Skip to main content

The crowded pickup truck market field is finally starting to evolve into something more diverse and inclusive for the modern truck user. Small pickup trucks are having a major comeback with the re-introduction of the 2022 Ford Maverick, the 2022 Honda Ridgeline, and the sporty and modern Hyundai Santa Cruz. 

Red 2022 Honda Ridgeline driving on a dirt road. It just earned the best buy badge for being one of the best small pickup trucks available.
2022 Honda Ridgeline | Honda

Thanks to the quality of the compact pickup truck game, we are seeing several great new pickups hit the market and even beat conventional full-size trucks. In fact, these unibody trucks are the only 2022 models that earned the “Best Buy” badge from Consumer Guide

What is the difference between unibody pickup trucks and body-on-frame trucks? describes this difference as “Unibody vehicles have the chassis and body of the car together. A body on frame vehicle has a frame which the vehicle stresses pass through, and the body of the car rests on top of this.”

Traditionally, cars had a unibody design, and trucks used body-on-frame. The most serious trucks and SUVs used for work and off-road fun tend to be built using the body-on-frame construction technique, while unibody was used for road-going cars to help them be more comfortable and smooth riding. 

The 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz is one of the best new small pickup trucks

2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz by the beach
2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz by the beach | Hyundai

Hyundai’s new pickup is shaking up the truck scene with a flair for the urban/adventure lifestyle. The 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz has recently debuted, and with it, one of the first truly small compact pickup trucks we have seen in a long time. 

The Hyundai Santa Cruz shares its chassis and most other bits with the Hyundai Tucson. So, although it may feel funky and fresh, it has the DNA of another unibody truck that we know and trust. The Hyundai Santa Cruz has loads of potential, and we are excited to see how the market responds to it once more of them are introduced into the wild. 

The 2022 Ford Maverick shows a lot of promise 

A red 2022 Ford Maverick parked at a beach.
2022 Ford Maverick | Ford

Ford’s newest small pickup truck takes the unibody truck platform and breaths new life into it. The 2022 Ford Maverick isn’t just a new small pickup truck; it is also very affordable. With prices starting just under $20k, there really isn’t another new truck that can compete with the Maverick on price. 

Like the Hyundai Santa Cruz, the 2022 Ford Maverick shares its underpinnings with another known model in Ford’s lineup, the 2021 Ford Bronco Sport. Also, the Ford Maverick is the only unibody pickup truck that offers a hybrid powertrain helping it to stand out among the rest of its ilk. Although the Maverick has a lot going for it, Consumer Guide does mention its tight cabin. However, that is kind of the point for small pickup trucks. 

The 2022 Honda Ridgeline is a great unibody pickup truck

Honda’s Ridgeline is the king of the small pickup. Honda’s unibody pickup truck shares basically everything with the Honda Pilot. Unlike the Ford Maverick or Hyundai Santa Cruz, the 2022 Honda Ridgeline has a fixed AWD system. The other two small pickups have optional AWD systems. 

Are there good small body-on-frame trucks? 

Electric Lime green 2022 Toyota Tacoma pickup truck with mountains in the background
2022 Toyota Tacoma | Toyota

Yes, there are good small unibody pickup trucks. Although not as popular, the 2022 Nissan Frontier is also a good small truck. Its all-new design, stylish looks, and new technology have launched the Frontier into a new light with truck buyers. The Toyota Tacoma, Jeep Gladiator, and Chevy Colorado are also exciting enough in their new iterations to be mentioned by Consumer Guide.

Overall, the mid-size pickup truck segment is booming. There are loads of interesting trucks hitting the market. The only trouble is deciding which one you might want. 

Which is the best small pickup truck? 

2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz in the woods. It didn't score as well on Consumer Reports as many had hoped.
2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz | Hyundai

As previously mentioned, the Ford Maverick is the only unibody pickup that offers a hybrid powertrain in the class—a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder paired with an electric motor comes standard on front-wheel-drive Mavericks. 

The Honda Ridgeline and Hyundai Santa Cruz both feature a lockable “trunk” under the cargo bed floor, and the Ridgeline has a dual-action tailgate that can be opened both down and to the left-hand side. 

The unibody architecture of the 2022 Ford Maverick, 2022 Honda Ridgeline, and the 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz means they offer better ride quality (think more like a crossover than truck) and all-around on-road refinement than the rest of body-on-frame pickup trucks. The downside of this truck style is that serious off-roading or hard work isn’t really in the cards. 

The Honda Ridgeline is the standout among new unibody pickup trucks. Although it has been slow to grow in popularity, it is gaining traction. More customers realize that the comfort and practicality of the Honda Ridgeline are hard to deny. Not to mention most drivers don’t need Earth-moving torque and a 10,000 lb+ towing capacity. The Honda Ridgeline is a satisfying, reliable small pickup truck that has waited patiently for its day in the sun. 

Hopefully, the 2022 Ford Maverick and 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz can gain traction a little sooner, and the small pickup truck segment can thrive once more. That said, the 2022 Honda Ridgeline and the Ford Maverick are the only 2022 small pickup trucks that earned the Best Buy badge from Consumer Guide this year.