2020 Nissan Frontier gets new driveline, improving performance and fuel economy
Nissan brought its first small trucks to America in 1959, and that decision started a revolution. When gas prices started to climb in the 1970s, buyers loved fuel-efficient Datsun mini-trucks, and their small size made them more convenient for cities and suburbs. Small trucks have now grown into midsize trucks, but Nissan still offers the same values in the 2020 Frontier.
The Frontier is currently the oldest design on the market. The last major revision to this model came in 2004, with a mid-cycle refresh in 2009. However, Nissan has kept up with the technology curve by making smaller improvements in each new model year. The result is that the 2020 Nissan Frontier has all the tech features you want, in a delightfully old-school package.
New for 2020, Nissan has updated the engine and transmission, consolidating down to a single driveline for the model. The new package includes a 3.8-liter V6 engine and a 9-speed automatic transmission, and your choice of rear-wheel or four-wheel-drive. The new engine boosts horsepower by 49 horsepower to 310, providing 281 pound-feet of torque. This makes the Frontier the most powerful midsize truck on the market.
The new transmission offers 4 additional gears to give the 2020 Frontier dramatically better performance and improved fuel economy compared to the outgoing model. With the new driveline, the 2020 Frontier can tow up to 6,640 pounds, and has a payload rating up to 1,460 pounds. Fuel economy is up to 18 MPG city and 24 MPG highway when equipped with rear-wheel-drive, and just 1 MPG less with 4WD. Best of all, the Frontier is rated to run on regular gas.
Inside, you can outfit the Frontier to your tastes with three different trim levels. The basic S and SV trims come with cloth seats, and leather is an option on the top PRO-4X off-road trim. Base trims come with a seven-inch color touchscreen display, while the PRO-4X comes with a smaller 5.8-inch display with GPS navigation, satellite radio, voice control, and Rockford Fosgate 10-speaker premium audio. All trims support Bluetooth streaming and MP3 playback, but no CD player is included.
When it comes to safety, the Frontier is still a little bit behind. Off-road features like hill start assist and hill descent control are standard on 4WD models, but if you want advanced driver assistance like blind spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control, and automatic emergency braking, you won't find them in the Frontier. You can get rear parking sonar in the Value Truck option package. That option also gets heated seats, security system, spray-in bedliner, and a trailer hitch, so we recommend it.
Final pricing has not yet been released, but the Frontier is set to go on sale in the next few weeks. If you're looking for a traditional small truck, the Frontier is enjoyable to drive, capable for work or play, and a great value. If you're wishing for a few more advanced features, Nissan has said that a totally new Frontier is "on the horizon" so you won't have to wait too long for a new generation of America's oldest small truck.
2020 Nissan Frontier
Base price: $TBD
Price as tested: $TBD
Type: Midsize pickup
Engine: 3.8-liter V6 (310 hp, 281 lbs-ft)
Transmission: 9-speed automatic
EPA estimated mileage: 18/24 (2WD) or 17/23 (4WD)
Overall length: 219.4 inches
Curb weight: 4,696 pounds
Final assembly: Canton, Mississippi
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