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Photo by McChizzle / Wikimedia Commons / CC0 1.0

Best Compact Trucks 2016: From Honda Ridgeline to Chevrolet Colorado

Today’s compact trucks handle just as smoothly as cars but are more utilitarian. Modern technology, such as touch-screen cabin operation, merges with powerful engine capabilities and versatility over all types of terrain, making compact trucks a great choice for all lifestyles. While it may be difficult to choose which truck best meets your needs, the following run-down of 2016’s top-rated pickups may help you narrow down the options.

2016 Chevrolet Colorado

Available as an extended cab or crew cab, the re-vamped 2016 Chevrolet Colorado boasts a sleek exterior and an attractive, upscale interior with plenty of modern features. The Colorado’s base MSRP is $23,980 for an extended cab.

Few trucks in the same class rival the strength and efficiency of the Colorado’s powerful turbo-diesel engine, which can tow massive loads weighing up to 7,700 pounds. The Colorado’s maximum hauling capacity is 1,580 pounds, and it gets upwards of 31 mpg on the highway and between 15-22 in the city.

With standard rear-wheel drive and a tight turning radius, driving the 2016 Chevrolet Colorado feels as smooth as driving a luxury sedan. Four-wheel drive and off-road suspension are among the optional features that you may want to spring for if you plan to take your Colorado off the asphalt.

While the Colorado’s seats could provide a bit more support, both its crew and extended cab models offer lots of legroom in the front row. The available infotainment system has an 8-inch touch screen that’s extremely responsive and user-friendly, and every Colorado trim has a standard rear-view camera for exceptional visibility even when you’re hauling a big load.

2017 Honda Ridgeline

Among compact pickup trucks, the 2017 Honda Ridgeline offers the smoothest ride. The 2017 Ridgeline is the model’s first revision since 2014, and it’s available in several different trims to accommodate a variety of driving needs. The base trim, the RT, starts around $29,500. On the other end of the Ridgeline’s price spectrum are the RTL-E and Black Edition trims, which are equipped with standard all-wheel drive and have an MSRP in the range of $40,000 and up.


The Ridgeline has plenty of horsepower, clocking in at 280, but its towing capacity leaves something to be desired. Standing out from similar vehicles in its class, the Ridgeline base model has front-wheel drive, but it can handle varied terrain with ease and offers a supremely cushioned ride. The Ridgeline’s base V6 engine can climb hills without bogging down, and its roomy interior is akin to that of a luxury sedan. The throne-like driver’s seat provides an exceptional vantage point for keeping your eyes on the road, and there’s plenty of leg room in both the front and rear seats.

Another standout feature of the Ridgeline is its impressive in-bed sound system. The Ridgeline’s standard technological features include a push-button start and a seven-speaker audio system with a USB port, Bluetooth capability, and 5-inch display screen. Some users find the Ridegeline’s touch-screen confusing to operate, but that’s a small price to pay for an in-bed power outlet and under-bed storage trunk with a drain plug to prevent rust.

2016 GMC Canyon

The GMC Canyon’s basic look and four-cylinder base engine may not wow every driver, but its exceptional fuel economy and reasonable price tag make the Canyon stand out. The MSRP for the Canyon’s base model is in the ballpark of $22,000, and it’s equipped with an efficient, four-cylinder engine that gets an impressive 19 mpg in city conditions.

Drivers have exceptional control in the base 2016 Canyon, thanks to its standard six-speed manual transmission. Canyon trims vary considerably, however, with available turbo-diesel and V6 engines, which are both paired with a six-speed automatic transmission.

With a V6 engine, the Canyon has a maximum payload of 1,620 pounds, and all trims reportedly tow up to 7,700 pounds. The Canyon’s interior is spacious and streamlined, made with high-quality materials and packed with modern technological features that are easy to operate.

2016 Toyota Tacoma

Even with tons of new features for 2016, the redesigned Toyota Tacoma retains its time-honored look, and it remains a classic among compact pickups. The Tacoma’s base SR trim carries a price tag of about $23,700, and the Tacoma is available in four additional trims, including the high-end Limited.

The Tacoma falls behind other vehicles in its class when it comes to fuel economy, however. Its base engine is a simple four-cylinder that gets an estimated 23 mpg on the highway and just 19 in the city.

Photo by crudmucosa / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Photo by crudmucosa / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

You can head off-road with ease in a 2016 Tacoma that’s equipped with a powerful V6 engine, such as the TRD Off-Road trim. The Tacoma provides smooth handling over rough terrain, and its V6 can easily traverse even the most challenging road conditions. With a hefty payload rating of 1,620 pounds and a 6,800 pound maximum towing capacity, the V6 is also superior when it comes to hauling strength.

Equipped with a modern Entune infotainment system that’s ultra-responsive, the Tacoma also features physical buttons for quick audio operation.

2016 Nissan Frontier

The 2016 Nissan Frontier proves that you don’t need to be a show-off to work hard. The Frontier’s no-frills base model, the King Cab S trim, is among the most affordable in its class, with a starting MSRP of $18,290. Featuring simplicity in design, the Frontier eschews luxury cabin features in favor of a massive 2.5-liter, four-cylinder base engine that produces 171 pound-feet of torque.

While some drivers report that the Frontier’s steering has a low level of responsiveness, the 2016 Frontier wins points for its exceptional off-road capability, especially among its Pro-4X four-wheel drive and Desert Runner trims.

Trucks are designed for hauling and packing, and the Frontier is loaded with flexible cargo space. In addition to the roomy bed, at a length of 59.5 or 73.3 inches, depending on the trim, the Frontier’s cabin has roomy storage compartments beneath the rear seats. The Frontier’s fuel economy varies widely depending on the transmission, and many drivers may be displeased with the five-speed automatic Frontier Crew Cab’s 21 mpg return on the highway and only 15 in the city.

Final Thoughts

Compact trucks have come a long way from their clunky, two-door predecessors that were designed for function but not form. Today’s truck models offer the versatility and sophistication of a car but with the horsepower and ability of a utility vehicle.

If a refined, luxury interior is important to you, you’ll love the look of the Chevrolet Colorado. The 2016 Nissan Frontier is great for off-roading and is the most budget-friendly among vehicles in its class. The Honda Ridgeline provides the smoothest ride, while the Toyota Tacoma and GMC Canyon share the title of the payload kings, and they’re fuel efficient as well. No matter what you’re looking for in a modern compact truck, you’ll find your perfect ride among these top-rated models of 2016.

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