QOTD: How Little Truck Is Enough?

qotd how little truck is enough

Yesterday’s peek at the can’t-get-it-here Volkswagen Tarok got me thinking about the little trucks we’re not allowed to have anymore. You people buy too many F-150s, etc, you see, for domestic automakers to consider building wee pickups again, though we’ve been rewarded with a growing field of not-so-tiny midsizers, complete with upper midsize pricing. Pull up to a new Colorado in an old S-10 and be awed (and emasculated) by the difference in size.

Though capable and roomy enough for a young family, for some these new offerings might still represent too much truck. And, unlike in some markets, we can’t move down a rung on the ladder to find a snugger fitting pair of work boots. Nor can we bring those vehicles here. It’s entirely debatable whether American consumers — who’ve become used to having it all — would want to in this day and age, but we’re not here to talk about the average consumer. We’re talking about you, fella.

(Woman are encouraged to respond. Don’t send angry letters, please.)

Once upon a time, car-based alternatives existed to boxy, BOF trucks bearing big beds, and they came with front ends looking like your mom’s Malibu. If you were willing to give up a backseat, you — yes, you — could slide into a pickup capable of hauling a modest 800 pounds in its six-foot bed. Try stuffing the weight of four large men in the trunk of a downsized Malibu!

It’s easy to see why this concept, which thrilled buyers in the Sixties through Eighties, would fall flat today. The Chevy El Camino (as well as the Ford Ranchero) was often not enough car, nor enough truck, but to the single guy with a few minor projects on the go, it might have been perfect. However, a handful of single guys does not a greenlit development project make. OEMs want volume, and you get volume from families. Thus, four doors, seating for at least four, and serious cargo capacity seems to be the answer to everything today.

It’s no wonder, then, that the Tarok, which shares its basic architecture with everything from the Golf to the Atlas, has a payload of 2,205 pounds, more than a quarter ton more than a base S-10 from the mid 1990s. Hell, that’s more than a current-generation Colorado. The Tarok’s bed, measuring less than four feet before any magic happens, expands to over nine if you’re willing to risk tearing your front seatbacks while investing in a cargo-corralling bed extender. Once that rare trip to Lowe’s or Home Depot is over, the truck goes back into family hauler mode. Maybe you’ll shove your mountain bike back there one day.

While not destined for our shores (thank you, Lyndon Baines Johnson, among others), Hyundai’s exploring a similar vehicle for U.S. use, though its dimensions remain a mystery. The Korean automaker believes there’s buyers to be found in the sub-midsize segment (a segment which doesn’t currently exist), and it would like to be the one to break it open. You’ll just have to let them know you’ll drop everything to buy one. Hyundai doesn’t want a money-losing turkey on its hands, and as a result, it’s dragging its feet.

So, B&B, does the Tarok or the Santa Cruz concept appeal to you in any meaningful way? Is a crossover/pickup hybrid just too cute an idea, or is it something you’d actually consider for your driveway? On the same note, do you think this type of hybrid, small-ish pickup/ute is a valid proposition for the brash, high-riding US of A?

[Image: Pinterest, Volkswagen]

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  • Krhodes1 Krhodes1 on Nov 09, 2018

    I seriously don't get why anyone would want something like this. The mini trucklets are too small to be useful. I generally don't get pickups of any size. If you have a need to move some bulky/dirty/whatever cargo that you don't want IN your vehicle, put a $150 trailer hitch on and spend $14.95/day to rent a utility trailer from U-Haul. I have renovated two houses that way with two different VW Golfs (TDI and GTI). What won't go in the Golf or on a roof rack just gets towed on a trailer. Just took a 5x9 trailer of renovation debris and other crap to the county dump a week ago. You can load the crap in and out without having to worry about scratching the paint on your truck. And it's a heck of a lot easier to load and unload than a full-size truck, and can carry a lot more weight than most of them can. Cargo capacity in the bed of most of the 4dr Cowboy Cadillacs is actually quite pathetic, not that anybody really pays attention to that other than on forums like this one.

  • JD-Shifty JD-Shifty on Nov 09, 2018

    I still drive my 96 S-10 100 miles per day. Up to 475,000 miles now. many of you people have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on vehicles in the meantime. All in the name of worrying over a breakdown? silly.

  • DenverMike When was it ever a mystery? The Fairmont maybe, but only the 4-door "Futura" trim, that was distinctively upscale. The Citation and Volare didn't have competing trims, nor was there a base stripper Maxima at the time, if ever, crank windows, vinyl seats, 2-doors, etc. So it wasn't a "massacre", not even in spirit, just different market segments. It could be that the Maxima was intended to compete with those, but everything coming from Japan at the time had to take it up a notch, if not two.Thanks to the Japanese "voluntary" trade restriction, everything had extra options, if not hard loaded. The restriction limited how many vehicles were shipped, not what they retailed at. So Japanese automakers naturally raised the "price" (or stakes) without raising MSRP. What the dealers charged (gouged) was a different story.Realistically, the Maxima was going up against entry luxury sedans (except Cimarron lol), especially Euro/German, same as the Cressida. It definitely worked in Japanese automaker's favor, not to mention inspiring Lexus, Acura and Infiniti.
  • Ronnie Schreiber Hydrocarbon based fuels have become unreliable? More expensive at the moment but I haven't seen any lines gathering around gas stations lately, have you? I'm old enough to remember actual gasoline shortages in 1973 and 1979 (of course, since then there have been many recoverable oil deposits discovered around the world plus the introduction of fracking). Consumers Power is still supplying me with natural gas. I recently went camping and had no problem buying propane.Texas had grid problems last winter because they replaced fossil fueled power plants with wind and solar, which didn't work in the cold weather. That's the definition of unreliable.I'm an "all of the above" guy when it comes to energy: fossil fuels, hydro, wind (where it makes sense), nuclear (including funding for fusion research), and possibly solar.Environmental activists, it seems to me, have no interest in energy diversity. Based on what's happened in Sri Lanka and the push against agriculture in Europe and Canada, I think it's safe to say that some folks want most of us to live like medieval peasants to save the planet for their own private jets.
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  • MaintenanceCosts There's no mystery anymore about how the Japanese took over the prestige spot in the US mass market (especially on the west coast) when you realize that this thing was up against the likes of the Fairmont, Citation, and Volaré. A massacre.