You’ve got to feel bad for compact pickup trucks. These vehicles are expected to take on tough jobs, have long-term reliability, and achieve outstanding fuel-efficiency, all while ensuring the driving is comfortable. Despite these lofty hopes, this segment hasn’t lived up to expectations as far as owners are concerned. Many are frequent entries on worst reliability lists, while others miss the mark with lackluster performance.
Are expectations set too high to be realistically achievable? That’s up for debate. However, one thing is sure; compact pickup trucks are not darlings in the reviews.
Consumer Reports’ overall compact pickup truck ranking features two clear favorites. Meanwhile, the rest of the class leaves a lot to be desired. Notably, the publication did not test the 2020 Nissan Frontier as of the time of this writing. Thus, it will be excluded from any critique.
Why do most of these compact pickup trucks leave critics wanting more? And why is the segment as a whole so underwhelming? Let’s evaluate what Consumer Reports liked about its favorites and disliked about the underperformers.
The good: Compact pickup trucks with a 65+ overall vehicle score
We’ll start with the elephant in the room. Consumer Reports didn’t identify any excellent compact pickup trucks. The Honda Ridgeline is the highest-rated entry with an overall rating of just 76. Nevertheless, the publication recommends the Ridgeline, as well as the 65-overall-rated Ford Ranger.
These trucks aren’t perfect, but both were lauded for impressive handling and above-average fuel economy ratings. The 2020 Honda Ridgeline gained extra favor due to its exceptional ride/noise quality, innovative features, and standard driver-assistance technologies.
The bad: Compact pickup trucks with a 45+ overall vehicle score
Getting a 47 in school would result in an ‘F’ grade, but when it comes to compact pickup trucks, it’s worthy of a bronze medal. The 2020 Toyota Tacoma (47 vehicle score) might just be the best option for shoppers who aren’t keen on the Ridgeline or Ranger. Consumer Reports chastised the Tacoma for its stiff ride, poor handling, and uncomfortable cabin. However, the Tacoma’s standard safety systems are a rarity in the compact pickup truck class, which earned it extra favor.
The pricey, off-road-capable 2020 Jeep Gladiator (46 vehicle score) slots behind the Tacoma. The all-new Gladiator can dominate unforgiving terrain, but Consumer Reports found it to be noisy on the road. This Jeep is tailored to a specific audience who likely plans on taking this pickup off-road and won’t likely be concerned with many of its faults. However, the Gladiator’s lack of a left footrest will bug anyone who sits behind the wheel.
The ugly: Compact pickup trucks under a 45 overall vehicle score
A pair of cousins bring up the rear, as GM has a poor showing in the compact pickup truck segment. The 2020 Chevy Colorado and 2020 GMC Canyon bottom out with identical vehicle scores of just 37. On the plus side, these pickups have a lower starting MSRP than the competition. Additionally, both models scored slightly better in the road test than all other entries except the Honda Ridgeline.
The praise ends there, as the Colorado and Canyon come up short in a myriad of ways. Both fail to deliver the heavy-duty performance that drivers expect. The publication noted GM’s available 308-hp V6 engine didn’t provide enough low-end torque as one would hope.
Another significant issue was interior quality and comfort. Consumer Reports’ shared review of the Colorado and Canyon stated, “The real deal-breakers here are the seats and driving position. The front seats were universally scorned by our testers for being too stiffly padded. The bottom seat cushion didn’t adjust for tilt, creating a pressure point beneath your thighs.”
These trucks, as well as the rest of the class, can learn a thing or two from the class-leading 2020 Honda Ridgeline. Workdays are tough enough, and people need a moment to relax. With that in mind, manufacturers should focus on building a truck people enjoy driving. That means having a quiet, comfortable cabin that’s rich with technology – just like the increasingly popular Honda Ridgeline.