2020 Nissan Frontier

Release Date
Late spring 2020
Price Range

What to expect

  • All-new 3.8-liter V6 with 310 horsepower replaces previous engines
  • Paired with nine-speed automatic transmission
  • Push-button start and redesigned center console
  • Part of the second Frontier generation introduced for 2005

2020 Nissan Frontier review
Long Overdue Powertrain in a Still Aging Body
What is the Frontier?

The Nissan Frontier is a midsize pickup that competes with trucks such as the Ford Ranger and Toyota Tacoma. This current generation truck is quite old — its last full redesign was during the second George W. Bush administration — but it is getting a few updates for 2020.

The most important chance is that Nissan has outfitted the 2020 Frontier with a brand-new 3.8-liter V6 engine making 310 horsepower and 281 lb-ft of torque. This V6 is mated to a nine-speed automatic transmission that's similar to the one in its Titan and Titan XD full-size trucks. The combination replaces both previously available powertrains in the Frontier, a weaker 4.0-liter V6 or four-cylinder paired to a choice of two manual transmissions or a five-speed automatic.

Think of the V6 and nine-speed pairing as a sneak preview of the 2021 Frontier, which will be a fully redesigned model that finally replaces the current generation. We expect Nissan to unveil the 2021 Frontier before the end of this year.

2020 Nissan Frontier - Front 3/4
2020 Nissan Frontier
Is the Frontier a good value?

Midsize trucks were once basic and affordable vehicles. These days the latest trucks often have steep starting prices. A midlevel Tacoma can cost $30,000 or more. The Frontier used to have a starting price of less than $20,000, but that's not the case anymore.

The lowest MSRP you can find on a new 2020 Frontier is now $27,885 (including destination) for the Frontier S King Cab with rear-wheel drive. Our Pro-4X test truck checked in with a sticker price of $38,585. The new engine delivers better performance, but it's not enough to outclass similarly priced competitors.

2020 Nissan Frontier - Engine
2020 Nissan Frontier
What does it compete with?

The midsize truck segment has seen a lot of change in recent years. The well-known Toyota Tacoma remains top in sales and resale value, while the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon cousins are comfortable and can be ordered with a diesel engine. The Ford Ranger and Jeep Gladiator both entered the market last year. The Ranger offers top gas-powered towing capability, while the Gladiator is true to its name in off-road situations. But we scored the versatile Honda Ridgeline highest in class for its strength and clever storage systems combined with a smooth ride quality and safety features.

How does the Frontier drive?

The Frontier's new 3.8-liter V6 is definitely a step up from the previous 4.0-liter V6 engine. The additional power is noticeable right out of the gate. There's plenty of punch, whether you're taking off from a light or going to pass on the highway. The new nine-speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly during typical driving. Even during max acceleration, things are still pretty polished.

The rest of the driving experience is still good-ol' Frontier, though. The ride is bumpy, the seats are stiff and poorly bolstered, and the steering is frighteningly vague. Without beating up on the Frontier too much, let's just say we'll be happy to drive the all-new version next year.

2020 Nissan Frontier - Action Front 3/4
2020 Nissan Frontier
How's the Frontier's interior?

The Frontier is a throwback in more ways than one. Compared to other midsize trucks, it has a rudimentary interior with limited small-item storage and an ancient center console layout. It feels well built — there are tight pangel gaps, and our test truck didn't have any squeaks or rattles — but none of the interior surfaces feel like they're made from high-quality materials. What's more, it's missing many of the modern amenities that are either standard or optional with competitors. Looking to get a truck with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone compatibility, multiple USB ports and adaptive cruise control? You're out of luck here.

2020 Nissan Frontier - Interior
2020 Nissan Frontier
How's the Frontier's towing and hauling?

The Frontier may seem robust and utilitarian when you consider its low price point, but it has an uncompetitive towing capacity and one of the lowest payload ratings in the class. This year's new engine hasn't changed anything either. The Frontier's towing capacity ranges from 6,370 pounds to 6,620 pounds. Only the Honda Ridgeline has a lower capacity.

The Frontier's bed side rails and moveable tie-down cleats make a handy way to secure cargo, but the crew-cab 4WD configuration we tested has the lowest payload rating of any truck in the segment: just 1,040 pounds. We expect the towing capacity and payload ratings to go up with the 2021 redesign, but the price of a Frontier may go up too.

How practical you find the Frontier depends largely on your definition of the word practical. If you're looking for a workhorse — something simple that you can throw your tools in the back of, put on some music and commute to work in — this truck will do that job, no problem. But for more robust work, there are better options.

2020 Nissan Frontier - Engine
2020 Nissan Frontier
Edmunds says

The 2020 Nissan Frontier is not a class leader. The new V6 engine is nice, but there are too many other drawbacks compared to the Chevrolet Colorado, Honda Ridgeline, Jeep Gladiator and Toyota Tacoma. The main reason to consider the Frontier is if you're simply looking for an inexpensive and no-frills midsize truck.