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Asian Car BrandsIf most modern trucks feel too big, consider these...

If most modern trucks feel too big, consider these smaller haulers

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If you’re feeling full-size is too big, these smaller haulers just might fit the bill

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Know what’s wrong with full-size pickups these days? They’re TFB, for Too Friggin ‘Big. Which is not exactly what I call them, but that’s what my editor will allow.

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You crawl up into them, and slide back out of them. They offer optional steps or ladders, because you can’t reach into the bed. They’re a pain to park.

I own a 1995 Dodge Ram that I bought brand-new – the biggest half-ton you could buy that year, and now it looks midsize by comparison – and it has a higher towing and payload capacity than comparably-configured trucks today, because its combined weight rating isn’t eaten up by needless bulk.

“So,” my editor said, “if a big truck is too big, tell us the three midsize trucks you’d consider buying. ” So with the caveat that I don’t use my truck for work or hauling a big trailer, here are my choices.

Honda Ridgeline

I can hear the uproar from here: “WHAT ?! The Ridgeline isn’t even a real truck! ” Followed by “You obviously know nothing about trucks! ” I get that from macho truck guys any time I say something positive about the Ridgeline, which is based on an all-wheel-drive SUV, and powered by a 3.5L V6.

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I know the first and most important rule about trucks: The right truck is the one that does what you need it to do. Like many truck owners, I primarily haul air, but if I load it, the Ridgeline will haul up to 1,569 lbs, and tow up to 5,000 lbs. I really like the dual-action tailgate, which can open sideways like a door, so I’m not reaching across the lowered gate to access cargo. There’s an in-bed trunk, and a ton of storage space inside the cabin. If I get off the pavement, the Ridgeline is surprisingly more adept at tougher off-roading than you’d expect.

I’d get the mid-range EX-L, at $ 45,705, with heated front and rear seats, heated steering wheel (my new gotta-have-it feature), power-adjustable front seats, and satellite radio.

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GMC Canyon

The GMC Canyon and Chevrolet Colorado are mechanical twins, but I think the Canyon’s better-looking. I want the Crew Cab 4 × 4 with six-foot bed. The Extended Cab is cheaper, but I don’t like opening the front doors before I can open the rear ones. If another vehicle’s alongside, you have to keep opening and closing doors to access the rear cabin.

Engines include a 2.5L four-cylinder or 2.8L turbodiesel, but I’ll take the 3.6L V6, which makes 308 horsepower and 275 lb-ft of torque. It’ll tow 7,000 lbs and carry up to 1,475 lbs – more pull than the Ridgeline, but not as much payload. I’d get the Elevation trim for $ 41,298, and add the High Elevation package for $ 1,500, for its power-adjustable seat, and heated front chairs and steering wheel.

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Jeep Gladiator

The Gladiator is far more rugged than I need, but I really like this nicely-sized and fun – if pricey – truck. It looks like a stretched-out Wrangler, but sits on a single frame. Naturally, all Gladiator models are 4 × 4.

I’d get the mid-range Overland, which starts at $ 51,245 with a 3.6L V6 making 285 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque, and with a six-speed manual. A V6 diesel is available, but just as with the Canyon, I’ll stick with gasoline. I love diesel engines, but they cost more to buy and maintain, and I won’t be racking up the major miles needed to make a diesel pay for itself in fuel.

Tack on $ 700 for my heated seats and steering wheel (I truly hate being cold) and I’m good to go. This configuration will tow up to 4,000 lbs, and haul up to 1,140 lbs.

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The Also-Rans

That’s my truck trifecta. Others came close, but with just enough against them that they couldn’t topple my top three.

The Toyota Tacoma is an extremely popular truck – last year, it outsold my top three picks combined. It comes by it honestly, with a stout V6 engine, standard 4 × 4, and simple, intuitive controls. But the tall floor and low seating position stretch my legs out straight and it’s very uncomfortable, even with the available power-adjustable seat. I just get too cramped-up in the Tacoma on longer drives.

The Ford Ranger is a very good truck, too: it’s handsome, very comfortable, it’s intelligently-priced, and 4 × 4 comes standard. It comes with a 2.3L EcoBoost four-cylinder that makes 270 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque, and it’ll tow up to 7,500 lbs. It simply comes down to personal preference: I hang onto stuff (as evidenced by my 1995 truck) and I prefer the long-term simplicity of a non-turbocharged, naturally-aspirated engine.

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The Nissan Frontier is a stout, capable, and comfortable truck, but it’s thirsty, and undergoing an odd metamorphosis right now. There’s an all-new version for global markets, but for 2020 the US is selling the old body style with the new truck’s 3.8L engine, as it waits for the entirely-new truck to arrive. Canada was supposed to get that, too, but now Nissan is selling off its 2019 inventory and promising the old-truck-with-new-engine for 2021. For now, I’ll wait to see how that goes.


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