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The hotly contested and tumultuous compact pickup trucks segment continues to evolve. Once upon a time, traditional body-on-frame compact pickup trucks, like the Chevrolet Colorado, resembled shrunken versions of their full-size corporate kin. Over the last few decades, compact unibody trucks, like the Honda Ridgeline, climbed to the top without a full-size role model, and relative newcomers, like the Ford Maverick, have rolled over previous top-ranked models as the old guard tumbles to the bottom. The Ford vs. Chevy truck debate started in 1918 when the first Chevrolet truck joined Ford in the consumer market, and the battle for the best compact pickup truck continues to this day.

2023 Ford Maverick

A white 2023 Ford Maverick Tremor compact pickup truck model parked near mounds of plowed dirt at a worksite
2023 Ford Maverick Tremor | The Ford Motor Company

The 2023 Ford Maverick placed fourth on the U.S. News list featuring the nine “Best Compact Pickup Trucks for 2022 and 2023.” The Maverick starts at around $22,000 for the XL SuperCrew cab with front-wheel drive (FWD). Upgraded models include the XLT and Lariat, with all three models featuring an option for all-wheel drive (AWD), and XLT and Lariat adding the option for Advanced AWD. 

The U.S. News review gave the affordable Maverick extra credit for its fuel-efficient powertrains that offer decent power, composed handling, and a spacious upscale interior. However, the Maverick’s low 2,000- to 4,000-lb towing capacity and small 4-foot-6-inch truck bed hold it back compared to the competition. Available powertrains range from a 191-horsepower hybrid model to a 250-hp EcoBoost. Gas mileage estimates range from the EcoBoost’s 22 city mpg and 29 highway mpg to the Maverick Hybrid’s 42 city mpg and 33 highway mpg.

The Maverick EcoBoost features a 250-hp turbo-charged four-cylinder backed by an eight-speed automatic transmission. Maverick’s Hybrid powertrain uses a four-cylinder engine paired with an electric motor to produce 191 horsepower and a continuously variable transmission (CVT). Either powertrain features FWD, but AWD requires the EcoBoost powertrain. 

The Maverick’s unibody design allows for a more forgiving ride than body-on-frame trucks, and it handles sweeping turns with little body roll. Still, its rigid suspension transmits road irregularities into the cabin. Inside the cab, you’ll find an exciting mix of trim materials, an 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system, and seating for five, although to be comfortable, three of those five should be kids. 

2022 Chevy Colorado

The 2022 Chevy Colorado starts at $26,135 for the base Work Truck model with two-wheel drive, an extended cab, and a 128-inch wheelbase. Other models include the LT, Z71, and ZR2 in various combinations of two-wheel or four-wheel drive, extended cab or crew cab, and a 128-inch or 141-inch wheelbase. Unlike the unibody design of the Maverick, the Chevy Colorado features body-on-frame construction. 

U.S. News praised the 2022 Colorado for its towing capacity, smooth ride with ample comfortable seating, precise handling, and user-friendly infotainment system. However, the truck’s poor-quality cabin materials, weak base engine, and absence of some driver assistance features kept it low on the list. Colorado powertrains range from a 181-hp turbo-diesel to a 308-hp V6, but the base engine offering is a 200-hp four-cylinder. The gas engine powertrains get an estimated 19 mpg in the city and 25 mpg on the highway with the four-cylinder and 18/25 mpg with the V6, while the turbo-diesel gets 20 city mpg and 30 highway mpg with the more expensive diesel fuel. Opting for four-wheel drive drops the estimated ratings by about 1 mpg across the board. 

While the Chevy Colorado’s interior is comfortable, it’s not as lovely as the Maverick’s. However, the Chevy Colorado shines off-road and when towing a trailer. The Colorado ZR2 also features locking front and rear differentials, hill descent control, and a heavy-duty suspension to enhance its off-road capability. Additionally, the adequately equipped Colorado boasts a 7,700-lb towing capacity with the turbo-diesel engine. 

The best compact pickup truck

The 2023 Honda Ridgeline tops the U.S. News list starting at $38,800. The Ridgeline’s high price includes AWD, a 280-hp V6, and a roomy, upscale interior with “SUV-like comfort.” Of course, for the price, you could buy an SUV with more comfort and better fuel economy or a full-size truck with more towing capacity and interior space. Still, as a compact truck, the Ridgeline is good at everything without being remarkable in any category. 

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