There were few options for those looking for a small truck five or six years ago. But today, many competitors populate the space, as automakers have realized that lots of consumers are looking for something smaller and less expensive than a full-size truck. Fortunately, today’s small pickup trucks are more capable than ever. Keep reading to find out which are the best small trucks for the year.
If you’re looking for a jack of all trades, be sure to consider the Chevrolet Colorado. With its current generation starting in 2015, Colorado has been a longtime player in the small truck segment. From 2015 to 2020, Colorado is available in a number of different configurations, from long beds to short beds and extended cabs to crew cabs. In addition to having either a 2.5L four-cylinder or 3.6L V6 engine under the hood, 2016-to-present Colorados can also be optioned with a 2.8L turbo diesel four-cylinder engine, so make sure to keep your eye out when you shop around. From extreme off-roading to commuting to camping, the Chevrolet Colorado is ready to meet almost any scenario you can think of.
The 2018 Chevrolet Colorado comes standard with the following features:
- Seventeen-inch alloy wheels
- The eight-inch colour touchscreen infotainment system
- Keyless entry
- Leather-wrapped steering wheel
- Power-adjustable driver seat
The mid-size Chevrolet Colorado offers several variations of bed and cab configurations enabling its buyers to pick out a truck they want. The least expensive Colorado for 2020 — an extended cab version with a 6-foot box — is powered by a 200-horsepower 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. Opting for the least expensive four-wheel-drive version will cost an additional $7,000.
In its base configuration, Colorado is rated to tow 3,500 pounds. As the price escalates from its base of around $21,000, car-like amenities like leather seats, premium audio systems, alloy wheels, and in-vehicle Wi-Fi become available. Should you seek to take your truck off the beaten path, the Colorado ZR2 is the Colorado’s ultimate off-road vehicle.
The current Chevrolet Silverado full-size pickup truck is offered in a nearly mind-numbing number of variations. It isn’t uncommon for today’s truck buyers to spend $70,000 on a current Silverado High Country, and you can make the case that it’s a good value.
At the other end of the Silverado, the price list is the rear-drive work truck with a regular cab and an 8-foot bed. Power comes from a 285-horsepower 4.3-litre V6 that has been in the General Motors engine lineup for decades, and it is backed up by a time-tested six-speed automatic. With its massive cargo box and 7,900 pounds of trailer towing, that is a lot of utility for right around $28,000. Chevy’s 5.3-litre V8 is on the options list. Another high-value choice is the double-c
The Dodge Dakota is slightly larger than most small pickups, but it also has more capability than most other trucks in the class. The 2005 to 2011 generation was powered by either a 210-horsepower V6 or a V8 that eventually produced over 300 horsepower by the end of its run. Drivetrain options include rear-wheel drive, part-time 4-wheel drive or full-time all-wheel drive. Ride quality is much improved over the previous generations, though still not as good as the best of its competitors. Some extended cab models with the V6 and 2-wheel drive have a maximum payload capacity of over 1800 pounds, while the same configuration but with a V8 yield a max towing capacity of well over 7000 pounds when properly equipped.
Ford Explorer Sport Trac
The Ford Explorer Sport Trac may have ended its production in 2010, but it still remains a solid choice if you want a small truck with plenty of capability. And while there may not be many left on our lots, it is a solid choice if you need a serious people-mover. The Sport Trac marries the driving manners of a mid-size SUV with the utility of a truck by having a bed with a standard locking tonneau cover. Offering seating for you and four other passengers as well as 37.5 cubic feet of cargo space in the bed, the Ford Explorer Sport Trac is ready to help you get your adventure on. Two engine options are available on 2005–2010 Sport Tracs: a 210-hp 4.0L V6 and, on Limited trims, an available 4.6L V8 producing 292 hp with four-wheel drive also available as an option. If you need to tow, the 2010 V8 is the engine for you as it can tow an estimated 7,160 lbs. when properly equipped.1
The 2010 Explorer Sport Trac Limited comes standard with:
- 18-inch chrome-clad aluminium wheels
- Chrome roof side rails and step-bar accents
- Leather-trimmed seating with heated front bucket seats
- 10-way power driver seat and four-way manual passenger seat
- Locking hard tonneau cover
The Ranger may have taken a hiatus after the 2011 model year, but it returned in 2019 with a completely new design and loaded with all the latest tech. With three available trim levels for 2019 (XL, XLT, and Lariat), there is a Ford Ranger for almost every lifestyle—yours included. All 2019 and 2020 Ford Rangers are powered by a smooth 2.3L four-cylinder turbocharged engine and backed by a slick-shifting ten-speed automatic transmission. In addition, when properly equipped, it can tow an estimated 7,500 lbs. and carry a max payload of 1,860 lbs. (2019–2020 models with the 2.3L engine).1 Four-wheel drive is also available if you’re looking for a truck with some extra off-road versatility.
For 2019, the Ranger XL comes standard with:
- Black front tow hooks (4×4 models)
- Cloth upholstery
- Rearview camera with Dynamic Hitch Assist
- 4.2-inch display with SYNC® voice-recognition communication and entertainment system
- Rear under-seat storage
Opposite of the Honda Ridgeline, Ford’s small truck performs best on the job. The Ranger has the right amount of power to haul, and towing capacity maxes out at an impressive 7,500 pounds. Ride quality improves with some weight in the bed; otherwise, the ride is particularly harsh. This truck placed third in our comparison of compact trucks.
If you’re after a smooth and comfortable ride, an upscale interior, and impressive towing capacity, the Canyon might be the small truck for you. Three engine options are available on 2017–2020 models: starting with the base 2.5L four-cylinder that outputs 200 hp, the 308-hp 3.6L V6, and the 2.8L turbo diesel four-cylinder. If luxury is what you want, be sure to check out the Denali trim (2017–2020) as it includes upscale features like navigation, wireless charging capabilities, and heated and ventilated seats. Four-wheel drive is optional across the board, and all 2019 models received an updated infotainment system and a high-definition rearview camera. With the 2.8L turbo diesel engine and two-wheel drive, and when properly equipped, the crew-cab GMC Canyon has a maximum towing capacity of 7,700 lbs. and a payload capacity of 1,605 lbs.
The 2018 GMC Canyon SLT comes standard with:
- Eighteen-inch alloy wheels
- Automatic climate control
- Heated front seats
- Sliding rear window
With exceptional engines and satisfying steering, the GMC Canyon shares the same DNA that makes the Chevrolet Colorado such a stellar competitor in this space. But there are a few things that set it apart from its sibling, including its exterior design and a luxurious Denali model. If you’re willing to pay the price, this is the ultimate luxury small truck with heated and ventilated front seats, leather-appointed upholstery, chrome steps, and other upgrades.
GMC positions its products as “premium” trucks, but it does offer a regular base cab Sierra full-size pickup that is significantly less expensive than the current 2020 RAM 1500. Ram uses its 1500 Classic to compete in the low-priced portion of the market. The least-expensive Sierra is a Work Truck trim with a regular cab, 8-foot bed, and 139.6-inch wheelbase.
Like the least expensive Chevy Silverado, this Sierra is equipped with GM’s veteran 285-horsepower 4.3-litre V6 backed by a six-speed automatic transmission. It’s far from plush, but it is a lot of truck for the money. For instance, it’s rated to tow a 7,900-pound trailer, and it has a truly mammoth cargo box. A double cab version with the same powertrain that will seat six is another low-priced Sierra, with an MSRP around $33,000.
Redesigned in 2017, the Ridgeline is a unique entry in the small truck segment. It has a lot of features uncommon for its segment, such as a tailgate that can either open in the traditional fold-down way or can swing open on a hinge like a normal car door. Also unique to the Ridgeline is an underfloor storage compartment in the bed that adds some extra cargo capacity. 2017–2019 Honda Ridgelines are powered by a robust 3.5L V6 engine mated to a six-speed automatic transmission while all-wheel drive is also available as an option—standard on the RTL-E and Black Edition trims. 2020 models benefit from a new nine-speed automatic transmission that replaces the six-speed available for 2017–2019 models. When all-wheel drive is not equipped, the Honda Ridgeline comes standard with front-wheel drive.
The 2020 Honda Ridgeline RTL also comes standard with the following features:
- Leather-trimmed interior
- Power moonroof
- Heated front seats
- Ten-way power driver seat
The Hummer H3T is a 4-wheel drive pickup version of the H3 that was only available for the 2009 and 2010 model years, making it a relatively rare vehicle. Engine choices include a 239-horsepower inline-5 or a 300-horsepower V8. Though they’re getting older, the H3T is still a unique and aggressive looking machine, with the off-road capability to back up its looks. There are some downsides: The bed is higher than normal and therefore harder to access, and the small side windows impair vision. Payload capacity for the 5-foot bed is a half-ton, and towing capacity with the V8 is nearly 6000 pounds. Because of this, and its muscular Hummer styling, the H3T makes our list of the top 10 best used small trucks.
Starting at more than $35,000, the Gladiator isn’t cheap. But as you’d expect, much like its Wrangler sibling, the Gladiator impresses off the beaten path. It also has exceptional towing capability: up to 7,650 pounds with a max tow package. Although the Gladiator isn’t particularly quick, it delivers power smoothly through an available eight-speed automatic. This master rock-crawler finished second place in our comparison of off-road small pickup trucks.
For its last couple of generations, the Mazda B-Series was essentially a Ford Ranger wearing a slightly different suit. Its last iteration ran from 1998 to 2009, with a few minor updates along the way. Over the years the B-Series has been powered by many different engines, from a 117-horsepower, 4-cylinder in the earliest B2500s, to a 207-horsepower V6 in the latest B4000s. While the B-Series is functional, the interior quality isn’t great, the ride is truck-like, and unlike nearly every other vehicle in the Mazda lineup, this pickup has absolutely no sporting pretensions. The truck is functional, however, with newer models having a maximum payload capacity of over 1250 pounds and a towing capacity (with the most powerful V6) of over 5500 pounds.
The Nissan Frontier carries a lot of the same charm it first had from its debut in 2005 and remains a great choice if you’re after a rugged and traditional truck. Also, 2020 models offer you an all-new powertrain, benefiting from a powerful 3.8L V6 engine that produces 310 hp. If you’re looking for a small truck that works as hard as you do, then you’ll love getting behind the wheel inside the Frontier’s no-nonsense interior. The new 3.8L V6 is the only engine option for 2020 models while 2005–2019 models are available with either a 2.5L four-cylinder engine or 4.0L V6. Check out the Pro-4X model if you want something with a bit more off-road prowess.
The 2019 Nissan Frontier Pro-4X comes standard with:
- Four-wheel drive
- Automatic headlights
- Heated front seats
- Dual-zone climate control
- Ten-speaker Rockford Fosgate® audio system
At this point, the Frontier is almost an afterthought. It was last fully redesigned for the 2005 model year, making it ancient in automotive years, even truck years. It suffers from cheap interior materials, an old media system, and poor fuel economy. Keep in mind a new Nissan Frontier is expected to hit dealerships sometime in 2020 as a 2021 model. In the meantime, the 2019 Frontier may be an option if you’re looking for a no-frills pickup.
Ram 1500 Classic
As Ram introduced the highly touted and much-lauded current version of the RAM 1500 full-size pickup truck, Ram execs decided to keep the previous generation in production to offer a value-focused alternative at lower prices. The strategy clicked, and the RAM 1500 Classic continues to roll out of Ram showrooms.
The Classic is available with either a 305-horsepower 3.6-litre V6 or a 395-horsepower 5.7-litre V8. Eight-speed automatic transmissions accompany both. The Ram-signature outstanding ride and handling are accomplished via a unique link-coil rear suspension. The 1500 Classic also features RamBox bedside storage, hidden bins, and a flat-load floor. Inside, it isn’t as high-luxe as the current Ram 1500, but it is certainly comfortable. It also has “Classic” badging located on the front fenders, and who doesn’t want to drive a classic?
Topping our list is the Toyota Tacoma. If you want a small truck that’ll help you blaze new paths off-road, haul gear to campsites, and transport you and your loved ones to new vistas, then the Tacoma is the truck for you. And 2017-to-present Tacomas are as rugged as ever, able to tow an estimated 6,800 lbs. with the 3.5L V6 engine and automatic transmission, when properly equipped. 1Toyota’s suite of driver aids also comes standard on all Tacomas starting with 2018 models, adding features such as forward collision warning, pedestrian detection, automatic emergency braking, and adaptive cruise control.
For 2019, the Toyota Tacoma SR5 comes standard with the following features:
- Leather-trimmed steering wheel
- Keyless entry
- Auto-dimming rearview mirror
- SiriusXM® satellite radio
It may be the best-seller in its segment, but the Toyota Tacoma just doesn’t measure up to the competition when putting it to the test. In addition to a cramped cabin and narrow bed, the Tacoma features a punishing ride and overly sensitive brakes. In our recent small truck comparison, where the Tacoma took the last place, we wrote that the engine and transmission “work in tandem about as well as a pack of cats and dogs.”
Pickup trucks are America’s favourite vehicle. They are useful, versatile hauliers of both things and people used by farmers, merchants, and consumers bent on recreation.