By on April 23, 2020


It was one of the more interesting debuts of this year’s pandemic-constrained spring auto show season: The 2020 Nissan Frontier, which heralds the fully revamped 2021 Frontier by donning that yet unseen midsize pickup’s new powertrain. Old truck, new engine and transmission.

Details of the first all-new Frontier in the better part of two decades remain scarce, but a report out Thursday suggests a big price increase is in the works.

First off, Nissan hasn’t yet offered up pricing info on the stopgap 2020 model, which debuts Nissan’s direct-injection 3.8-liter V6 (310 horsepower, 281 lb-ft of torque) and pairs it with a nine-speed automatic. With a four-cylinder off the table for ’20, a significant climb from the base 2019 2.5-liter King Cab S manual-transmission model ($20,385 after destination) is expected, and indeed warranted.

Citing estimates found on a fleet ordering document, CarsDirect reports that the entry price of a 2021 model could be $26,280 before destination, making for a seven-grand-plus climb from the invoice price of an existing ’19 base.

It doesn’t look like the four-cylinder will stage a return in the coming new-generation truck, as the order doc lists the base Frontier being, as before, a King Cab S. Until the present model year, that model carried a five-speed manual and 2.5L. This, despite word over the past year that the next Frontier might retain a manual transmission (signifying the presence of an entry-level engine).

The Frontier S was always a price leader, positioned so far below competing midsize trucks that the consumer had to take notice. Good luck ever seeing one in the wild, though. Nissan’s midsize volume came from mid-range trims and crew cab bodies.

Given the automaker’s grim financial situation, coupled with an industry-wide streamlining trend that’s already seen build configurations chopped left and right, a single-powertrain Frontier wouldn’t be surprising. However, a base price topping $27,000 after destination would be.

Nissan is known as a value brand, and such a price would place the model above the current cheapest Chevrolet Colorado ($22,395) and Ford Ranger ($25,605) to the tune of several thousand dollars. It would also more or less match the $27,145 after-destination price of a base, four-cylinder Toyota Tacoma SR Access Cab. Of course, you’d be getting a V6 for this price, but the climb still seems steep.

Nissan didn’t have anything to say about the next-gen Frontier when contacted; pricing remains unconfirmed. All we really know about the ’21 model is that it will boast newly aerodynamic sheet metal and should top the 2020 model’s already improved V6 fuel economy.

[Image: Nissan]

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28 Comments on “Report: New Powertrain Means Big Price Leap for Next-generation Nissan Frontier...”

  • avatar

    How the heck do they justify a $7,000 price hike from the base ‘19 to the base ‘21? (Obviously ‘20 doesn’t count)

    That’s a huge price hike for a truck in a competitive market. The Frontiers biggest saving grace was the price tag, removing that advantage what’s left? 4×4 better be standard at $26k or this is dead in the water.

  • avatar

    WTF? Old truck, new engine and tranny equals higher price than the competition?

    • 0 avatar

      It’s the exact opposite of how Ford used to do things, new vehicle old powertrain.

      • 0 avatar

        @SaulTigh – It makes sense. There are always bugs that surface with a new drivetrain. People tends to be more enamored with owning something that appears different from previous. You get a new look and feel but with a proven drivetrain.
        In the case of Nissan, this drivetrain probably exists elsewhere in their lineup and they don’t have the R&D money for a whole new truck.

  • avatar

    The $7000 each is to cover the millions it cost to re-crash test it for the new engine, which is crazy enough why they’d even do that for a one year only offering. They wont last long making stupid financial decisions like that, no wonder they’re broke.

  • avatar

    You guys have got to read. The 2020 is the old truck, but Nissan has shoved the 2021 powertrain in it. The ALL NEW 2021 Frontier gets the $7k price hike, because they drop the base model.

  • avatar

    It’s a huge mistake. Cheapskates and fleets are a very important part of a successful and highly profitable pickup line. They’re also what made the Hard Body a tremendous success.

    • 0 avatar

      The margins are very low with cheapskates and fleets. Fleets in my part of the world are profitable because they get beat to death therefore money is made on repairs. Residual values are usually next to zero therefore do not exert a downward pressure on the used market.
      There are areas where small truck fleets make sense but ultimately, if there aren’t bottom feeder new vehicles to be purchased, they will have no choice but to buy the next cheapest product.
      It didn’t hurt Ford to kill the old Ranger just like it did not hurt Toyota when they stopped selling regular cab Tacoma’s. No one offers a small truck with a regular cab. The truck world didn’t end.

      • 0 avatar

        The profit potential it definitely there, but it’s long money.

        There’s virtually zero difference in production costs, fullsize to midsize. Parts are parts.

        Fullsize “Big 3” pickups have proven the business model, and it starts at the bottom. Think back to the Great Mini-Truck Craze of the ’80s. Those trucks gave us what we wanted. Just the basics, price it like a sub compact and we’ll buy them as fast as you can print them.

        Of course the current range of midsizers don’t have “the luxury” of luxo trim levels, to offset the bottom range. It could happen but it takes time. If midsize truck makers don’t mind being stuck in the middle, it’s on them.

        Except fleets don’t just buy stripper trucks. Yeah mostly, but they prefer sticking to a single brand for the whole fleet. And cheapskates, once they start making real money and or retire, they’re very loyal to the brands of their old trucks.

        Automakers can’t really lose on base/base, true stripper pickups, unless they limit their supply/availability. There doesn’t have to be much variation, they can fly out of the assembly line, scores or hundreds at a time, all identical, fleet white, take it or leave it, don’t complain if fit-n-finish isn’t the best, just drive it into the ground and order more.

        The biggest problem with midsize pickups is they suck. They should have the same power-to-weight, same infinite options/gadgetry/luxury, etc, etc. And with equal rebates. Yes there’s the CAFE (footprint) thing that comes down hardest on midsize, but that should be straightened out in DC.

        I guaranty you there’s a healthy percentage of fullsize pickup shoppers/buyers that would be much happier with something “midsize” size, have lots of cash/credit to throw around, but they really have no choice. Or end up buying neither.

        • 0 avatar

          “The profit potential it definitely there, but it’s long money.”

          That isn’t what you insinuated.

          “It’s a huge mistake. Cheapskates and fleets are a very important part of a successful and highly profitable pickup line.”

          There aren’t a lot of profits there. There are some but not much.

          • 0 avatar

            They’re not meant to be highly profitable, just like a Dollar Menu.

            Haven’t you ever ordered a couple things from the Dollar Menu, but bought even more things at full price?

            Building several 100K units of a vehicle yearly, and a few million of the generation, has several benefits, vs selling just well equipped to fully loaded, but low volume.

            For one, the break-even point comes much faster, and early in the generation. There’s a learning-curve and units become more reliable and built faster/easier. That goes for suppliers too, and parts should become cheaper with mass production, and even competing suppliers.

            New generations can come quicker as well as complete refreshs in between. Then there’s the Tundra, Frontier, Tacoma and the other one I forget.

            I’m only touching on a few, but when you see a particular truck flooding the industrial/low end, it’s like free advertising. Regular consumers have to feel the automaker is doing “something” right.

            Regular retail shoppers are full range though, cheapskates to loaded 4X4s.

            Personally I’m looking for the new truck that will also offer a huge supply of new and used parts in the near/distant future, which means a popular truck.

            Yeah “Every b!tch has one…”. I’m definitely not trying to make a statement of my individuality. That’s what the aftermarket is for anyway.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Nissan figured out that selling entry-level 4-cylinder sticks wasn’t worth it, so they’re bumping content and price accordingly. It’s a smart move, and it’s just the sort of thing they need to do to revive the business.

    More choice always sounds nice, but it’s an expensive pain for the mfrs and dealers to move those stripped vehicles, or those bulging with overpriced options trying to box above their weight class.

    Some examples from
    Exhibit A: The new $16k 2019 Colorados rotting on dealer lots.
    Exhibit B: The new $57k 2020 Colorados rotting on dealer lots.

    I’ll guess that Chevy and Ford have very few takers for entry-level Colorados and Rangers. A side-by-side comparison of equally-trimmed vehicles from the same model year will likely show price parity.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m guessing the $57K Colorado is a ZR2 Bison, which isn’t really comparable to any Frontier.
      Much like Hellcats and Raptors I’m sure GM is very happy that they can pump a $15K vehicle to near $60K retail. I don’t know what the nonpandemic days-in-inventory are for a Bison, but GM seems happy enough with the high-end Colorados to keep the spout open.

      I’m not sure what the margin is on a $16K retail Colorado, but it might still work out better for GM than selling a Cruze for around the same price.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    Last fall when I was vehicle shopping I took a quick look in the lot of my local Nissan dealer. They had a couple of 2019 Frontier’s on the lot. A base King Cab 4X4 with steelies had a sticker in the upper $20k. A Crew cab Pro 4X was around $35k. Fairly good deals if you didn’t need the latest model.

  • avatar

    Tripping on acid, the true story of Nissan corporate governance.

    I expect to see this on Netflix soon. Nissan is the X-files of automakers.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Read the fine print on the 16k Colorado, few people qualify. In most cases to qualify for all the discounts you have to have a 2008 or newer trade-in, qualify and take the financing, qualify for a veteran’s or student discount, and a few other restrictions. If I could get that base Colorado for 16k I would be all over it but by the time you eliminate the discounts you do not qualify for you are lucky to get that Colorado for 20k. You have to look at the actual posting and not just glance at the price. You can get a new Ranger XL for about 21k to 22k without all the restrictions. If I were to go to 20k or more I would take the Ranger instead even though I really like the Colorado. Even the left over 2019 Frontiers are not that much less and for what they want for the 2021’s even with the V6 I would take a Tacoma over the Frontier because it is still a better truck and Toyota will still be around long after Nissan is gone.

    • 0 avatar

      Nissan will still be around in some form or other, the Japanese will make sure of it. It may get folded into some kieretsu as part of the effort to get back voting control from Renault and the French government’s influence, but parts and service will still be available.

      The fine print details are a game in itself, designed to get you in the door, and not much else. At least Nissan already knows how to play that game.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      “You have to look at the actual posting and not just glance at the price.”

      Yes, I didn’t feel the need to mention that. But you’ve made my point – once you read the fine print or visit the lot, you discover either a) that cheap Colorado is very low-rent, or b) it isn’t so cheap.

      Either way, the dealers are stuck with these duds, plus the unsellable $57k prom queens they part on the grassy strip near the dealer entrance.

      So I don’t blame Nissan for choosing content over starting price.

    • 0 avatar

      They don’t want to sell the $16,000 truck. They just want it on the lot so they can draw people in.

  • avatar

    Seems like a lose/lose to be a guinea pig for a whole new powertrain, while driving around in a 700-year-old design. I’d rather have it the other way around.

    • 0 avatar

      it isn’t that new; IIRC it’s the same basic powertrain that’s been in the Pathfinder and QX60 for a couple of years now. Just punched out from 3.5 to 3.8 liters.

      risk should be pretty low.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    I doubt there will be a shortage of the 2021 Frontiers on dealer lots when they become available. I can understand not having a totally base model but this is way too much for this truck especially being a Nissan.

    • 0 avatar

      If midsize pickup makers don’t step up (or down) and offer a regular cab stripper, crank windows too, and for well under $20K, 7′ bed perhaps, it’s just a matter of time before an Indian or Chinese automaker does, for the US/NA.

      Then they’ll have to scramble to put together regular cab strippers of their own.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Agree, there needs to be a more basic midsize truck. There is a huge hole in the market and the Chinese and Indians will eventually fill it. I for one would buy a true base midsize or compact pickup with a regular cab with roll down windows. If it comes in just white, a grey or tan interior, even if it has a plastic floor and lots of hard plastic. Have a base stereo with USB ports, manual, just steelie with plain hubcaps (no chrome), little or no chrome. Make it a fleet special with a base I4 (no turbos) and no 4 x 4. Make it as simple and easy to repair as possible. I would use that as my weekend truck for hauling. I would even settle for no ac and vinyl seats. I would be happy with an interior I could either hose out or use a shop vac. Definitely a 7 foot bed.

    • 0 avatar

      It’s stupid simple. Just do what the big trucks do. Equip, price, and rebate them the same as the big trucks.

      It all scales. Despite tremendous fullize pickup sales, most of the US population don’t currently own anything fullsize, have never, and never will.

      If midsize pickups didn’t suck, there’s no reason they couldn’t match, or outsell fullsize, 1/2 ton pickups.

      If they could be had in regular cabs (with 2wd), they’re not much bigger than base ’80s mini-trucks. 4X4 extra cab mini-trucks are the most likely to survive or get restored today, but they were rare on the street back then, compared to the sea of base/stripper pickups.

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