Best Compact & Small Trucks of 2019
When it comes to choosing a pickup truck, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. There are dozens of different varieties, sizes and price tags. It gets especially confusing when you remember that a pickup’s classification as small or midsize is dependent not on its length or body style, but on its weight. The U.S. Department of Transportation places vehicles into classes based on their Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR). Class 1 includes SUVs and small-to-midsize pickup trucks.
If you’re looking for a truck that can put in some work on the weekends and has an affordable price, you’re likely looking at a small or midsized pickup, as they tend to be far cheaper than their full-size or heavy-duty counterparts.
Below are the five best small and mid-size pickups on the market
- 2019 Nissan Frontier
- 2019 Chevrolet Colorado
- 2019 GMC Canyon
- 2019 Toyota Tacoma
- 2019 Honda Ridgeline
How we chose the best small trucks
To come up with the top five small pickups, we looked at seven models currently on the market. We evaluated each truck based on expert ratings from Kelley Blue Book (KBB), consumer ratings on Edmunds, and rankings by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). For consumer reviews, we included the number of reviews posted at publication; scores are up-to-date at time of publishing. We considered each truck’s capabilities and features, including towing capacity, payload capacity and technology. Vehicles that have not been rated yet by the NHTSA or IIHS were eliminated. That includes the much-anticipated redesign of the popular Ford Ranger. Though on sale, it’s so new that it’s not yet rated by KBB.
2019 Nissan Frontier
- $18,990 MSRP
3.8 out of 5 by KBB experts; 4.0 out of 5 by consumers on Edmunds (3 reviews)
4 stars NHTSA
Despite being the cheapest car on our list, the 2019 Nissan Frontier has some nice standard features, including rear-view camera, Bluetooth, and color display. It’s an affordable mid-size pickup capable of handling your projects; it has a towing capacity of about 6,500 pounds when you upgrade to the V6 engine (3,500 on the base). It’s noted for its excellent ride and handling and a spacious crew cab that makes driving it a comfortable experience — experts note rear passengers may feel cramped. The V6 engine boasts a 261-horsepower, and off-road capability, it’s an excellent choice for someone in need of a weekend warrior. However, you should keep in mind that it got marginal and poor ratings in several areas for safety, according to the IIHS. NHTSA gave it four stars overall but noted safety concerns.
- $21,300 MSRP
4.4 out of 5 by KBB experts; 4.7 out of 5 by consumers on Edmunds (3 reviews)
4 stars NHTSA
“Marginal” rating in some areas by IIHS
If you don’t have a need for the extreme towing capacities of a full-size pickup, the 2019 Chevrolet Colorado is a smart compromise. With the ability to tow up to 7,700 pounds with the turbodiesel option, it’s plenty strong enough for towing boats or trailers. And, it’s more fuel-efficient and easier to drive than a full-size truck. In fact, it’s the most fuel-efficient midsize pickup truck, with 30 mpg on the highway. There are three engines to choose from: a standard 2.5L 4-cylinder, a 3.6L-DOHC V6, and a Duramax 2.8L Turbo-Diesel engine. If you want to go off-roading, you should know that you have to pay a premium to upgrade to the ZR2 package. That will add more than $20,000 to the price tag; the ZR2 trim starts at $41,695. The cab can be a bit tight for larger people, and it has less cargo space with the rear seats folded compared to other vehicles. The Colorado received “good” marks for most areas from IIHS.
2019 GMC Canyon
- $21,500 MSRP
4.2 out of 5 by KBB experts; consumer reviews unavailable on Edmunds
4 stars NHTSA
“Good” rating in most areas from IIHS
The GMC Canyon offers more standard features than the Nissan Frontier or the Toyota Tacoma, including high-tech perks and an updated interior. It features a new infotainment system that includes an HD rearview camera, wireless phone charging and parking sensors. It’s offered both in crew cab or extended-cab configurations, giving you up to a six-foot bed. The cab of the GMC Canyon may feel more cramped than some of the other trucks on this list. It’s best for people who only have two people in the truck at a time. It also lacks some of the more advanced driver-assist technology features, like parking assist or lane assist.
- $25,550 MSRP
4.3 out of 5 by KBB experts; 4.8 out of 5 by consumers on Edmunds (12 reviews)
4 stars NHTSA
If you need a workhorse truck at a more manageable price, the Toyota Tacoma might be for you. With more than 30 different configurations, driving up the price to a starting $42,660 for the TRD Pro, you can tailor the truck to meet your needs, including towing, off-roading, or handling high payloads. However, it’s scarce on features that come standard in other vehicles. It lacks options like a diesel engine or power seats. With a towing capacity of 3,500 pounds on the base model — 6,400 on upper trim levels — it’s a solid pickup truck. It’s an excellent off-roading vehicle, but that means it’s much taller than other vehicles, making it more difficult for smaller drivers to get in an out. It receives “good” rankings in most areas from IIHS.
- $29,990 MSRP
4.3 out of 5 by KBB experts; 4.7 out of 5 by consumers on Edmunds (37 reviews)
5 stars NHTSA
With the Honda Ridgeline, you get the comfort of an SUV with the power of a mid-size pickup. However, that comfort results in smaller working ability: it can hold just 1,500-pound payload and has a maximum 5,000-pound towing capacity, the lowest on this list, despite it being the most expensive. It lacks the diesel engine, all-wheel-drive systems, and various bed sizes that other trucks offer. However, the tradeoff is a better ride. It’s quieter and more comfortable than other small or midsize pickups, and has faster acceleration off its 280-horsepower engine. It has the highest safety rating from the NHTSA than any vehicle listed here, and has rave reviews from both experts and consumers. It also received “good” rankings in most areas from IIHS.
Ways to finance the best compact truck
If you decide that a small or mid-size pickup is right for you, it’s important to understand all of your financing options before going into a dealership. While many people finance through the dealer without researching other lenders, doing so can put you at a disadvantage. By contrast, getting your own financing through a bank, credit union or online lender gives you more power at the negotiation table. Best of all, you can compare auto loan offers online from lenders in just a few minutes.
MSRPs and other fees mentioned in this article are accurate as of the date of publishing.