A newly standard V6 even beats out the old four-cylinder, with more than double the power.
Updated April 7, 2020, with corrected fuel economy numbers. We previously reported the Frontier 4x2 could achieve 19 city mpg, based on incorrect information provided by Nissan. The correct fuel efficiency number is 18 city mpg. All other figures remain accurate.
Although complete details on the 2020 Nissan Frontier remain sparse, the company did divulge the midsize pickup’s fuel economy in an exclusive interview with Motor1.com. As the automaker expected, numbers improved almost entirely across the board relative to the 2019 truck. Equipped with the new-for-2020 3.8-liter V6 and nine-speed automatic transmission, the 2020 Nissan Frontier 4x2 will get 18 city / 24 highway / 20 combined mpg, while the 4x4 will get 17 city / 23 highway / 19 combined mpg.
Most impressively, the Frontier’s newly standard V6 beats out the 2019 model’s base four-cylinder in most fuel economy metrics. The most efficient version of the old truck (an inline-four paired to a five-speed manual with two-wheel drive) achieved 19 / 23 / 21 mpg – curiously, even though its highway number improved and its city number remained the same, the new truck is stuck with a 1-mpg deficit in combined testing.
Nevertheless, other variants of the 2020 Nissan Frontier improve their combined fuel economy rankings relative to the 2019 trucks. For comparison, the old Frontier 4x2 achieved 16 / 23 / 19 mpg with the outgoing 4.0-liter V6 and five-speed automatic transmission, while the Frontier 4x4 got just 15 / 21 / 17 mpg when kitted with the V6 and autobox.
Relative to its midsize competition, the 2020 Frontier achieves similar fuel economy to the Chevrolet Colorado and Toyota Tacoma when equipped with V6 engines and automatic transmissions. In the gas-powered class, though, the Ford Ranger still achieves substantially better efficiency thanks to its turbo four-cylinder and 10-speed automatic. And the overall efficiency crown still rests on the head of the Chevrolet Colorado diesel, which gets 23 mpg combined in 4x2 form and 22 combined as a 4x4.
As could be expected for a modernized powertrain, a manual transmission is no longer offered on the 2020 truck, and it won’t make a return when the Frontier is redesigned for 2021 either. Melaina Vasko, vehicle performance development manager for Nissan’s fullsize and midsize trucks and fullsize SUV, said that the previous Frontier had a manual-transmission take rate of just five percent. Like with the 2020 Nissan Titan and Titan XD, the company is streamlining its variants to appeal more to core customers, a move that likely saves money on the development and production end of things.
Speaking of the 2021 Nissan Frontier, Vasko wouldn’t cop to any specifics, but she did say the next-generation midsize truck will boast further efficiency improvements. Helping the truck in its quest will be lighter materials and optimized aerodynamics, following the trend set by fullsize pickups like the Ford F-150 and Chevrolet Silverado 1500.