Developing the 2022 Nissan Frontier

It was a long time coming. Here’s how they delivered

By Gary S. Vasilash

If you go way back in time—to 1959—Nissan (a.k.a., Datsun) introduced its first compact pickup truck in the U.S., the Datsun 220.

Which is to say that the company isn’t a stranger to the segment or the market.

1997 saw the first-generation Nissan Frontier pickup, which was offered as a 1998 model year truck.

The second-generation Frontier, a MY 2005 unit, was introduced in 2004.

And while there have been modifications and improvements over the years, there wasn’t a third-generation Frontier until now, the MY 2022 Frontier.

Third-generation, 2022 Nissan Frontier. (Image: Nissan)

The Frontier is in a segment that has certainly changed during its history. Both GM and Ford had midsize products, which they both removed from the market before re-entering it.

Toyota, with its Tacoma, has just kept at it, year after year, leading the segment in sales.

As this is an important segment for all involved, Melaina Vasko, Vehicle Performance Manager, Nissan Frontier, says that as they developed the 2022 model they were certainly cognizant of the competition, but, at the same time, they were not going to overlook the fact that during its run to date there have been more than four million Frontiers sold in the U.S.

So she and her development team spent time learning from customers, learning what they wanted and thinking about what they could bring them.

One of the things people are absolutely interested in is a truck that can fit into a garage. The Frontier with a short wheelbase is 210.2 inches long; the long-wheelbase version is 224.1 inches. The vehichle is either 73 or 74.7 inches wide (the more rugged trims have brawnier shoulders); the height variations range from 71.6 to 72.9 inches. There are two bed sizes: 59.5 inches for the standard version and a 72.7-inch long bed.

Vasko explains on this edition of “Autoline After Hours” how the 22 Frontier was developed with an eye toward providing capability, drivability, comfort, technology, and style, and how these are addressed with the new vehicle.

She talks to “Autoline’s” John McElroy, Brett Smith of the Center for Automotive Research, and me.

It is notable that this is a vehicle that was a long time coming, longer than most vehicles that you can probably think of.

Consequently, the amount of attention to the execution is certainly something that is different than, say, a model that is turned over every five years.

One of the things that Vasko told her team, one of the things that should be important to anyone in any endeavor, is simply this: “Try.”

When things seemed more than difficult, perhaps teetering on the edge of what might be considered impossibility, they were encouraged to try.

Without trying, they wouldn’t have been able to deliver on the 2022 Frontier.

And you can see the show right here.

Hyundai Reveals the 2022 Santa Cruz

Four doors and a box on the back of a compact vehicle

By Gary S. Vasilash

Of the 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz, which will be available late this summer, Jose Munoz, president and CEO, Hyundai Motor North America, says, “Our customers will wonder just how they managed before owning one.”

He also says the vehicle “breaks open all new segment territory, both for Hyundai and the industry as a whole.”

What is it?

A compact crossover with a box on the back like a tiny pickup. The bed length is 48.4 inches on the upper level and 52.1 inches below.

Think of it as about four feet.

Really not much for those who are looking for a pickup-like capability.

2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz. (Image: Hyundai)

But to be fair to the Santa Cruz, a 2010 Ford Explorer Sport Trac has a bed length of 49.2 inches, so the Santa Cruz is right there.

Which leads one to wonder about opening up a new segment.

One could argue that although the Honda Ridgeline is positioned as a pickup truck, it is in many ways like an Accord with a 63.6-inch box on the back instead of a truck (and the reference to the Accord is a good thing).

Which leads one to wonder about opening up a new segment. Or living without it.

Oh, well.

Hyundai isn’t referring to the Santa Cruz as a pickup. Nor is it calling it an SUV. Rather, it is a “Sport Adventure Vehicle.”

When BMW brought the X5 to market in 1999, it didn’t like the “sport utility vehicle” nomenclature. So it insisted that the X5 was an SAV—a Sport Activity Vehicle.

That didn’t stick.

In customer research, Hyundai found that people—“often living in urban environments”—wanted something that they could use for stuff, whether it is stuff that they bought at REI or Home Depot. Throw and go: the bed is ready to accommodate whatever.

Again, not a whole lot of stuff, but if you’re living in an apartment in an urban setting, you don’t have a whole lot of stuff.

Hyundai makes comparisons of the Santa Cruz with pickups. When it comes to beds, there is really no comparison—the Nissan Frontier is the next shortest, at 59.4 inches.

The Santa Cruz is wider than the Frontier—75 v. 72.8 inches—and just a smidge narrower than the Toyota Tacoma, which is 75.2 inches. The Tacoma, however, is 212.2 inches long, compared with 195.7 inches for the Santa Cruz.

A comparison with a traditional pickup doesn’t really play to the potential advantages of the Santa Cruz.

Credit to Hyundai to delivering on the concept that it showed at the North American International Auto Show in 2015 in a manner that looks extremely close to the show car.