By on April 8, 2019

2019 Nissan Frontier front quarter

“Change is the only constant in life,” said the Greek philosopher Heraclitus, who probably didn’t envision the remarkable lifespan of the second-generation Nissan Frontier.

Debuting in 2004 as a 2005 model, the second-gen Frontier soldiers on as a rugged and more affordable option in the growing midsize field. But it’s this growing field that belatedly spurred Nissan into action. A new Frontier is on the way, sources claim, bearing improvements demanded of it by a populace that now has access to things like the Ford Ranger.

According to sources who spoke to Automotive News, Nissan’s next-gen Frontier could arrive by September 2020, marketed as a 2021 model. Having seen Nissan’s plans for the pickup, the same sources describe it as “futuristic.”

“It’s modern, but it still looks like a truck,” one said. Thank goodness for that!

Overseas, the Frontier carries the Navara name, only the Navara underwent a revamp in 2014 that the North American model avoided. That model forms the basis of Mercedes-Benz’s X-Class. Interestingly, the upcoming Frontier will not swap to the platform underpinning the Navara. Instead, sources claim the new North American model will ride on with an updated version of its existing F-Alpha platform.

Money, as well as the third-gen Navara’s slightly smaller size, is clearly behind Nissan’s decision to refresh and re-use the current setup.

Sources claim the Frontier’s five-speed automatic will disappear in favour of a seven-speed unit, while the long-running 4.0-liter V6 gives way to a new V6 engine making around 300 horsepower. The current top-flight engine generates 261 horsepower and 281 lb-ft of torque — figures outclassed by the new Ford Ranger’s four-cylinder.

No word on the fate of the base 2.5-liter four-cylinder. Amid rapidly rising ATPs, Nissan will surely hope to replicate the current truck’s value proposition, and that means sourcing power from the parts bin for entry-level models. It’s a safe bet that the sub-$20k MSRP of the base Frontier will become a thing of the past once the new truck arrives.

The Frontier’s advanced age didn’t stop Americans from snapping up 79,646 of them last year — a 7.1 percent increase from the year before. J.D. Power’s Tyson Jominy points to incentive spending as a potential driver, however, and the Frontier certainly isn’t alone in that camp. The 16-percent increase in midsize pickup sales last year corresponded with a 55-percent increase in incentive spending, he told AN.

Perhaps someone turned off the money taps over at Nissan, as Frontier sales fell 11.4 percent over the first three months of 2019.

[Images: © 2019 Chris Tonn/TTAC, Nissan]

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

Recommended

36 Comments on “On the Horizon Appears … a New Frontier...”


  • avatar
    Lie2me

    It may be old, but it sure was a bargain

  • avatar
    Goatshadow

    “The new Frontier is coming” has been like “will this finally be the year of Linux on the desktop?”. (The answer has always been No)

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    I’m betting on ‘too little, too late,’ or rather, too BIG, too late. Now is the opportunity for Nissan to become a first-mover in returning to their small-truck origins and offering what so many small truck drivers really want: a truly smaller truck. Take the truck back to the old “Hardbody” or even earlier and they would have an entire market segment to themselves for AT LEAST two years!

    • 0 avatar
      stuckonthetrain

      But it seems like smaller wouldn’t necessarily equal (substantially) cheaper or more fuel-efficient, right? I thought that was the consensus for why there were no small trucks.

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        All you have to do is look at how many of the old, truly small, Rangers, S-10, Dakota and older models are still on the roads. These people are doing their damndest to keep those old trucks running as daily drivers BECAUSE the newer trucks are so big. I sold my ’97 Ranger to a guy who owns three Rangers of around that vintage–having given one of them to his daughter as her college runabout while he uses the one I sold him as his daily driver.

        Yes, people wanting a truly small truck will very likely pay equivalent prices to the CUVs in the next larger size class. But there’s no reason that a dressed-out compact will exceed the price of a bone-base-full-size-after-incentives price. I would expect the truly smaller truck to be priced at maximum around the second trim level of an equivalent mid-sizer. (Comparing 2WD to 2WD/4WD to 4WD.) Smaller can be better when you just don’t have the room or the desire to drive something bigger.

        • 0 avatar
          JMII

          Correct – this is why I still have an ’02 Dakota. I don’t want or need a bigger truck. My Dakota just fits in my garage with NO room to spare. People always claim for the money a full size truck is a better deal. However I couldn’t a own a full sizer regardless of cost because I no place to keep it as my other vehicles already occupy my driveway. Bigger is not better.

        • 0 avatar
          DenverMike

          The Nissan Hard Body isn’t so small, same with “compact pickups” of the era. Except most are 2wd Regular Cabs and just a 6′ Bed.

          If crew cabs were available back then, by the time you added 4wd and a 6′ bed, there wouldn’t be much difference worth mentioning, compared to current “full-feature” midsize pickups.

          All 4X4 “compact pickups” of the Hard Body era had a notably wider track than 2WDs and fender extenders/flairs (or molded wider sheet metal), plus a factory lift kit (High Rider).

          Of course you’re not one to compare Apples to Apples. Now if you want to argue currently Regular Cab midsize pickups are no longer available in the US/Canada and 4X4 Crew Cabs aren’t small enough for you personally and your specific/unique wants, needs, desires, etc, that’s a different story.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            They were still lower roof height and narrower body when not jacked up in 4×4 models. An early S-10 extended cab was nearly 30% smaller in every dimension than my ’19 Colorado extended cab.

            I stood a full head taller than my ’83 Mitsubishi Sport while still offering an average automotive ride height–not standing 7, 8 or 9 inches off the ground but rather a more conventional 5-6 inches.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            Uh, do you even know what “…30% smaller” means? And “…in every dimension”??

            Thanks, now I see the root of the problem!!!

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            “Thanks, now I see the root of the problem!!!”

            — Yeah. You don’t know how to recognize intentional overstatement.

            Now. Consider a modern full-sized truck. Looking at the long-bed Chevy Silverado, it takes up a total volume of 886.33 cubic feet as a crew-cab, long-bed, 4×4 if reduced to raw dimensions.
            A 1994 Chevy S-10 comes out to a total volume of 511.51 cubic feet as a crew-cab, long-bed, 4×4.
            That makes the Silverado 26.73% larger by volume than the S-10.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            Can you try to say focused? Now you’re comparing different classes?

            FYI: The ’94 S10 didn’t offer a Crew Cab, just an Extended Cab, which is barely usable for 2 small kids, and a 6′ bed max.

            Same root problem.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            Sorry, DM. It’s the exact same argument I’ve been making about compacts vs full-size for the last 5 years and longer; whether you want to admit it or not. Full-sized trucks are simply too big. Current mid-sized truck are only about 7%-10% smaller than full sized. I want a true compact truck.

            Period.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            No, I get it. You’re not about to compare Apples to Apples since your argument would evaporate.

          • 0 avatar
            Art Vandelay

            I have no issue whatsoever handling a crew cab F150…and my other car is a Fiesta. Too big is nonsense. I mean if you live in a city it may be a pain, but I don’t.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            @Art Vandelay: You, sir, are not one of the people who wants a truly small truck. You are not even representative of the TYPE of person who wants a small truck. The people who want a small truck are currently driving small CUVs and sedans because even the mid-sized trucks are too big.

            Me? I want a small truck but the current smallest doesn’t have the economy and towing capacity I want–something that, at least to some extent, a V6 Chevy S-10 and Ranger could accommodate. The only reason I chose the Colorado is that my wife decided she liked a certain 24-foot travel trailer that grosses out to 6000# when we had been looking at trailers topping out at 4000#. Guess what; way back when we had fifth-wheel trailers specifically designed for those small trucks that–guess what?–fell within those trucks’ towing limits.

          • 0 avatar
            Art Vandelay

            I’d love a small truck…but for nostalgia only. A medium blue metallic 88 Ranger was my first vehicle. I’d love to have that truck with a Guns n Roses cassette in the tape deck.

            But yes, you are correct in your assessment. I would like a regular cab and once the kids are out I probably will get one and spec it out as close to an old school lightning as I can, but I’m not the target for a truck you describe.

            Still though, in most of the country modern half tons are no problem to drive. Yes, I don’t put it in my garage, but that has more to do with it being a side entry and the third bay being occupied by projects. Besides, it’s a truck…it can live outside.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Let’s take some wagers on another high peak torque car based V6 in the midsize truck class.

  • avatar
    bullnuke

    So we’re looking at a roughly 14-year old design that will finally get “updated”. US manufacturers have utilized 10 to 14+ year old designs in the past without much issue. If Nissan’s design is working okay for them and their customers, so be it.

  • avatar
    Jon

    I hope the experimental 2.8L Cummins Frontier 6spd actually happens.

  • avatar

    Maybe they can actually make a midiszer with a better rear seat area. The fullsizers have gotten great at this, midsizers could use some work with things like rear seat HVAC vents.

  • avatar
    Lightspeed

    Hard to figure out Nissan. They think they compete with Toyota?Honda, when in the real world it’s Hyundai/KIA. I actually jumped into a base model Frontier a couple days ago at the auto-show. It was cheap and cheerful for the most part. The shifter however felt like it might actually break off in my hand while it rattled around loosely in the console. But, with no competition from said Hyundai/KIA in this class (yet) the NIssan is the only game in town for a cheap, rugged, proven truck.

  • avatar
    thegamper

    For the longest time, I think we got zero midsized pickups for fear that it would cannibalize full sized truck sales. But, now that prices have risen so high for trucks, an expensive midsizer is much more palatable to the automakers that depend on trucks and to truck buyers who have clearly said goodbye to any sort of value proposition in the vehicles they drive. Its going to take an entrant that doesnt really currently have a horse in the truck race to introduce a truly “compact” truck. Someone like Honda, Mazda, VW, Hyundai who has nothing to lose. Would love to see some trucks the size of Japanese entrants from the 1990’s.

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      Hyundai keeps teasing with that Santa Cruz concept. I know several people who owned Mazda B2200s back in the day. I had a Ranger that was around the same size.

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    If Nissan goes big with their little truck, Mitsubishi could take over the truly small truck segment fairly easily, and bring back the truly inexpensive SUV segment while they’re at it with a platform mate Montero

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    I believe eventually pickups will reach peak sales and will start to decline in volume. There is only so much people will pay for a truck and then it becomes not such a great deal. As long as the economy is booming and low interest rates and extended term loans keep monthly payments below $500 vehicles sell but once the money gets tight and the economy softens then people will look for less expensive vehicles. I do believe there is room for a true compact pickup with fewer frills. Not everyone needs a full size truck capable of hauling a camper or hauling heavy loads. A decent sized bed with less hauling capacity would serve most suburban homeowners who want a 2nd or 3rd vehicle for those weekend trips to Home Depot. This is where a truck about the size of the old Hardbodies, S-10s, and Rangers would work with nothing more than a single or extended cab. Even if offered in extended cab with a rear seat delete and plastic floor would be enough.

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      I think you have to offer 4 doors or you are selling to Orkin and old skinflints. I think a set up like the old Avalanche where the rear seats can be used for bed space when needed would be good in a small truck, but the market has moved on from the late 80s.

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        @Art Vandelay:
        • I am not Orkin;
        • I am not skinflint (paid cash for my most recent purchase);
        • I am old… at least compared to many here. Even your old 88 Ranger you mentioned would have been my sixth car, brand new–maybe seventh. Admittedly, I haven’t hit my 65th birthday… yet.

        No, they don’t have to be four full doors. In fact, even Orkin and their like would benefit from an extended cab vs crew cab or regular cab to carry their paperwork and other ‘clean’ gear like disposable shoe covers.

        I do agree that the Avalanche was a good idea and one they should have held onto, though the compromise with either full bed length or extra seating, not both. Still, it made for a shorter overall length more akin to the Suburban for those who almost never needed both cargo and passenger capacity. My ’02 Saturn Vue met that need beautifully except for the fact I couldn’t carry anything that was taller than its tailgate clearance. A full 6’plus flat floor plus an added two feet on the passenger side for longer loads. That Vue made a number of Ikea runs in its lifetime.

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      I think you have to offer 4 doors or you are selling to Orkin and old skinflints. I think a set up like the old Avalanche where the rear seats can be used for bed space when needed would be good in a small truck, but the market has moved on from the late 80s.


Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

  • dividebytube: When I’m down south I’m taken aback by the number of decent looking old trucks and even G...
  • redapple: RED…. Great catch. Love it.
  • teddyc73: What an ugly rear end.
  • FreedMike: Have you ever heard a Ghibli’s exhaust? I’d say that’s one big selling point. Otherwise,...
  • deanst: After the car ages several years, and you’re driving in the cold weather, what is the real range – 100...

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Staff

  • Contributors

  • Timothy Cain, Canada
  • Matthew Guy, Canada
  • Ronnie Schreiber, United States
  • Bozi Tatarevic, United States
  • Chris Tonn, United States
  • Corey Lewis, United States
  • Mark Baruth, United States
  • Moderators

  • Adam Tonge, United States
  • Corey Lewis, United States