Nissan and Toyota, perhaps two of the most recognizable brands in the entirety of the automotive industry. The Frontier and the Tacoma, two capable midsize pickup trucks. Put them together, and you’ve got yourself a fierce battle. That’s exactly what we did, but our conclusion after comparing the 2022 Nissan Frontier vs 2022 Toyota Tacoma may not be what you expect. Despite what you may have heard, these two trucks aren’t as similar as they may seem at first. That’s right, the way we see it, there’s almost no contest, and this is a stellar look for one manufacturer and a moment of criticism for the other. Both of these manufacturers are anything but mediocre, and because of this, expectations are at an all-time high, especially since both of these trucks have been around for several decades. What’s the consensus? Let’s get started with trim levels and pricing.
Depending on who you ask, more or fewer trims are better, but in the case of pickup trucks, we feel that fewer trim levels make for a more unified shopping experience. While the number of trim levels isn’t too different from one another, we found ourselves preferring the four choices of the Frontier as opposed to the six trim levels for the Tacoma. The S is the base trim for the 2022 Frontier, and it has a starting MSRP of $27,840, while the 2022 Tacoma’s base trim, the SR, starts at an MSRP of $26,500. As you’ll find out, opting for the slightly cheaper option can be more of a detriment than you may think.
There are arguably a nearly equal amount of advantages as there are disadvantages with whichever vehicle you purchase. For example, the Tacoma is slightly more fuel-efficient, but the difference is very subtle. The same can be said for the towing capacities, but we’ll discuss those shortly. Firstly, there are two engines available for the Tacoma, and there’s one for the Frontier. Sounds like a negative for the Frontier, right? Wrong. Both the 2.7L I-4 that comes standard on the Tacoma and the available 3.5L V6 can’t outperform the sole powertrain configuration of the Frontier.
So then, with that out of the way, let’s discuss numbers. Starting with the base engine for the Tacoma, this 2.7L I-4 pairs with a 6-speed automatic transmission, offering 159 hp and 180 lb-ft of torque. EPA-estimated ratings for this engine are respectable at 20 mpg city and 23 mpg highway. However, with a towing capacity of 3,500 lbs, it’s certainly on the lower end.
The available upgrade for the Tacoma is the aforementioned 3.5L V6 engine. A 6-speed automatic transmission comes standard again, but this can be swapped out for a manual on certain trims. In the Tacoma’s defense, a manual transmission isn’t available on the 2022 Frontier. The V6 does bring forth a substantial performance increase, this time up to 278 hp and 265 lb-ft of torque. Fuel efficiency is again excellent, earning EPA-estimated ratings of 19 mpg city and 24 mpg highway, which are quite similar to the Frontier’s ratings. Along with the performance increase comes an increase to towing capacity, this time to 6,800 lbs.
Now we can discuss the Frontier’s engine. This is a 3.8L V6 engine that is paired with a 9-speed automatic transmission, one that makes the 6-speed automatic transmission in the Tacoma feel ancient by comparison. With this V6 engine, the Frontier produces 310 hp and 281 lb-ft of torque, which is a substantial increase from the Tacoma’s V6 and in a different world entirely from the base engine. This 310 hp is nearly double the 159 hp that comes with the base Tacoma engine, and its 281 lb-ft of torque is 56% more than the Tacoma’s engine. As we mentioned earlier, this powertrain offers EPA-estimated ratings that are rather similar to V6 inside of the Tacoma, with the Frontier’s V6 earning 18 mpg city and 24 mpg highway. Towing capacity for this engine sits at 6,720 lbs, but we’ll tell you why this isn’t a problem.
The ultimate reason why the Frontier’s ability to tow 80 lbs less than the Tacoma isn’t a big deal is because of price. Remember how we mentioned that the Frontier has a slightly higher price than the Tacoma? Choosing to save that slight amount of money will give you a truck that can only tow 3,500 lbs, as that remains the base configuration for the Tacoma. Spending a bit extra to get a base model Frontier will increase your towing capacity to 6,720 lbs, which is a 92% increase. Putting the V6 in the Toyota will run you at least $28,760.
That’s Not Everything
Performance aside, the Frontier also includes a variety of enhancements over the Tacoma that furthers the appeal of Nissan’s offering. This all starts with the infotainment center, where you’ll be navigating through its menus to access your media, contacts, and more. Both the Frontier and Tacoma support Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which is more of a given nowadays than a surprising inclusion. Nevertheless, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are immensely useful features that aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. Additionally, both are still receiving new updates, and the infotainment inside the Frontier and Tacoma should stay up-to-date for a long time.
Infotainment centers come in many different sizes, and nowadays, most drivers will likely agree that a larger screen is preferable to a smaller one. This is because a larger screen gives you a few advantages ranging from better visibility to more screen-area for displaying apps and information. The Tacoma can be fitted with an 8-inch screen, but the standard integration is a 7-inch one. On the other hand, the Frontier comes standard with an 8-inch screen, and springing for the upgrade will replace this with a 9-inch screen instead. An advantage that the Tacoma has over the Frontier in this regard is with more available USB ports within the cabin, but this is something that can be easily remedied with adapters on the Frontier.
Our Minds Are Set
Sometimes comparing two pickup trucks doesn’t get you immediate results, but in the case of the Frontier vs the Tacoma, this is exactly what we saw. After all of the research that we’ve conducted, we conclude that you should certainly spend the extra money to secure a vehicle that will perform nearly twice as well at the base level configuration. We feel that Toyota should consider omitting the base I-4 from the model next year and leave the V6 as the sole engine, just as Nissan has done with the Frontier.
The price of the Tacoma is ultimately its demise, and the only saving grace would be if Toyota decides to lower the starting price further to better compete with the Frontier. The way it currently stands, we don’t think that anybody should decide to purchase the Tacoma over the Frontier unless you really have to have that manual transmission. If you’re purchasing a brand new pickup truck, there’s a chance that you don’t get a new one every year, so why would you purchase the lesser capable of the two? Normally we’d be inclined to agree that the cheaper option would be the better purchase under the “value to performance” argument, but when the price is already too close to a far more powerful truck, then the answer becomes clear. We’re sure that our minds are set.