The availability of small pickup trucks – once a large and statistically significant portion of the American pickup market — has dwindled in recent years, as buyers seem lured to larger vehicles with more features, bigger towing capacity, and considerably higher MSRPs. In fact, as of this writing, there are just two small pickups still on the American market — the Toyota Tacoma and the Nissan Frontier. Neither have seen much attention in numerous years, aside from some light cosmetic tweaks.
The segment will be getting quite a bump come this autumn, however, as General Motors plans to release a new Chevrolet Colorado and its sibling, the GMC Canyon. GM ceased the production of the previous generation in 2012, a year after Ford ended its production cycle of the beloved Ranger. Since then, the Tacoma and Frontier have had the segment all to themselves.
Generally speaking, people buy pickup trucks because they have a regular need to haul goods, equipment, waste, or tow things like boats or trailers. For these consumers, it can be argued that there’s a “might as well” factor at play — ‘we carry and tow a lot, so we might as well buy a bigger truck,’ they might say. As a result, large pickup sales have never been better.
There’s much less of a demand for smaller trucks, however. Fewer people seem interested in scaling down; they’re content with the improving fuel economy of the larger trucks, and so smaller vehicles just aren’t worth the constant updating and refreshing that popular models are subjected to.
For General Motors, though, there’s an alternative market that it’s hoping to take advantage of: crossover utility vehicle shoppers, or CUVs. Despite America’s love affair with the midsize sedan, SUVs — including CUVs — have taken over as the most popular segment of vehicle in the U.S., as fuel economy improves and is mated with nearly unrivaled versatility.
GM is reportedly so bound by the idea that CUV drivers will consider its new small truck offerings that Autoblog noted that, “The engineering and marketing teams were possessed of this notion enough to bring along a Ford Escape as one of the competitive drives for our test day in Milford,” it said.
Details of Autoblog’s drive were scant given the info is under a strict embargo for the time being, but overall, the idea is this: the interiors of the new Chevy and GMC trucks have the potential to offer the creature comforts you’d expect in an SUV. This isn’t a cardboard dash sporting, vinyl-laden workhorse of old. The new trucks flow very much in the same vein as the larger ones, which have been swimming consistently upmarket.
“Looking deeper, we can also see that the new trucks will probably offer reasonable tradeoffs in terms of utility, performance, mileage, space and price,” Autoblog said. “Just comparing base models, the Chevy Canyon’s 2.5-liter four-cylinder, rated at 200 horsepower and 191 pound-feet of torque, is slightly stronger than the average output of four-bangers from Ford, Honda, and Toyota small crossovers. Now, the Canyon is likely to be somewhat thirstier than the 26 combined miles per gallon that those three offer, but it’ll do so will the decided boost in tow/haul utility is the most obvious pickup strong suit.”
Think of these trucks, then, as the new alternative for the outdoor enthusiasts who spend considerable time moving bicycles, skis or snowboards, surfing paraphernalia, kayaks and canoes, paddle boards, and other equipment that might require a roof rack or a generous trunk. With the crew cab fitted, pickups these days offer cabin space that’s comparable to that of, say, a Toyota RAV4 or a Chevrolet Equinox.
Pricing will likely be hanging around the low $20,000s to start, though that figure could rise dramatically as engines, equipment, and options drive the price up. A key feature of the new trucks will be the 2.8 liter turbo-diesel engine, which will be joining the lineup next year for the 2016 model year vehicles.
We have little doubt that regardless of what segment the Colorado and Canyon draw its sales from, it will prove to be formidable opponents to the two incumbent leaders, and — hopefully — will re-ignite America’s passion for small, functional, and efficient pickup trucks.