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How many of the following do you answer yes to:
- I like to go camping.
- I sometimes haul around building materials, lawn care equipment or large items like couches and refrigerators.
- I have friends who want me to help them move.
- I have a boat (or snowmobiles or ATVs) to tow.
- I feel safer in a large vehicle.
- I feel safer driving with four-wheel or all-wheel drive in ice and snow.
- I need a vehicle that seats five because I chauffeur kids to and from school and sports practice.
- I like a vehicle with a smooth ride.
- I prefer a vehicle that gets good gas mileage.
- I live in the city, and my garage isn’t getting any bigger.
If you answered yes to any of these – especially the last one – several automakers want you to know that they offer pickups you might be interested in, including small pickups that have spacious cabins, ample cargo space, car-like handling and impressive towing capabilities.
Consumer Reports writer Mike Monticello says that if you don’t need to carry super-heavy loads or pull a big trailer, a light-duty or a compact truck could be all the truck you need.
"Exterior appearance, safety and technology are now more important than ever," he says. "It also doesn’t hurt that pickups sit fairly high off the ground, with acres of glass, giving drivers a good view of the world outside."
Furthermore, many automakers now offer backing cameras and parking assist on pickups, making them more city-friendly than ever.
"The Silverado was redesigned for this year, and it’s really popular," says Josh Loll, sales consultant for Boucher Chevrolet of Waukesha. "It’s fine for some people who live in the city, but if you’re not looking at doing lots of ‘truck stuff,’ a Chevy Colorado is easy to park downtown."
The compact – sometimes called mid-size – pickup, he added, also is easier to maneuver through an urban condo’s parking structure.
Lesia Matthis, sales and leasing representative for Russ Darrow Honda of Milwaukee, says that compact pickups are for people "who want the capability of a pickup, but not a big, heavy-duty truck. It’s like an SUV with a truck bed. You can fit more into it than you can fit into a covered vehicle."
She says that people also use compact pickups as daily drivers: "They get good gas mileage, they have four doors, they seat five and the bed is there if you need it."
Reviewers note that today’s compact pickups come with lots of the same tech, comfort and safety features found in sedans, SUVs and crossovers, including quiet interiors, leather seats, heating steering wheels, child seat latch hooks, high-end sound systems, automatic emergency braking and lane-departure warning.
Here’s a rundown of some city-friendly pickups:
US News and Car and Driver chose the all-wheel drive Ridgeline as its number one mid-size pickup for 2019-20 because it "bucks traditional pickup trends such as butch styling and off-road capability in favor of comfortable accommodations and everyday practicality, innovative features and refined road manners."
CarProUSA.com calls Ridgeline "a pickup for urban-dwellers," saying, "This ain’t no cowboy truck. Leave those battered old boots behind when you climb in the urbane Ridgeline."
The site adds that the Ridgeline’s car-based unibody frame and independent rear suspension make it "a softer, gentler pickup" that gets 18 miles per gallon in town and 25 on the highway. Still, it can tow up to 5,000 pounds and incorporates "a slick 7.3-cubic-foot trunk into its cargo bed."
Chevrolet Colorado/GMC Canyon
Often referred to as "twins," these two, Autotrader.com says, are "capable, durable and reasonably priced alternatives to the full-size Silverado and Sierra. The website says their design is "cutting-edge." The Colorado comes in five trims that range from a $23,000 base rear-wheel drive model with no rear seats and manual transmission to an all-wheel drive gas-powered version that can tow up to 7,000 pounds and a diesel that can handle an additional 700 pounds.
In between, ascending trim levels add the likes of four-wheel drive, automatic transmission, 4G Wi-Fi hot spot, satellite radio, forward-collision warning and a leather-wrapped steering wheel.
The Ranger made a celebrated return to the marketplace in 2019 after a long absence. In its review, the Houston Chronicle says it’s "being marketed as the preferred truck for urban dwellers looking for something rugged, but sleek enough for city streets."
It comes in three trim levels and gives buyers eight exterior color options. Consumer Reports says that while it comes in fewer configurations than the full-size Ford F-150, the Ranger’s smaller dimensions "are more user-friendly, and it can still tow up to 7,500 pounds."
SuperCrew models have four full-size doors and a bed just over five feet long, while SuperCabs have smaller rear half doors and a 6.75-foot bed.
Another new model for 2020, the Gladiator, "capitalizes on the formula popularized by the Jeep Wrangler," Car and Driver says. It boasts trail-rated capability and excellent towing capacity.
It’s the only mid-size truck with a convertible top and removable doors and offers a "robust infotainment system and available driver-assistance technology."
Edmunds says the Tacoma is best-known for its off-road capability, but "steers confidently and feels stable under most circumstances." An upgrade to a 10-way adjustable driver’s seat for 2020 makes it the ride feel "dramatically" more comfortable.
Tacoma has a smallish payload area, Edmunds says, but can tow 6,800 pounds.
The bare-bones Frontier has not been significantly updated since 2005 – but reports say a redesigned model is due to arrive in late 2020. That could mean excellent deals on the outgoing iteration which, US News points out, already has the lowest starting price of any available pickup at $19,000.
Some upgrades, like a seven-inch touch screen (replacing a five-inch display) and amenities like Bluetooth, a rearview camera and standard air conditioning, have made the current model more appealing, according to US News.