Ask the Best and Brightest: Whatever Happened to Compact Pickups

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer

Ford’s announcement today that the new global Ranger won’t be coming to the US sure seems like a head-scratcher. Though Automotive News [sub] quotes Ford’s Alan Mulally as saying the Ford Ka won’t be sold stateside because “our view is that Fiesta is about the smallest vehicle that we think will be a real success in the United States,” there’s no similar reason given for the absence of a modern compact pickup from Ford’s lineup. Or anyone else’s lineup, for that matter. The Canyon/Colorado are going out of production since the Shreveport, LA, plant is part of Old GM liquidation Corp. The Dodge, er, make that Ram Dakota will die next year according to the new plans at Chrysler. The Tacoma is no longer properly compact, and Volkswagen’s Brazilian “Robust” won’t be coming here either. Hell, even the latter-day El Camino was stillborn. But if my flu-addled memory serves me correctly, didn’t compact pickups help pull the US market out of one of its last great downturns? Why is it that nobody is giving this segment the time of day?

Edward Niedermeyer
Edward Niedermeyer

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  • CarPerson CarPerson on Nov 10, 2009

    These small pickups are the backbone of municipal service fleets. Cheap, reliable, easy to fix. Ford, Chevy, and Dodge will never sell less, in total, than what was sold in 2008. All three are in critical need of updated powertrains, suspensions, and safety numbers.

    • Trk2 Trk2 on Nov 10, 2009

      The 2010 Ranger adds side impact air bags and roll stability control as standard features. The 2009 Ranger already had 5 star driver front and side impact ratings.

  • Martin Albright Martin Albright on Nov 10, 2009

    I've owned 4 small trucks in the last 24 years: An 85 Toyota 4x4, an 84 Mazda B2000 4x2, a 99 Ford Ranger Extended Cab 4x2, and a 2004 Toyota Tacoma 4x4. What happened to small trucks? Well, the biggest thing that happened was that things formerly thought of as luxuries became neccessities: My first two small trucks had no power steering, no stereo, no AC, and vinyl covered bench seats. The Toyota was a 4x4 that could return an honest 25mpg in mixed driving on its 4 cyl 22r engine, and the Mazda regularly exceeded 35mpg. Of course, they were painfully slow by the standards of the day - by today's standards (where a 0-60 time of more than 8 seconds is considered "slow") they would be considered dangerous (although I don't recall having any problems in any of them.) Their sub-100hp engines would not even be considered acceptable in a compact car today, much less in a truck. Furthermore, the paper-thin doors, lack of air bags, ABS, traction control, etc, would prevent them from even meeting modern safety standards. My 6' 1" frame barely fit in the Toyota and Mazda. The Ranger was much nicer, with its extended cab, air conditioning and 150hp 3.0l V-6 engine, it was much more pleasant to drive. Of course, that came with a cost: I rarely broke 20mpg on the Ranger, and the Tacoma, being a 4x4, did even worse. The previous commenters are right: When "small" trucks started requiring all the accoutrements of cars, they started getting "big" and once they became "big" it no longer made sense to get one, might as well just get a full size truck instead. When I owned my Ranger I frequented several Ranger forums, and noted that those who owned 4x4s with the 4.0l V-6 seemed to average 12-15mpg - about the same as an F-150, maybe worse! At that point, the only reason to prefer a mid-sized truck over a full size would be the lower initial cost. After that, everything favors the full size as it's bigger, more rugged, lasts longer, and will have a higher resale value. As for the market for new or redesigned compact trucks, I don't think it's there. First of all, as has been pointed out, the used market is flooded with cheap used trucks. Second, there's the old bugaboo of cognitive dissonance: People might say "I sure would like to have a truck like I had back in the day" but as soon as they see that it's got a bench seat, an AM radio, no air conditioning and manual crank windows, they'll pass it by in favor of the more blinged-out mid-size truck, or for a cheaper (but still fully loaded) used full size.

  • Accs Accs on Nov 10, 2009

    Hmmm 2010 Ranger has 5 star side and front impact... Something tells me.. that as a GRANDFATHER to the Exploder that has those ratings.. that just cant be good.

  • Johnny s Johnny s on Jul 19, 2011

    Well for me, I love my 2007 Chevy Colorado 5 cyl,4dr 4X4. Honestly runs smoother on the highway than any car I have ever driven, seats 4 or 5 comfortably and has an open bed plus an added towing package to the model I leased. My 4 year lease expires this month. There is NOTHING to beat it out there I see from all your comments, so I will keep it for a few more years and pay it off. I have never wanted a full-size pickup....couldn't parallel-park the darn thing in town anyway. This great compact truck is my CAR and can haul too when needed, can't beat it!!!!