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2020 Nissan Frontier Review

The 2020 Nissan Frontier finishes near the bottom of our compact pickup truck rankings. It has a solid powertrain, a comfortable ride, and an excellent predicted reliability rating, but it's less modern and capable than almost every other vehicle in the class.

Pros & Cons

  • Capable V6 engine
  • Easy to drive, with a smooth ride
  • Excellent predicted reliability rating
  • Noisy, outdated interior
  • Woefully outmoded interior technology
  • Almost no driver assistance features
  • Lower towing and hauling capacities than rivals

New for 2020

  • New V6 engine and nine-speed automatic transmission
  • Four-cylinder engine, five-speed manual transmission, six-speed manual, and five-speed automatic all dropped
  • More standard features, including push-button start and power windows and locks
  • Last model year of current generation

Rankings & Research

The 2020 Nissan Frontier's #6 ranking is based on its score within the Compact Pickup Trucks category. Currently the Nissan Frontier has a score of 6.9 out of 10, which is based on our evaluation of 98 pieces of research and data elements using various sources.

6.9

Overall

Scorecard

Critics' Rating: 6.2
Performance: 7.6
Interior: 5.2
Safety: 7.9
Reliability:
J.D. Power Ratings Logo

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Is the Nissan Frontier a Good Truck?

The Nissan Frontier is a decent truck, but it's hard to say that it's good. The Frontier provides a comfortable ride, and it gets plenty of power from its new V6 engine. The available Pro-4X trim is a capable off-road machine. The front seats are comfortable and offer the driver plenty of visibility in all directions, while the infotainment system is a straightforward, no-frills setup. The Frontier also boasts a nearly perfect predicted reliability rating.

That's a solid list of strengths, but the Frontier also has plenty of weaknesses. Its engine is capable, but some rivals feel more energetic while also getting better gas mileage. Almost every competitor has a more modern and upscale interior, and a few have more spacious rear seats. Nearly every other truck on the market offers more infotainment and driver assistance features, and most other compact pickups have better towing and hauling capacities.

2020 Nissan Frontier Dimensions

  • Length: 17 feet, 2 inches to 18 feet, 3 inches
  • Height: 5 feet, 10 inches to 6 feet, 2 inches
  • Curb weight: 4,145 to 4,696 pounds

Should I Buy the Nissan Frontier?

If you want a modern compact pickup with up-to-date technology, you should not buy the Frontier. At least, not right now. When next year's redesigned model rolls out, it may turn out to be an excellent choice. But despite getting a new powertrain, the 2020 Frontier lags behind its competitors in almost every key area. With that in mind, you should consider other small trucks, such as the Honda Ridgeline or Toyota Tacoma.

Compare the Frontier, Ridgeline, and Tacoma »

Should I Buy a New or Used Nissan Frontier?

The 2020 Frontier belongs to a generation that began with the 2005 model year, which is an incredibly long span between redesigns (many rivals have been redesigned multiple times since 2005). The 2020 model marks the end of this generation, however, as Nissan has already announced that a redesigned Frontier is on the way for 2021.

That doesn't mean the 2020 edition sees no changes though. The new Frontier features several updates, making it something of a warm-up act for the coming revamp. Whereas the 2019 Frontier had a four-cylinder base engine and offered a 261-horsepower V6, the 2020 model only has one engine: a 310-horsepower V6. In addition to the increased power, the 2020 Frontier gets slightly better gas mileage than the previous V6-powered editions.

There's also a new nine-speed automatic transmission for 2020 (previous models offered five- and six-speed manuals and automatics), and there are some new standard features, including push-button start and power windows and locks.

For 2019, Nissan added a 7-inch touch screen to the standard features list, and the 2018 model was the first to come standard with Bluetooth and a rearview camera. The 2017 model saw no major changes.

If you're considering an older model, be sure to read our 2017 Nissan Frontier, 2018 Nissan Frontier, and 2019 Nissan Frontier reviews to help inform your decision. Also check out our Used Car Deals page to learn about savings and discounts you can find on used vehicles.

Compare the 2018, 2019, and 2020 Frontier »

We Did the Research for You: 98 Reviews Analyzed

We don’t base our car reviews on our personal opinions. Instead, we combine the findings of professional test drivers with data such as reliability ratings and safety scores to give you a complete overview of every vehicle we rank.

This review uses applicable research and data from all model years of the current Frontier generation, which runs from 2005 through 2020.

Why You Can Trust Us

U.S. News & World Report has been ranking the best cars, trucks, and SUVs since 2007, and our staff has more than 75 years’ worth of auto industry experience combined. To keep our reviews unbiased, we don’t accept expensive gifts or trips from car companies, and an outside company manages our advertising.

How Much Does the Nissan Frontier Cost?

The Frontier's starting price sits at $26,790. That's above average for a small pickup, though that's partly because the Frontier is no longer offered with an entry-level four-cylinder model. The range-topping Frontier Pro-4X starts at $37,490. That's a few thousand less than the top-trim price of most other trucks in the class.

Check out our U.S. News Best Price Program for great savings at your local Nissan dealer. You can also find excellent manufacturer incentives on our Nissan deals page.

Nissan Frontier Versus the Competition

Which Is Better: Nissan Frontier or Honda Ridgeline?

The Honda Ridgeline is one of our highest-rated compact pickup trucks, and it's a much better choice than the Frontier. The Ridgeline is the only truck with a lower towing capacity than the Frontier, and it doesn't have an off-road-oriented trim like the Frontier Pro-4X. However, the Ridgeline has a higher max payload, a smoother ride, a much nicer interior, many more standard and available features (including active safety tech), roomier seats, better gas mileage, and a more versatile bed. There's not much of a contest here.

Which Is Better: Nissan Frontier or Toyota Tacoma?

The Toyota Tacoma is a better truck than the Frontier. The Toyota can tow and haul a bit more than the Nissan, and it's a great off-roader. Its TRD Off-Road trim matches the Frontier Pro-4X in terms of off-road equipment and capability, and the TRD Pro trim surpasses it. The Tacoma has four-cylinder and V6 engine options, as well as a slight edge in handling. Additionally, a long list of driver assistance features comes standard in the Tacoma, and its infotainment system is intuitive to use.

Compare the Frontier, Ridgeline, and Tacoma »

Frontier Performance

Frontier Engine: The New Engine Delivers

The 2020 Frontier receives an all-new powertrain comprised of a 310-horsepower V6 engine and a nine-speed automatic transmission. Acceleration and overall power are sufficient for most needs, and the engine is pleasantly quiet. The transmission occasionally has to hunt for the correct gear, but it works well for the most part.

Frontier Gas Mileage: A Little Below Average

Two-wheel-drive Frontier models get 18 mpg in the city and 24 mpg on the highway. Four-wheel-drive models get 17/23 mpg city/highway. Many other small trucks get better gas mileage, though only by a couple mpg.

Frontier Ride and Handling: The Best Thing About the Frontier

This Nissan isn't the most agile truck in the class, but it remains poised through turns and has accurate steering. Because of its size and turning radius, the Frontier poses some problems when maneuvering through tight spaces. The Frontier's ride is surprisingly supple, and the suspension soaks up road imperfections with ease.

Frontier Off-Road Performance

With the right setup, the Frontier is a capable off-roader. Adding four-wheel drive gets you an extra inch of ground clearance, a transfer case, and hill descent control. You can also add additional features, such as a locking rear differential and a limited-slip system, for improved traction.

To get the best off-roading experience, you'll want the Frontier Pro-4X. Pro-4X models come standard with four-wheel drive and have additional off-road features, including Bilstein shocks, skid plates, and a front tow hook.

Frontier Towing Capacity

The Frontier lags most competitors when it comes to capability. It has a maximum payload of 1,460 pounds, regardless of cab style. King Cab Frontier models can tow up to 6,720 pounds, while Crew Cab Frontier models have a maximum towing capacity of 6,500 pounds.

Several other trucks can tow at least 7,500 pounds, and almost every class rival has a maximum payload that's at least 100 pounds higher than the Frontier's.

Read more about performance »

Frontier Interior

How Many People Does the Frontier Seat?

The Frontier comes in four-seat King Cab (extended) and five-seat Crew Cab body styles. Visibility is good in all directions, and the front seats are decently comfortable and have ample head- and legroom. The Crew Cab's rear seats can accommodate adults without too much hassle, but other compact pickups have more rear-seat space. The rear seats of King Cab models are just small jump seats that provide little space for anyone to get comfy. The Crew Cab is the best choice if you plan to regularly carry rear-seat passengers.

Frontier and Child Car Seats

Frontier Crew Cab models have two complete sets of LATCH connectors for installing car seats. The system received the second-lowest rating of Marginal for ease of use from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The tether anchors are hard to find and easily confused with other hardware, and the lower anchors are difficult to maneuver around.

Frontier King Cab models also have two full sets of LATCH connectors. The IIHS gave the King Cab's LATCH system an ease-of-use rating of Acceptable (the second-highest rating). The tether anchors are hard to find, but there are no other issues.

Frontier Interior Quality

Climbing into the Frontier is like stepping back into a Smithsonian exhibit that lets you see what truck interiors looked like in 2006. That's because the Frontier's cabin hasn't changed much since then. The materials quality is decent, but the Frontier looks and feels past its prime, and plenty of outside noise makes its way into the cabin.

Frontier Cargo Space

Frontier King Cab models feature a 6-foot-1-inch bed. Most Crew Cab models come with a 5-foot bed, though the SV trim is available with either. Both beds are 3 feet, 8 inches wide between the wheel wells.

There aren't a ton of features available to upgrade the bed, but you can opt for Nissan's Utili-track C-channel system of adjustable tie-downs, which provides more flexibility for hauling items. There's a decent amount of storage space in the cabin, including storage boxes beneath the rear seats.

Frontier Infotainment, Bluetooth, and Navigation

Standard features in the Frontier include keyless entry, push-button start, a 7-inch touch screen, four speakers, a USB port, Bluetooth, and Siri Eyes Free. Available features include a moonroof, dual-zone automatic climate control, a six- or eight-speaker audio system, a 10-speaker Rockford Fosgate audio system, and a 5.8-inch touch screen with satellite radio and navigation,

It's difficult to talk about the Frontier's infotainment setup without sounding overly negative. But the truth is that from a technological standpoint, this is one of the most outdated vehicles on the market.

Its short features list lacks Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, wireless charging, and many other goodies available in rivals. The screens are small, and the interface is the infotainment equivalent of dial-up internet. On the bright side, the lack of tech means it's simple to figure out the infotainment system, and there's little to distract you from driving.

Read more about interior »

Frontier Reliability

Is the Nissan Frontier Reliable?

The 2020 Nissan Frontier has a great predicted reliability rating of 4.5 out of five from J.D. Power.

Nissan Frontier Warranty

Nissan covers the Frontier with a three-year/36,000-mile basic warranty and a five-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty.

Read more about reliability »

Frontier Safety

Frontier Crash Test Results

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave 2020 Frontier Crew Cab models an overall safety rating of four out of five stars. The Frontier received five stars in the side crash test and three stars in the frontal crash and rollover tests. 2020 Frontier King Cab models have not been fully tested but did receive four stars in the rollover test.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the 2020 Crew Cab Frontier the highest rating of Good in three out of six crash tests (roof strength, side, and moderate overlap front), the second-highest rating of Acceptable in one test (head restraints & seats), and the second-lowest rating of Marginal in two tests (driver- and passenger-side small overlap front). The Frontier's headlights received the lowest rating of Poor for how well they illuminate the road ahead.

King Cab Frontier models received the same IIHS ratings aside from the passenger-side small overlap front evaluation, for which it hasn't been tested.

Frontier Safety Features

The Frontier comes standard with a rearview camera, and it offers rear parking sensors.

Read more about safety »

Where Is the Nissan Frontier Built?

Nissan builds the 2020 Frontier in Mississippi.

Which Nissan Frontier Model Is Right for Me?

With most vehicles, you just pick a trim and you're basically done. With trucks, it's more complicated. Before selecting a trim, you should decide which cab and bed you want. Like most compact pickup trucks, the Nissan Frontier comes in King Cab (extended cab) and Crew Cab configurations.

King Cab models only come with a 6-foot-1-inch bed, while most Crew Cab models only come with a 5-foot bed (the SV trim Crew Cab can be equipped with either bed length). Rear-wheel drive comes standard, and four-wheel drive is available (4WD is standard in Pro-4X models).

All Frontier models come with a V6 engine and a nine-speed automatic transmission.

The base S trim comes reasonably well-equipped, but it's worth upgrading to the SV, which adds a bit more standard technology and offers several features you can't get in the base trim. The Pro-4X is the best off-roader in the lineup, and that should be the go-to model for adventurous types.

Nissan Frontier Powertrain Options:

  • Engine: 3.8-liter V6 with 310 horsepower and 281 pound-feet of torque
  • Drivetrain: standard rear-wheel drive; available four-wheel drive (a $1,000-$3,390 upgrade, depending on trim and cab style)
  • Transmission: nine-speed automatic

Nissan Frontier Appearance Packages:

  • Midnight Edition package (available in SV Crew Cab models): adds a gloss black painted grille, 18-inch gloss black wheels, all-season tires, a body-colored rear bumper, black painted exterior rearview mirrors, semi-gloss black carline badging, a Midnight Edition badge, and low-gloss black badging
  • Special Edition package (available in SV Crew Cab models): adds a trip computer, a satin chrome grille, a body-colored rear bumper, 18-inch aluminum-alloy wheels, and bodyside detail

Nissan Frontier Work Packages/Options:

There are no notable work packages available with the Frontier at the time of this writing.

Nissan Frontier Trims:

Nissan Frontier S

The base Frontier S comes with either the King Cab/long bed combo (starting MSRP: $26,790) or the Crew Cab/short bed combo (MSRP: $27,900).

Standard features include cloth upholstery, keyless entry, push-button start, a rearview camera, a 7-inch touch screen, four speakers (six speakers in Crew Cab models), Bluetooth, a USB port, and Siri Eyes Free.

Four-wheel drive is the only noteworthy feature available in the base trim.

Nissan Frontier SV

Like the S trim, the Frontier SV comes standard in the King Cab/long bed setup, which starts at $27,670. You can get the SV with a Crew Cab, and unlike the base trim, you can pair either bed length with the SV's Crew Cab style. The short bed starts at $28,800 and the long bed at $31,410.

In addition to the base trim's features, the Frontier SV comes with power-adjustable side-view mirrors, a sliding rear window, and premium cloth upholstery.

Available features include four-wheel drive and the Value Truck package, which adds the Utili-Track moveable tie-down system, rear parking sensors, dual-zone automatic climate control, and heated front seats.

Nissan Frontier Pro-4X

The Frontier Pro-4X starts at $37,490. It is the most rugged trim in the lineup, and it comes with more off-road-oriented features – including Bilstein shocks, skid plates, and a front tow hook –than other trims.

Other standard features in the Pro-4X include heated side-view mirrors, Utili-Track, a moonroof, power-adjustable front seats, heated front seats, a 10-speaker Rockford Fosgate audio system, satellite radio, a 5.8-inch touch screen, and navigation.

Which Frontier Cab Style Is Right for Me?

The Nissan Frontier comes in two cab styles: King Cab and Crew Cab. The King Cab seats four people, and it's available in S and SV trims. Crew Cabs seat five people and are available in all three trim levels. The Pro-4X is only offered as a Crew Cab.

The front seats are comfortable in either setup, and the driver enjoys plenty of visibility. The Crew Cab provides a bit more rear-seat space than the King Cab, though neither has the roomy rear seats you can find in some rivals. Still, the Crew Cab is the clear choice if you're going to regularly have passengers in the back.

Which Frontier Bed Length Is Right for Me?

The Frontier has two bed lengths: 6-foot-1-inch and 5-foot. The long bed is the only option on King Cab models.

The short bed is standard with Crew Cab models. It's worth noting that the SV is the only trim that lets you opt for a long bed with a Crew Cab, which is also known as the SV long-wheelbase (S and Pro-4X Crew Cab models are short bed only).

Both beds are the same width between the wheel wells: 3 feet, 8 inches. You can add the Utili-Track system of moveable tie-down cleats to any Frontier bed as well.

Which Frontier Model Is Best for Towing and Hauling?

Before diving into what the Frontier can do, it's worth noting that many other trucks in the class can tow and haul more than this Nissan, and in some cases, the gap is significant.

To achieve the Frontier's 6,720-pound maximum towing capacity, you'll want the SV trim with a King Cab and two-wheel drive. For the best hauling capacity of 1,460 pounds, you'll need the two-wheel-drive S trim (with either cab) or the 2WD SV trim with a Crew Cab (with either bed).

Those are the highest possible capacities, but there isn't too much of a drop-off with other Frontier configurations. Among King Cab models, the lowest maximum payload (belonging to the S trim with four-wheel drive) is 1,340 pounds, and the lowest max tow rating (also the 4WD S trim) is 6,370 pounds.

Among Crew Cab models, the lowest maximum payload (Pro-4X) is 1,020 pounds, and the lowest max towing capacity (the 4WD SV LWB) is 6,250 pounds.

To sum up, the S and SV trims are both solid choices for towing and hauling, and they're pretty evenly matched regardless of cab style and drivetrain. The Pro-4X is the model to avoid if towing and hauling are priorities, as it is one of the least-capable Frontiers in both categories.

Which Frontier Model Is Best for Off-Roading?

All Frontier models are available with four-wheel drive (a $1,000 to $3,390 upgrade, depending on trim and cab style), hill descent control, a locking rear differential, and a limited-slip system, so there's no version of this Nissan that struggles when the pavement ends. Still, the Pro-4X is the clear choice for heading off-road.

Pro-4X models come standard with 4WD and the other features touched on above, but they also have features you can't get in any other Frontier, such as Bilstein shocks and skid plates.

Check out our U.S. News Best Price Program for great savings at your local Nissan dealer. You can also find excellent manufacturer incentives on our Nissan deals page.

See 2020 Nissan Frontier specs and trims »

The Final Call

With a complete redesign in store for 2021, the 2020 Nissan Frontier closes the book on the current generation. The 2020 Frontier has a capable powertrain and can serve the needs of most compact pickup truck buyers. However, almost every rival has a nicer interior, more available technology, and better capability. Really, there's not much reason to buy a 2020 Frontier. You're better off waiting for the coming redesign or looking at other options.

Don’t just take our word for it. Check out comments from some of the reviews that drive our rankings and analysis.

  • "The briefly available 2020 Frontier is still well behind more modern mid-size pickup trucks like the Ford Ranger, Chevrolet Colorado and Toyota Tacoma in terms of onboard technology, but it still gives them all a solid run for the money in terms of capability. If you care more about good value, compact dimensions and proven hardware than fancy new technology, the Frontier is still worth considering." -- Cars.com
  • "Even with its new engine, the Frontier is extremely old. While competitors have all been redesigned or updated at least once over the past 15 years, the Frontier has largely remained the same. While an all-new model will go on sale for 2021, the current-generation Frontier appeals to price-conscious buyers who want a familiar, dependable midsize pickup with a full manufacturer's warranty and none of the frills or modern tech offered by the competition." -- Autotrader
  • "If ever a company subscribed to the product theory that 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it,' it's Nissan. … Inside, it's about as utilitarian as you can get, and modern tech is nowhere to be found." -- Edmunds (2019)

Buying

Expert Advice

Last Updated: July 24, 2020

Plummeting Sales: The Nissan Frontier, despite its old design, is currently selling in the middle of the compact pickup truck sales race. However, dealerships have moved 51.5 percent fewer Frontier models in 2020 compared to the same period in 2019. So far this year, the dominant Toyota Tacoma has outsold the Frontier more than 5 to 1.

Research more buying advice »
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2020 Nissan Frontier

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