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A blue 2022 Chevy Colorado Z71 is shown during a 2022 Chevy Colorado vs 2022 Nissan Frontier comparison.

Off the Beaten Path: 2022 Chevy Colorado vs 2022 Nissan Frontier

Off-roading with a midsize truck is a popular choice for enthusiasts who love tackling the backcountry mountaintops and rocky canyons where most vehicles can never go. For many enthusiasts, the Chevy Colorado is a favored truck for off-roading with its many rugged attributes, particularly when outfitted in the ZR2 packaging. Nissan has redesigned the Frontier for 2022, upgrading its entire appearance and tech offerings, but most of the mechanical underpinnings remain the same. If you’re a serious off-roader, is the Frontier worth a look? Let’s compare the 2022 Chevy Colorado vs 2022 Nissan Frontier to see which truck will make a better off-road vehicle.

Off-Road Equipment

When it comes to off-road readiness, most enthusiasts expect to add aftermarket parts to make any vehicle better for handling tough obstacles. And yet, some vehicles come better equipped than others. Nissan did upgrade the Frontier for 2022, and it does offer its Pro-4X trim as its off-road variant with a few extras to take it on the trail. The Pro-4X comes with a front skid plate made of aluminum, a couple of steel underbody skid plates, 17-inch wheels fitted with all-terrain tires, Bilstein shocks, and a rear electronic rear differential as standard equipment. For extra cash, you can upgrade with a package that adds a 360-degree camera for better views on the trail.

As the top of the Frontier’s trims, it would be nice if Nissan could toss in an extra engine option or a front locking differential, maybe even some extra ground clearance to make it more capable on the trail. Instead, buyers get the same 3.8-liter V6 engine found throughout the rest of the lineup, and it’s the same engine as last year’s truck with a little extra horsepower, albeit a decent powertrain. Compare that to the Colorado ZR2, and the equipment list shifts dramatically. Similar standard engines provide close to the same horsepower and torque, but the ZR2 has the option of upgrading to the more torque-heavy diesel engine that supplies up to 369 lb-ft of torque for better capability when rock crawling.

In addition, the 2022 Colorado ZR2 delivers more off-road readiness with front and rear locking differentials, a raised suspension for an extra two inches of ground clearance to take it up to a full ten inches, wider tracks on front and back, and the class-exclusive DSSV spool valve dampers that are a radical game-changer. Even though skid plates beyond the transfer case aren’t standard equipment for the ZR2, they are an option to add either from the factory or as aftermarket parts. Having the ride height and DSSV dampers are a huge asset, plus the Bison Edition for the ZR2 can add AEV front and rear bumpers and skid plates to make the ZR2 a true off-road trail rider. Even though the Pro-4X seems to be comparable to the ZR2 in terms of equipment, the true test is how the two trucks perform.

A green 2022 Nissan Frontier PRO-4X is shown off-roading on a dusty trail.

Performance on the Trail

When you plan to hit steep trails studded with rocks, or you want to do a little friendly rock-climbing with your truck, you need more than just off-road tires and skid plates. Fortunately, both the 2022 Colorado ZR2 and 2022 Frontier Pro-4X come standard with front recovery hooks in case you get into trouble. It’s fair to say that the standard engines are fairly evenly matched for power but that the diesel engine available for the ZR2 is more likely to help with slow crawls and maneuvering in tight spaces. In addition, when you’re working with steep hills and tight spaces, having both the front and rear locking differentials in the ZR2 will make the difference between being able to ascend and getting stuck.

Ride quality in the 2022 Frontier has improved with the new suspension tuning, but when off-roading, the DSSV dampers in the 2022 Colorado are far superior. As opposed to the traditional discs found in dampers like those in the Frontier, the DSSV dampers are built with springs encased in a tube that doesn’t allow debris to lessen the capability of the valves. They not only have better damping, but they will last longer under punishing circumstances. Of course, while you’re out on the trail, it’s almost inevitable that you’re going to get stuck, or one of your trail partners will need help getting out of a bind. Chevy makes sure the bumper of the ZR2 is prepped for a winch, equipment every off-roader should have.

Though the Frontier may have decent capability in mild off-roading, it can’t be fitted with a winch, even though it has a pair of recovery hooks. One last consideration for performance is the four-wheel drive capability. With the Colorado, the transfer case automatically handles switching from two-wheel to four-wheel drive, a feature that saves money on gas but also makes sure you have full capability when you need it. The Frontier has a manual transfer case that doesn’t optimize the use of four-wheel drive, which is unfortunate. Four-wheel drive in the 2022 Frontier is definitely behind the times.

Off-Road Options

Chevy has an advantage over Nissan in its sheer size to be able to offer more options when it comes to choices for variants, parts, and special editions. Though Nissan offers the Pro-4X trim as a milder, less expensive option for off-roading, when you plant the 2022 Frontier next to the 2022 Colorado, there is no way the Frontier can compete with all the choices Chevy offers. Whether you consider the Z71 trim with its rear e-lockers and off-road suspension that essentially match the Pro-4X from Nissan, or you look at the numerous options for special editions like the Bison for the ZR2, you have a lot more room to make the Colorado the truck you want.

Even though Nissan offers a few packages to sweeten the deal for the Pro-4X, Chevy simply has far more to offer buyers who want to customize, especially when you take into consideration the AEV parts that can come with the Bison package. Heck, Chevy even offers rocker guards for the Colorado with the Z71 trim, which are a boon for rock crawling if that’s your off-road interest. The Frontier simply doesn’t have that kind of equipment available, nor does it have quite the same chops for articulation or climbing, despite approach and departure angles being virtually the same for both trucks. The 2022 Frontier has made big strides to make itself more marketable and user-friendly, but the 2022 Chevy Colorado continues to be a better truck for handling tricky off-road trails with all of its optional equipment.

A tan 2022 Chevy Colorado ZR2 is shown off-roading on a muddy trail.

Interior Convenience

A number of similar features can be found inside both the 2022 Colorado and 2022 Frontier, especially if you compare the off-road variants. Expect both trucks to come standard with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, connected services, powered front seats, keyless entry, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. Chevy gives buyers of the ZR2 leather front seats, where Nissan provides its own Pro-4X premium cloth seats with the option to upgrade to leather. Both trucks come with voice recognition tech, and Chevy adds cloud access where Nissan makes navigation standard. Both trucks come with standard WiFi, and Chevy provides a month of free unlimited data.

Conveniences are numerous, but one thing the Colorado has that the Frontier doesn’t: interior space. Legroom in the Frontier is comically limited. So limited, in fact, that even kids are likely to have a hard time getting comfortable in the smaller King Cab version of the Frontier, but even the larger cab is still smaller than the Colorado. Chevy’s smaller Crew Cab isn’t really friendly for passengers, either, but the Extended Cab has enough room for friends to join you on the trail when you get out there. Having the space to ferry passengers makes much better use of the interior, especially if your truck doubles as a daily driver. Though the two trucks have a lot in common, the 2022 Chevy Colorado is the better truck for off-road duty, from the ground clearance and spool valves in the ZR2 to the space you have for both passengers and supplies in the cab.