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Big-truck power in a small package.

7 Best Small Trucks | CarMax

Small trucks are a great option if you're after pick-up capabilities but don't need tons of room. Here you'll find no shortage of models that can haul and transport people with easier maneuverability and more options for off-roading.

To help you narrow down your choices, we've compiled a help list of the seven best small trucks for 2020 shoppers, based on CarMax vehicle sales data from May 1, 2019 to October 31, 2019.

  1. Ford Explorer Sport Trac
  2. Ford Ranger
  3. Honda Ridgeline
  4. GMC Canyon
  5. Chevrolet Colorado
  6. Nissan Frontier
  7. Toyota Tacoma


07

Ford Explorer Sport Trac

Best Small Trucks: Ford Explorer Sport Trac | CarMax

Kicking off our list of the best small trucks is the Ford Explorer Sport Trac, which ended its production in 2010. Crossbred between an SUV and a pickup, this model is a well-rounded four-door vehicle that can handle the rigors of family life without forgoing utility. It rides on an extended Explorer wheelbase with a pickup-like bed in the back, which can hold up to 37.5 cubic feet of cargo across all model years. A 210-horsepower 4.0L V6 and a five-speed automatic transmission come standard on the 2010 Sport Trac, but Limited trims can opt for a 4.6L V8 with a six-speed automatic that cranks out 292 hp and 315 lb.-ft. of torque. With the V8 and 2WD, the 2010 version of this pickup can tow an estimated 7,160 lbs. when properly equipped.1

The 2010 Explorer Sport Trac Limited comes standard with:

  • 18-inch chrome-clad aluminum wheels
  • Chrome roof side rails and step-bar accents
  • Leather-trimmed seating with heated front bucket seats
  • 10-way power driver seat and four-way manual passenger seat
  • Locking hard tonneau cover

06

Ford Ranger

Best Small Trucks: Ford Ranger Lariat | CarMax

After taking a hiatus from production in 2011, the Ford Ranger returned with its fourth generation in 2019, boasting a redesign with a healthy dose of high-tech equipment and driver-assist features. Anchored by a turbocharged 2.3L four-cylinder with a 10-speed automatic transmission that generates 270 horsepower and 310 lb.-ft. of torque, the 2019 Ranger is more capable and powerful than ever before. When properly equipped, it can tow an estimated 7,500 lbs. and carry a max payload capacity of 1,860 lbs. with the 2.3L engine, which is serious muscle for a small truck.1 The available 4x4 drivetrain adds to the 2019 Ranger's adventurous personality.

Starting at the base level, the 2019 Ranger XL comes standard with:

  • Black front tow hooks (4x4 models)
  • Cloth upholstery
  • Rearview camera with Dynamic Hitch Assist
  • 4.2-inch display with SYNC® voice-recognition communication and entertainment system
  • Rear under-seat storage

05

Honda Ridgeline

Best Small Trucks: Honda Ridgeline | CarMax

If you are looking for a small truck that's a pleasure to drive, the Honda Ridgeline delivers beautiful handling and ride comfort. Second-generation Ridgelines (2017–2019) feature a unibody chassis with a fully-independent multi-link rear suspension for a more car-like driving experience compared to traditional body-on-frame trucks. Power flows from a 3.5L V6 engine with 280 horsepower and 262 lb.-ft. of torque connected to a smooth-shifting six-speed automatic transmission. All models from 2017 to 2019 come standard as a crew cab and an Intelligent Variable Torque Management™ AWD System is optional on all trims (except the base RT) for better stability in difficult road conditions. For 2017–2019 RTL-E and Black Edition trims, AWD comes standard.

The mid-range RTL-T includes the following features (2017–2019 models):

  • 18-inch wheels
  • Honda LaneWatch™
  • Eight-inch display with Apple CarPlay™ and Android Auto™ integration
  • Honda Satellite-Linked Navigation System™
  • Smart Entry with Walk Away Auto Lock®

04

GMC Canyon

Best Small Trucks: GMC Canyon | CarMax

The GMC Canyon might be a smaller truck—but there's nothing small about its performance. When properly equipped with the available turbocharged 2.8L four-cylinder diesel engine (181 horsepower and 369 lb.-ft. of torque) and the six-speed automatic transmission, 2017 to 2018 Canyon pickups can tow an estimated 7,700 lbs.1 Two other engine options are available as well: a standard 2.5L four-cylinder or an available 3.6L V6. No matter which powerplant you choose, the Canyon matches its strong performance with a maneuverable size and comfortable handling, making this a truck that you'll want to climb into every day.

Want to make a statement? The trim-topping Denali combines premium design with high-end materials, plus these standard features (2017–2018 models):

  • 20-inch ultra-bright machined-aluminum wheels
  • Five-inch chrome assist steps
  • Spray-on bed liner with Denali logo
  • Chrome fog-lamp bezels
  • Polished exhaust tip (V6 models only)

03

Chevrolet Colorado

Best Small Trucks: Chevrolet Colorado | CarMax

The Chevrolet Colorado is full of power and features. 2017–2019 models of this midsize pickup boast an estimated 7,700-lb. towing capacity when properly equipped with the available 2.8L turbo-diesel four-cylinder.1 But where this truck excels is in its off-roading capabilities. The ZR2 trim is made for adventuring with a 3.5-inch wider stance and two inches of front and rear lift (2017–2019 models) designed to climb over obstacles and rough terrain. You'll also get front and rear electronic locking differentials for precise traction and a Multimatic DSSV™ Damping System for a comfortable ride (2017–2019 models). And with one-touch terrain select for desert, mud, or mountainous conditions, this is a small truck that you can get down and dirty in.

2017–2019 Colorado ZR2 trims also include the following standard features:

  • 17-inch aluminum wheels
  • Off-road suspension
  • Transfer case shield
  • Leather-appointed seats with the ZR2 logo
  • Spray-on bed liner with the ZR2 logo

02

Nissan Frontier

Best Small Trucks: Nissan Frontier | CarMax

For an everyday pickup at home or at the job site, the Nissan Frontier is a practical choice. Available in two body styles, four-door crew cab or an extended cab with five-foot and 6.1-foot bed lengths (2017–2019 models), you'll have ample room to carry passengers and a full load of materials. Opting for the available 152-horsepower 2.5L four-cylinder engine with the five-speed manual transmission and 2x4 (2017–2019 models) returns an EPA-estimate of 19 mpg city and 23 mpg highway.2 Whether commuting between sites or running errands to the home improvement store, the Frontier is a versatile and competent small truck.

One step above the base trim is the SV, which includes the following standard features on 2017 to 2019 models:

  • 16-inch aluminum-alloy wheels
  • Keyless entry
  • Premium cloth upholstery
  • Sliding rear-cab window
  • Bed tie-down hooks

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Toyota Tacoma

Best Small Trucks: Toyota Tacoma | CarMax

Topping our list of the best small trucks is the Toyota Tacoma. This pickup will play nice on the pavement during your daily commute, but come five o'clock, it'll be ready to unleash itself for some off-roading fun. 2017 and newer models of the Tacoma feature high-strength steel in the frame and hot-stamped, ultra-high-strength steel as well as a double wishbone coil-spring front suspension and a leaf-spring rear suspension with staggered outboard-mounted gas shocks for a smooth and controlled ride. A 2.7L four-cylinder with 159 horsepower and 180 lb.-ft. of torque comes standard on 2017 to 2019 models, or you can opt for a 278-horsepower 3.5L V6 with 265 lb.-ft. of torque for a more gutsy performance.

If you are an off-roading enthusiast, the 2019 Tacoma TRD Pro is an easy choice. This model comes standard with:

  • 16-inch TRD Pro black alloy wheels with all-terrain tires
  • Electronically-controlled locking rear differential
  • TRD Pro front skid plate
  • Black TRD Pro leather-trimmed heated front seats
  • Active traction control (manual transmission only)

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As you can see, you don't always have to opt for a full-size pickup to get the power and performance you crave. Small trucks offer excellent utility, making them a versatile choice for daily driving or finding excitement on the road less traveled.

Want to learn more? Check out these related articles to help you in your search:

1Various factors may impact towing capacity, including weight of passengers, cargo, and options/accessories.
2Fuel economy figures are based on EPA estimates for when vehicle sold as new. Fuel economy may vary for reasons like driving conditions and vehicle history. Unless specified, figures are for vehicles equipped with an automatic transmission. See fueleconomy.gov.
Unless otherwise noted, information related to these featured vehicles comes from third-party sources, including manufacturer information. Product and company names may be trademarks™ or registered® trademarks of third-party entities. Use of them does not imply any affiliation with or endorsement by these entities.