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Buying a compact or midsize truck in 2022 is challenging. There are so many excellent options that choosing the perfect one for your needs isn’t easy. That’s when most people turn to experts like U.S. News & World Report for their opinion on buying the best models. However, sometimes those publications offer surprising opinions, naming less popular models as some of the best options. That’s the case with U.S. News, which has a top three compact trucks list that might surprise you. The Nissan Frontier, Hyundai Santa Cruz, and Honda Ridgeline made the list.

3. 2023 Nissan Frontier is one of the best compact trucks

2023 Nissan Frontier Pro-4X off-roading
2023 Nissan Frontier Pro-4X | Nissan

First, U.S. News named the 2023 Nissan Frontier as the third-best compact truck. Other reviewers often have the Frontier closer to the bottom, so this is a surprising one. However, U.S. News gave it a 7.8/10 overall, making it better than nearly every model in the class. Highlighting the model are a strong V6 engine, balanced ride and handling, and pleasing cabin quality. Together these attributes make the truck comfortable and satisfying to drive.

For the new model year, the only significant change is the Midnight Edition. The 2023 Nissan Frontier is now available in Midnight Edition, a special version of the midsize model. It adds special design cues like 17-inch black aluminum alloy wheels, black exterior/interior trim, a black grille, black badging, and a few functional changes like LED headlights.

2. 2023 Hyundai Santa Cruz is even better

2023 Hyundai Santa Cruz vs. 2023 Ford Maverick
2023 Hyundai Santa Cruz | Hyundai

As far as the best compact truck goes, the new Hyundai Santa Cruz is nearly the best. On U.S. News’ list, it ranks second overall in just its second model year. It’s also one of the smallest options in the class, often called compact instead of midsize. On the plus side, it’s only $25,450 for the base model. As an affordable truck, the Santa Cruz has an advantage over many competitors.

In addition to its low starting price, the Santa Cruz excels elsewhere. U.S. News says it has a comfortable cabin, a long list of standard features, a powerful optional turbocharged engine, and creative cargo storage features. With all this in mind, the Santa Cruz covers all bases for an affordable, smooth-riding, comfortable pickup with drivability for every day.

1. Is the 2023 Honda Ridgeline the best midsize truck?

The best overall midsize truck is less surprising than the others on U.S. News’ list. For 2022 and 2023, many reviewers have named the Honda Ridgeline as a top-ranked model. Unfortunately, it’s one of the most expensive vehicles in its class, starting at $38,800. However, the extra cost shows itself through high-quality materials and a luxurious cabin.

The publication highlights of Honda’s truck include a spacious and upscale interior, a polished ride and handling, and a potent V6 engine. The standard 280-horsepower engine is one of the most powerful base engines in the midsize truck category. Additionally, it’s rating of 18 mpg in the city and 24 mpg on the highway is better than expected. Most prominently, the upscale cabin shines through. U.S. News described it perfectly: “Overall, it’s a step above the boomy and dull interiors of most compact pickups.”

Top 3 compact trucks might surprise you

In conclusion, U.S. News’s list of best compact trucks has a few surprises. Mainly the top three, which feature two models not often found this high in many rankings. The Hyundai Santa Cruz and Nissan Frontier are usually found closer to the bottom. However, U.S. News found there is a lot to like in these refreshing models, and agree with many others that the Honda Ridgeline’s posh interior makes it one of the best options for 2023.


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