Generally, when you think of trucks, there are three — maybe four — that come to mind almost instantaneously. That would be the Ford F-150, the Ram 1500, the Silverado, and perhaps the Toyota Tundra. Together, those three (not so much the fourth) make up the bulk of the pickup industry and account for a pretty serious portion of American auto sales.
However, as those trucks have ballooned in both size and price, there’s a smaller and vocal minority that’s pushing for some change — for more smaller trucks, a segment that has been greatly neglected over the past few years. With the Chevrolet Colorado and the GMC Canyon, General Motors is jumping back into the mid-size truck pool to offer an undercutting class of vehicle for those who may not need to tow 10,000 pounds on a regular basis, and are looking for a truck that can double as a capable daily driver.
A big characteristic of midsize trucks is fuel economy; although full-size pickups have made great gains in efficiency without compromising space or capacity, they still are not exactly “efficient” vehicles, and if you commute a fair distance each day, a few MPGs can make a big difference over time. Therefore, full-size pickups aren’t exactly favorable means of transportation for those who just need a quick tow here and there, or a weekly pick up or drop off, but still rely on the truck as a daily commuter. But unfortunately, it has only been the full-size trucks that have been getting regular attention.
That is, with the exception of the Canyon and Colorado, from here on out referred to as “the siblings.” The Toyota Tacoma and Nissan Frontier now dominate the small pickup industry, but both have suffered from heavy neglect — and as a result, don’t offer much that the new full-sizers can’t. However, the siblings are about to kick things up a notch, as they’ve registered class-leading fuel economy, according to official EPA estimates.
In their four-cylinder layout (that’s a 2.5 liter unit that produces about 200 horsepower and 191 pound-feet of torque), the trucks will manage 20 miles per gallon around town and net as much as 27 miles per gallon on the highway, in rear-wheel drive and six-speed manual settings. That leaves it at 22 miles per gallon combined which, frankly, is rather underwhelming. If you move to the automatic and four-wheel drive, those figures decline to 19 city, 25 highway, and 21 combined. Overall, those figures are just a hair improved over the fuel economy of the V6.
There are a couple of problems with these figures, however. Firstly, they really don’t represent much of an improvement over the four-cylinders offered in both the Nissan and the Tacoma, and that’s a problem: those engines are aging, and as new products, the two trucks are supposed to offer improvements over the existing models. That’s hardly the issue, though. The real problem is that right now, for the first time, full-size trucks are eying 30 miles per gallon on the highway, and 20 in the city isn’t hard to come by anymore.
Yes, the siblings are more affordable than their respective Silverado and Sierra cousins, but a smaller truck should also have the benefit of being more efficient. The two are pushing out worse numbers on four cylinders that a diesel Ram 1500 can push out with six. That might prove to be the siblings’ saving grace: a 2.8 liter diesel option will be available next year on the 2016 models, and based on the fuel efficiency ratings for the gasoline options, your best bet is probably to wait on the oil-burner that will offer better fuel economy coupled with more torque.
Given the complacency that the midsize truck segment has fallen into, GM had a big opportunity to easily surpass the two very mature trucks still available. Instead, it met the bar — but didn’t raise it, at least yet. That job will be left up to the diesel when it has released; by then, however, Toyota and Nissan may be well on its way to an answer to the impending arrivals to the segment.