Small Pickup Trucks
Utility meets maneuverability and modest size.
Toyota Tacoma is the best-selling compact pickup truck in the U.S. It's offered in two- and four-wheel drive and with 4-cylinder and V6 engines as well as manual and automatic transmissions.
Buyers of the "less-than-full-size" trucks get considerable payload and towing capacity—up to 1,720 and 7,160 pounds, respectively. But they generally pay lower prices than buyers of comparably equipped, large trucks.
Some benefits of these smaller trucks are the same as for larger trucks. Compact and midsize trucks ride higher off the pavement than do cars, so drivers and passengers tend to enjoy good views out of their vehicles. Owners have easygoing cargo space in their pickup beds that they can spray down and clean with hoses. And these smaller trucks—smaller being a relative term here—can be more nimble and easier to park than their larger brethren.
Trucks in this segment are offered in two- and four-wheel drive, with regular, extended and double cabs, and with a variety of engines. For example, the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon are available with a 5-cylinder engine, while the Dodge Dakota can be had with a V8 that can run on E85 ethanol-containing gasoline.
Buyers of the modestly sized trucks in this class can get some of the best fuel economy around. For example, the 2008 Ford Ranger Regular Cab with two-wheel drive and 2.3-liter, 4-cylinder engine mated to a manual transmission has a government fuel economy rating as high as that for some cars: 21 miles per gallon in city driving and 26 mpg on the highway. The Ranger and its twin, Mazda B2300 Regular Cab truck in two-wheel drive, rank as the most fuel-efficient pickups in the U.S. for the 2008 model year.
There are plenty of features and amenities in the compact- and midsize-truck segment. Honda's first truck for the U.S.—the midsize Ridgeline—has a lockable trunk set into the floor of the pickup bed. The 2008 Dakota has a standard, dual-position tailgate that helps carry loads of various lengths. And Nissan's Frontier can be had with a Long Bed that adds 13 inches to the normal bed length for a total of 73 inches, even at the back of a Crew Cab model.
Pickups as Cars
Decades ago, pickup trucks were largely considered work vehicles for men. As such, trucks—big and small—were rugged and long-lived but also a bit short on style and comfort. For example, most trucks sold had only two doors on the passenger compartment.
Today, with most male and female buyers turning to trucks to do multiple duties such as work, errands and family outings, trucks have moved away from barebones, regular cab models and toward well-equipped, well-riding transport that's stylish.
Indeed, Nissan no longer sells a 2-door regular cab version of its Frontier pickup. It sells the Frontier now as a 5-passenger Crew Cab with four, regular car-like doors and as a 4-passenger King Cab with mini rear doors. And Honda's Ridgeline comes with only one cab—a 4-door with seating for five.
Many of the smallest pickups, which used to be commonly known as "compact trucks," also have changed and grown noticeably larger. For example, in the 2004 model year, Chevrolet replaced its long-running S-10 small pickup with the Chevy Colorado, and officials immediately called the larger, roomier Colorado a "midsize pickup."
The Colorado's twin vehicle—the GMC Canyon, which replaced the GMC Sonoma—also was upgraded in size, style and comfort and referred to as a "midsize pickup." Both are offered with a 185-horsepower, 4-cylinder engine with 190 lb-ft of torque at 2800 rpm, and a 242-horsepower 5-cylinder engine with 242 lb-ft of torque at 4600 rpm.
Dodge's Dakota pushes the "midsize" label even farther. Its Quad Cab version is the only one in the segment with seating for up to six people. The Dakota's top engine is a hale and healthy, 302-horsepower 4.7-liter Magnum high-output V8. And Mitsubishi sells a version of the Dakota under the Mitsubishi Raider name.
Honda's first truck, the Ridgeline, carries the highest starting retail price of all the trucks in this segment: $28,000. Among its noteworthy features is a full complement of standard safety equipment including anti-lock brakes, traction control, stability control, side-mounted airbags and curtain airbags. The only engine is a 247-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 with Honda's VTEC.
Similarly, Ford's Explorer Sport Trac is offered only with one body configuration: A 4-door, 5-passenger interior that looks similar to the interior of Ford's midsize sport-utility vehicle, the Explorer. But the Sport Trac has a 4.5-foot bed at the back, which is shorter than the Ridgeline's 5-foot-long bed. Base engine in the Sport Trac is a 210-horsepower 4.0-liter V6, but a 292-horsepower 4.6-liter V8 also is offered. With the V8 powerplant, the Sport Trac can tow 7,160 pounds, which is equal to the towing capacity of some larger trucks.
Some Favorites Here
Ford's Ranger dates to 1982 as a separate truck model and for years was America's best-selling small pickup. For 2008, the Ranger has three available engines, including a top, 207-horsepower, 4.0-liter V6. Mazda's B-Series trucks are twins of the Ranger models and are built in the same assembly plant as the Ranger.
Toyota put the name "Tacoma" on its compact truck in America in 1995, and the Tacoma now is the top-selling compact truck in the country. For 2008, the Tacoma is available with a 159-horsepower 2.7-liter 4-cylinder engine and a 236-horsepower 4.0-liter V6.
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