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 still want decent fuel economy. 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 2018, there are only five. All of them come standard with rear-wheel drive except for the reintroduced-for-2017 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 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2, GMC Canyon, and Honda Ridgeline; the specialized ZR2 model of the Colorado lineup and all Canyon models are 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.
The Chevrolet Colorado, GMC Canyon, and Honda Ridgeline updates are detailed in their respective Best Buy reviews. The Nissan Frontier gets a standard rearview camera, additional standard equipment on the base model, and a Midnight Edition appearance package. The Toyota Tacoma gets additional standard safety equipment and minor grille updates; the 4-cylinder engine loses its available 5-speed manual transmission, but the 6-speed manual continues to be available on 4×4 V6 models.