The all-new 2020 Nissan Frontier looks nearly the same as last year’s model. At least at first glance. Take a peek under the hood, however, and you’ll find a new heart beating there. This new combination promises to return next year too, in an even better Frontier. For now, you can expect the same tidy Frontier package for 2020.
Perhaps you’ve finally decided to add a Frontier to your garage. Or you’re just curious as to what this new engine and transmission pairing looks, feels, and drives like. Either way, we’ve got all the information you need to shortlist the 2020 Frontier. Or keep it in mind for next year.
The biggest (and most talked about) change in the 2020 Frontier is the powerplant it plays surrogate for in the forthcoming 2021 model. That’s right. Nissan gifted the 2020 Frontier with a new engine, only for it to be transplanted into a brand-new model for next year.
This engine is said to be developed specifically for the American truck market. Built as a 3.8-liter V6, the powerplant makes 310 horsepower and 281 lb-ft of torque. That’s a respectable amount, given the lightweight status of the Nissan Frontier when compared to bigger trucks like its older brother, the Titan. As a matter of fact, the Frontier and Titan also share variants of the same nine-speed automatic transmission, which is new to the Frontier for 2020.
Both rear-wheel and all-wheel drive are available on the 2020 Frontier. The max towing capacity, when properly equipped, stands at 6,720 pounds.
There are only six available colors on the 2020 Frontier.
- Magnetic Black Metallic
- Cayenne Red Metallic
- Gun Metallic
- Glacier White
- Brilliant Silver Metallic
- Arctic Blue Metallic
Available Trimlines and Pricing
Nissan offers a wide selection of trim levels and accessories on the 2020 Frontier. In addition to the trim levels — which we’ll discuss in a minute — you can choose from either King Cab or Crew Cab. The King Cab features small half-doors in the rear, while the Crew Cab extends the second row to include two full rear doors. The King Cab’s bed length is 73.3 inches, while the Crew Cab’s is 59.5 inches. However, you can coordinate the Crew Cab with the longer bed length of 73.3 inches. It’s conveniently called the “Crew Cab Long Bed” option.
Then there are three trim levels available on the 2020 Frontier: the S, SV, and PRO-4X.
S and SV
Choose the base S model for cloth seats, Bluetooth, a seven-inch touchscreen, and keyless entry. Riding on 16-inch steel wheels, this model starts at $26,790. To get a few more extras off those back-room Nissan shelves, go for the SV model. It includes 16-inch alloy wheels, power mirrors, a rear window that slides open manually, and mirrors on both sun visors. There are a bunch of extra solo add-ons too, to build the truck the way you want. Naturally, the price goes up with each one.
Finally, the PRO-4X model emphasizes off-roading. Crew Cab models receive off-road shocks from Bilstein, a pack of skid plates covering the most important parts (i.e. gas tank and oil pan), an electronic locking rear diff, and uniquely-patterned 16-inch alloy wheels. Whereas the S model comes with a plastic front bumper, both the SV and PRO-4X get body-colored front bumpers.
The paint extends to the grille, outside mirrors, and fog light housing on the PRO-4X model. You’ll get a touch of leather on the steering wheel and shift knob, too. NissanConnect is standard equipment, but you’ll lose 1.2 inches from the touchscreen as a trade-off.
Nissan offers a variety of optional packages as well. They include the Value Truck Package, the Midnight Edition Package, and the Special Edition Package. Order a Frontier with one of these extras to add some more features and flair.
When it comes to safety features, the 2020 Nissan Frontier begins to show its age. Even the experts agree. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration rated it 4 out of 5 stars overall. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the 2020 Frontier a “Good” rating in the Moderate overlap front, Side, and Roof strength. However, it only received an “Acceptable” rating for the Head restraints & seats test. The “small overlap front: driver-side” and “small overlap front: passenger-side” tests both resulted in a “Marginal” score. In a time when most new cars prioritize safety, this could be alarming to some drivers.
So what does Nissan equip the 2020 Frontier with as standard safety features? Well, basic additions don’t include much beyond what’s mandated, such as crumple zones and a rearview camera. If you want to hear that tone which tells you how close you’re getting objects behind you, it’ll cost you extra. Any other upgrades you’ll have to make yourself. On the other hand, you’re still driving around in a larger, higher vehicle than the average sedan or crossover. That alone will protect you a bit in the event of a crash.
Take a look at the fuel efficiency ratings for the 2020 Frontier and you might think you’re looking at figures for the Altima or Maxima instead. The 3.8-liter V6 engine makes 18 city and 24 highway EPA-estimated miles per gallon in rear-wheel drive. It only loses a single point in each category when purchased in four-wheel drive.
In many ways, the 2020 Frontier resembles a Porsche in terms of what it doesn’t include as standard (or even optional) equipment. For example, you won’t find Android Auto or Apple CarPlay on any 2020 Frontier model. While the new engine and transmission pairing seems to resonate well with reviewers, the Frontier lacks a tow/haul mode. Standard safety equipment, as you found out, doesn’t quite fill out a large list like many other manufacturers offer.
So what does the 2020 Nissan Frontier do well? For starters, it lays claim to a pedigree of dependability. Reviewer Jason Fogelson reports finding dozens of older models with thousands of miles on the odometer. This translates to a reliable value when it comes to resale as well. The new engine and transmission set this year’s model apart from any other. And “as far as 15-year-old designs go, the Frontier has aged pretty well,” says TruckTrend. Sure, the interior hasn’t quite caught up to the spiffy, modern design language most vehicles have today. And a small touchscreen in a small pickup sounds like you’re getting the short straw.
The smart shopper would do well to compare the 2020 Frontier to models such as the Toyota Tacoma, Honda Ridgeline, Jeep Gladiator, GMC Canyon, Chevrolet Colorado, and the Ford Ranger. They’ve all got the characteristics most pickup truck buyers are looking for. However, the 2020 Frontier does an excellent job of reminding us of what driving was like before smartphones became backseat drivers. For a bit of an old-school feel (and price), maybe the Frontier is exactly what you need.
The Last Word
Compared to the styling of the rest of Nissan’s lineup of cars and SUVs, the 2020 Frontier might seem like it was left in the 2000s. But why change a good thing, especially when it’s a winning combination? Drop by your local Nissan dealership to see why the Frontier is such a dependable pickup. Even if you don’t end up purchasing one, there’s always next year — and a potentially even better Nissan Frontier.