the model's first redesign in...

The 2022 Nissan Frontier represents the model's first redesign in 16 years. Credit: TNS/Nissan

The last time Nissan offered a redesigned Frontier pickup truck, George W. Bush was starting his second term as president, Hurricane Katrina decimated New Orleans and a new website debuted named YouTube.

Yes, it’s been a while since there’s been a truly new Frontier.

Hiren Patel, project lead designer at Nissan Design America in San Diego, where the Frontier was designed, said the new truck’s look was informed by Nissan’s mid-1980s Hardbody pickup, the first truck designed by Nissan in San Diego. "I really like the cleanliness of that design," Patel said during the Frontier’s launch last month in Utah. "Every panel has a purpose, and the look of toughness to it even though it's a small truck."

But Patel and his staff were careful not to make the new truck too trendy. This is a vehicle where timelessness is a virtue; trendiness is not. "They're looking for things that are maybe a bit more longstanding, that are going to look good in 10 or 15 years."

Mission accomplished.

In a world gone crazy for size, the Nissan Frontier is all-new, yet very recognizable in character. Its chiseled front grille and LED lighting wrap rearward into softer forms that give it an underlying strength. Its size is perfect, whether you opt for the Crew Cab or King Cab. You won’t find it too wide for trails or that narrow parking spot.

Timelessly handsome, the 2022 Nissan Frontier’s exterior styling is devoid of trendy gimmicks or styling excess. It’s chiseled "interlocking" grille, fascia, hood and fenders wrap seamlessly into the softer forms that Patel feels projects an unseen and unsaid strength.

But Patel and his crew were careful to design a truck that could then be customized by the customer, not the company. So, you can get a sprayed-in bedliner from the factory (optional on SV and PRO-4X), and the bed has tiedown points. The tailgate is dampened, and the rear bumper makes for a handy step.

That same rational sensibility continues inside. There’s nothing flashy here, just levelheaded design that works. It doesn’t look as if it's festooned with the latest tech, even though it is. The nine-inch touch screen is large and placed at the top center of the instrument panel. The software interface is easy to understand and operate, and Nissan’s designers sensibly designed it with two large knobs for the audio system’s volume tuning, rather than using on-screen slider controls, which are impossible to use while wearing work gloves.

But little prepares you for this truck’s biggest surprise: its refinement. That shouldn’t come as a surprise, given the product it’s replacing is 16 years old, meaning its engineering is closer to 20 years old.

On-road behavior is exemplary, even in Pro-4X trim. Its newfound refinement can be found in the Frontier’s lack of body motions over bumps. There’s a noticeable absence of excess rebound that you’d expect in a truck tuned for off-road prowess. Bumps are well-absorbed, making for a comfortably civilized ride. The responsive steering has a nice heft to it, even at low speeds. There’s a noticeable lack of noise, be it from wind, road or tires. It’s astonishingly quiet. That’s especially true off road, a truly pleasant surprise.

2022 Nissan Frontier Pro-4X

Base price: $37,240

Power: 310 hp., 281 pound-feet of torque

EPA fuel economy estimates: 17 mpg city, 22 highway

Towing capacity: 6,720 pounds

Bottom line: Old truck learns new tricks

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