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Where is 2022 Nissan Frontier? Why Australians can't buy the new 'Nissan Navara' to take on Toyota HiLux, Ford Ranger, Isuzu D-Max and Mitsubishi Triton

It's hard to believe that under the new Frontier's fresh skin are the bones of the 2005 Nissan D40 Navara.

This one may have slipped underneath your radar.

Nissan North America released a redesigned version of its US, Canadian and Mexican market Frontier pick-up last week, months after it was unveiled back in February.

Ushering in a butch new styling language as well as a host of other improvements, the mid-size truck has served as the company’s response to the likes of the Ford Ranger, Chevrolet Colorado and Toyota Tacoma for decades now.

Until this year, the Frontier was essentially the North American version of two previous-generation Navaras, starting with the D22 in 1997 and then continuing with the D40 that replaced it in 2004. 

However, when the current D23 Navara was launched in 2014, Nissan North America passed on it, electing instead to keep the older D40-based Frontier in production until now.

That was partly due to the Frontier sharing a variation of Nissan’s long-lived F-Alpha platform, with the brand’s Titan full-size truck also made in the same US plant in Mississippi. Along with the D40 Navara, R51 Pathfinder, Y62 Patrol/Armada and Infiniti QX80, all were designed to use Nissan V6 and V8 engines, while the D23 Navara is largely limited to four-cylinder turbo-diesel units deemed unsuitable for North American consumers.

As such, the Frontier for 2021 offers big V6 petrol power, addressing one of the criticisms that continues to be levelled at the Thai-built Navara that Australia receives – namely, that the engine isn’t big enough or gutsy enough against some rivals. 

There’s more, including a fresh interior presentation with a big multimedia touchscreen, surround-view cameras, wireless smartphone charging and a host of upgraded driver-assist technologies.

The Frontier is only available in left-hand drive. The Frontier is only available in left-hand drive.

While Nissan says the F-Alpha platform has been constantly fettled over the years, the 2022 Frontier scores revised suspension and cabin mounts, including hydraulic items where required; collectively, they are designed to dramatically boost rigidity, reduce noise/vibration/harshness and ultimately improve the ride quality. The front anti-roll bar has been altered, there's now one out back, and the hydraulic steering has been modified.

So, why don’t we see the overhauled Nissan mid-size pick-up in Australia when it has both the looks, specification and muscle to show up most rivals?

The short answer is that – despite internal parts commonality with our Navara, including a boxed ladder-frame chassis, some floorpan components and double wishbone front suspension – the Frontier is currently a left-hand-drive-only proposition.

Secondly, while many Australians will appreciate the power of a big and smooth 3.8-litre V6 petrol engine pumping out a healthy 231kW (against just 140kW from the Navara’s 2.3-litre twin-turbo four-pot diesel), most consumers prefer the lazy torque and lower running costs of a diesel – something the Frontier cannot yet provide. It produces 381Nm against the D23's 450Nm.

The Frontier also brings less towing capacity (at just over 3000kg, against the Navara’s 3500kg capability), and that would further put it at a disadvantage against the class leading pick-ups.

However, considering how much the 2022 Frontier has evolved over its 17-year-old D40 predecessor, it might be naïve to think that this truck won’t eventually find its way to Nissan's Thai manufacturing facility over the next couple of years, to eventually replace the ageing, now-seven-year-old D23 Navara.

In Mexico, Nissan sells the Frontier alongside the Navara. In Mexico, Nissan sells the Frontier alongside the Navara.

Nissan is not known to double up on engineering when unnecessary to do so, and so it is reasonable to expect that a right-hand-drive (RHD), diesel or even hybrid-powered version may be in the pipeline for international markets outside of North America.

If that is the case, then what you’re looking at a close proximation of the next-generation Navara for Australia, albeit with a heavy American accent and a powertrain that is unlikely to make the transition across the Pacific.

Tellingly, a program development manager has been quoted as saying that the F-Alpha platform and chassis frame have been modified to perform better in the “latest NCAP and IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety)” tests, pointing to a career outside of North America.

There are also now dual tow hooks ­up front – surely a nod to RHD production.  

Finally, Mexico has decided to sell the 2022 Frontier alongside the D23 Navara for the first time, giving Nissan the same two-pronged mid-size-truck attack that Toyota has deployed in the same market with the HiLux and its slightly larger Tacoma relative.

Could the same thing happen eventually in Australia?