Trucks have gained enormous popularity in the United States. Consumers are shying away from passenger vehicles and embracing the power of a pickup truck. In 2019, light trucks consisted of 69 percent of all new vehicle sales. With such a heightened interest in the truck market, the road testers at Cars.com decided to see which model came out on top for midsize trucks.
The best midsize truck
Cars.com compared the 2019 Honda Ridgeline RTL-E AWD, the 2019 Ford Ranger Lariat 4×4, the 2020 Jeep Gladiator Overland 4×4, and the 2019 GMC Canyon 4WD Denali. All of the vehicles were crew cab models with four-wheel or all-wheel drive and priced from $42,965 to $55,840.
After a rigorous road test, the Honda Ridgeline came out on top. It ranked number one on the Cars.com list, winning the honor of best midsize truck. The Ridgeline is also the 2020 U.S. News choice for number one in midsize pickup trucks.
An interesting scoring system
To determine the best midsize truck, Cars.com used an interesting 600 point scoring system. First, they developed 19 categories that were either subjective or based on actual measurements.
All of the trucks were tested with 1,000 pounds of payload and again with an empty cargo bed. Exterior appeal and styling were not considered in the scoring system since beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
According to Cars.com, they tested the trucks for:
“cargo boxes and provisions, ride, handling, fuel economy, front and backseat comfort and amenities, interior quality, safety and driver assistance features, user interface, multimedia and connectivity, child-safety seat fitment, and value.”
The look of the truck did not come in to play at all. Every category was assigned a set of points, with 600 being the highest attainable score.
How the Honda Ridgeline compared to other trucks
The Honda Ridgeline scored the highest among all of the midsize trucks, receiving an overall score of 425 points. The 3.5-liter V-6 performed well, proving its ability to handle anything that was thrown at it.
The road testers at Cars.com felt that the Ridgeline offered a comfortable ride and was “the most family-friendly in this test by far.” The Ridgeline won in nine of the judging categories, with judges concluding that for “shoppers who see the value in having all the pluses of a roomy, comfortable SUV plus the advantages of a pickup bed when they need one, the Ridgeline is an excellent compromise.”
The second-place winner, receiving 407 points, was the Ford Ranger Lariat. The judges were impressed with the truck’s power but were turned off by the outdated interior and small back seat. The Ford Ranger received top marks for its performance in the instrumented testing, both with and without a full payload.
The powerful 2.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine helped the truck take first place in three categories. It scored top honors for fuel efficiency, top acceleration times, and powertrain capabilities.
The Jeep Gladiator came in third place in the Cars.com midsize truck comparison competition. Judges concluded that the look and feel of the truck was unlike any of the others, but this didn’t help in scoring.
The Gladiator ranked last place in five of the designated categories. While Jeeps are known for their superior off-road performance and open-air abilities, those factors were not considered in testing the vehicle. Judges concluded that the Gladiator looked great but was nothing more than a Jeep Wrangler with a pickup bed.
Pulling up the rear in last place was the GMC Canyon Denali, scoring a mere 358 points. The verdict from judges at Cars.com was that “with its stiff ride, numb brakes, unremarkable interior and a dearth of advanced safety features, the Canyon felt outclassed in most respects.”