The Toyota Tacoma has been the most popular midsize truck sold in America through the first half of 2021. It’s also one of Edmunds’ most highly rated models in the category. However, the Tacoma’s last full redesign was for 2016, and other automakers are looking to woo shoppers with fresh ideas. One of them is Nissan with its redesigned 2022 Frontier.
Significantly updated over the prior model, this new Frontier has new looks, a more refined interior and new technology features. Does it have what it takes to usurp the 2022 Tacoma? Edmunds’ experts compare them to find out.
ENGINES, TOWING AND MPG
Powering the new 2022 Nissan Frontier is a standard 3.8-liter V6 that produces 310 horsepower and 281 lb-ft of torque. It’s paired with a nine-speed automatic transmission and either rear-wheel drive or four-wheel drive.
Toyota gives you a choice of engines with the Tacoma, though neither is as powerful as the Frontier’s engine. There’s a 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 159 horsepower and 180 lb-ft of torque, or a 3.5-liter V6 that puts out 278 horsepower and 265 lb-ft. A six-speed automatic transmission is what you’ll find with most Tacomas, but certain Tacomas equipped with the V6 and four-wheel drive are available with a six-speed manual transmission as well.
Towing and hauling capacities for these two trucks are similar. Properly equipped, the Tacoma’s maximum towing capacity is 6,800 pounds, with maximum payload checking in at 1,685 pounds. The Frontier can tow as much as 6,720 pounds, and it has a maximum payload of 1,610 pounds. Both are enough for most of the tasks you’d want to use a midsize truck for, whether it be hauling a bunch of camping gear or towing a medium-size trailer.
Fuel economy is also comparable. The EPA estimates that the Frontier will get 20 mpg in combined city/highway driving with rear-wheel drive or 19 mpg with four-wheel drive. For the Tacoma with the V6 and automatic transmission, the EPA says to expect 21 mpg and 20 mpg, respectively.
Overall, the trucks are pretty evenly matched here. The Frontier has more power but the Tacoma has a wider range of powertrain options, the potential for better fuel economy, and slightly higher towing and hauling capabilities.
HOW THEY DRIVE
The Frontier’s V6 engine feels powerful and the transmission shifts smoothly and quickly. This makes driving the Frontier on a daily basis relatively effortless. The steering is a bit heavy, but handling is stable and confident around corners. The Frontier’s off-road capabilities are impressive if you get the Pro-4X trim level.
In its TRD Off-Road and TRD-Pro trims, the Tacoma can go just about anywhere. But it’s not as smooth-driving as the Frontier. The shifts from the automatic transmission aren’t as refined, and the brakes can feel grabby at low speeds. And even with its optional V6, the Tacoma is still one of the slowest trucks in the class.
PRICING AND VALUE
The base Frontier is a bit pricier — at $29,105, including destination — than an average midsize truck. That price is a little high considering the lack of equipment on the entry-level Frontier, but for some the standard V6 might be worth the cost. Prices go up from there, with a loaded-up Frontier Pro-4X crew cab landing around $45,000.
The Tacoma has the benefit of being offered with two engines. With the four-cylinder engine, the Tacoma has a base price of $27,715, including destination. Equipment levels are broadly similar on both trucks at those base trim levels. The specialized off-roading trim of the Tacoma, the TRD Pro, can top $48,000, but you are getting a bit more capability from it than the Pro-4X. The Tacoma has historically enjoyed strong resale value as well.
INTERIOR AND TECHNOLOGY
The new Nissan Frontier has a large 8- or 9-inch center touchscreen and standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration. Unfortunately, the screen’s menus are hard to decipher and take some time to learn. A lack of a telescoping adjustment for the steering wheel and tight rear legroom are other issues.
In the Tacoma you’ll find either a 7- or 8-inch infotainment system. While not our favorite, it is easier to use than the Frontier’s system. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard in the Toyota as well. As for advanced driver aids, the Frontier and Tacoma offer a similar mix, including traffic-adaptive cruise control and lane departure warning. But more of them come standard on the Tacoma.
The 2022 Frontier has made big leaps forward in interior quality, drivability and overall capability. The 2022 Toyota Tacoma, however, still leads in the categories that we value most.
This story was provided to The Associated Press by the automotive website Edmunds.
Travis Langness is a senior reviews editor at Edmunds.
Edmunds 2022 Reviews: Nissan Frontier; Toyota Tacoma; Edmunds Best Trucks.