One might think that the often-unpredictable state of fuel prices would make compact pickups the obvious choice for those who need a truck, yet want fuel economy that’s more in line with $4-a-gallon gas. But not so much. In general, this class has been fading—and shrinking—over the past decade.

Perhaps one reason is that compact pickups aren’t nearly as “compact” as they used to be. As such, moving up to a full-size pickup doesn’t cost as much in either fuel economy or dollars as it once did, making the “jump” seem more practical. Furthermore, some compact pickups have been a bit behind the times in terms of available features and technological sophistication, areas in which full-size pickups are constantly advancing.

Back in 2009, there were 12 models offered in the class. For 2017, there are only five. All of them come standard with rear-wheel drive except for the reintroduced Honda Ridgeline, which offers front-wheel drive. If you get a 4-wheel-drive model, it will have a part-time system that shouldn’t be left engaged on dry pavement due to the risk of excessive driveline wear. The exceptions are the GMC Canyon and Honda Ridgeline. The Canyon is available with a full-time 4-wheel-drive system that can be left engaged on dry pavement, and the Honda Ridgeline offers a permanently engaged all-wheel-drive system.

WHAT’S NEW FOR 2017

After a two-year hiatus, the Honda Ridgeline returns as a redesigned model. After its redesign last year, the Toyota Tacoma line adds an off-road-ready TRD Pro version. Information on the 2017 Chevrolet Colorado, GMC Canyon, and Nissan Frontier had not been released as of this writing. We don’t expect any major changes on the Colorado and Canyon; Nissan is said to be working on a redesigned Frontier, but it probably won’t appear until the 2018 model year. If so, the 2017 Frontier might receive a mild facelift and a few new features.

Vehicles in the Compact Pickup Truck class:

Chevrolet Colorado
GMC Canyon
Honda Ridgeline
Nissan Frontier
Toyota Tacoma