2024 Nissan Frontier Hardbody Edition Review: midsize truck time capsule

Retro is all the rage, perhaps now more than ever. The new Mustang has 1980s Fox Body gauges, the new Land Cruiser harkens back to its ancestors, the new Nissan Z has 300zx-influenced taillights, and so on. Given the strong sense of nostalgia in the automotive community as of late, it’s unsurprising that Nissan draped a retro-tastic appearance package over its Frontier mid-size pickup. It succeeded in making the Hardbody Edition look like the past, but in many ways the truck also feels, drives, and behaves like one from a bygone era.

What’s new is old again

A few years back we trekked to New Hampshire in the then-newly revamped Nissan Frontier, taking a Pro-4X on a 750-mile adventure that left us feeling mostly fondly towards the truck. It proved comfortable and competent, completing its given tasks quite easily and entirely without fuss. There hasn’t been much in the way of updates to the vehicle since; it still comes solely with a 3.8L V6 and 9-speed automatic transmission, is still available in King Cab and Crew Cab configurations, and is still very much staying in its own lane in the midsize pickup world.

About that lane: Context matters, so let’s look at the bigger picture. Back during our test of the 2022 Frontier, the third-gen Toyota Tacoma was 6 years old, the second-gen GM twins (Chevy Colorado / GMC Canyon) were already 7 years old, and the newly re-introduced Ford Ranger was hiding an 8 year old chassis underneath. Given its timely refresh, the Frontier felt, well, fresh amid a somewhat stale mid-size pickup market. The Frontier’s competition has really stepped it up as of late: There’s an all-new Tacoma and Colorado/Canyon, and a refreshed Ranger just landed as well. The Frontier has the odds stacked against it.

The normal vehicular refresh cycle clearly isn’t on Nissan’s side here, but the company isn’t doing itself any favors with the Frontier’s surface-level accouterments. The steering is still hilariously heavy, the turning radius is nearly problematic for normal parking lots, the reverse camera resolution is grainy at best, the grab handles are flimsy, and the $750 “upgrade” Fender stereo is tinny and flat.

Looks the part

But not all is bad. Our test truck came fancied up with the Hardbody Edition package, a copy-paste effort by Nissan to transpose what may be its most iconic 4×4 livery directly onto a modern descendant. This appearance package includes Heritage Alloy Wheels, fender flares, all-terrain tires, exhaust finisher, bed sport bar, mud flaps, decals, an aluminum front skid plate, and black painted bumpers, mirrors, door handles, and grille/fascia. All this costs $3,890, and it really looks fantastic, if not maybe even taking the whole retro vibe a bit too far. We are huge fans of the special wheels that Nissan concocted, yet a quick glance at the Hardbody Edition and it can easily be mistaken for an older truck, not just a pickup cosplaying one.

Now to the real problem. The four-wheel-drive Frontier SV Crew Cab starts at $36,870. Our test truck also had the aforementioned audio upgrade, carpeted floor mats ($195), Technology Package ($990), and SV Convenience Package ($2,190) which includes things like a bedliner, bed tie downs, heated mirrors/seats/steering wheel, dual zone climate, and so on. The total price for the truck seen here comes to $46,380 (including $1,495 for Destination). There’s a lot missing in a truck this side of $45k, with things like adjustable lumbar support, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, leather seats, and a power passenger seat should be present at this price. There’s also no sunroof or locking rear differential, which a similarly-priced Pro-4X would have.

Truck to its core

And yet, despite our qualms with the Frontier Hardbody Edition, there’s something to be said for a relatively basic, old-fashioned truck. There’s no overload of technology, no constant beeping, no seemingly endless array of things to configure, and the screen is both reasonably sized and nicely integrated into the dashboard. Traditionalists will also like the naturally aspirated engine, which is quite strong yet still reminds us of a simpler time. The Frontier isn’t a truck to impress your friends, but we can see it running for a fairly long time without major issues, or at least being somewhat simple to diagnose and fix issues on when the third owner is using it for their weekend hauler.

Let’s face it, the third-generation Frontier doesn’t have the same technological, efficiency, or innovative chops as its competition. Instead, the 2024 Nissan Frontier Hardbody Edition’s proposition is as a solid, honest-to-goodness, frill-free pickup that hits you with a pang of nostalgia every time you look at it. Don’t let this review convince you we don’t like the Frontier– we do– but it’s outclassed by the competition and is far pricey for what’s included. We can’t tell you how to spend your money, but unless you’re desperate for a constant reminder of days gone by, this isn’t the best way to do so.

Yay

Rad appearance package (especially the wheels); doesn’t try to be anything it isn’t; decent ride quality; isn’t a behemoth

Nay

Pricey for a relatively low-feature model; unreasonably heavy steering; wide turning radius; full-size MPG (18/23/20 hwy/cty/overall as per the EPA; the test truck was showing 14.1 MPG average); overall experience presents as cheaper than the price suggests

The Takeaway

The 2024 Nissan Frontier Hardbody Edition is honest, simplistic, and straightforward in ways that most modern vehicles aren’t, and though that’s not better for everyone, and definitely is hard to palate at this price, we can see why some are and/or will be fans of this truck.

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One response to “2024 Nissan Frontier Hardbody Edition Review: midsize truck time capsule”

  1. Sjalabais Avatar
    Sjalabais

    We replaced our 2012 Leaf, that went to Ukraine, with an all new 2023 39 kWh for 18k$. It’s the first new car we ever bought. The reasoning behind the purchase resonates with this pickup review:

    What we get is not a stellar vehicle nor anything anyone would call perfect. But it’s perfectly fine. A predictably (!) reliable vehicle with known and tested designs – and issues – that competently does what it is supposed to do. It’s safe and simple.

    The poor man spec we bought doesn’t even have a screen or backup camera (still legal in Norway). It’s just a car. Spacious, with heated seats and steering wheel. Manual seats and no bullshit anywhere.

    There’s a market for this approach. The Frontier should probably be 10k$ cheaper, though.