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The Unlikely Return of the Compact Pickup | Edmunds

Edmunds.comEdmunds.com Member, Administrator, Moderator Posts: 10,281
edited June 2017 in Editorial
The Unlikely Return of the Compact Pickup | Edmunds

What would make a small pickup truck successful in today's market? There's one big factor and it has nothing to do with size.

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  • sdiegosdiego Member Posts: 19
    Why would they build a small pickup with thin profit margin and take away sales from their more profitable midsize pickup?
  • throwbackthrowback Member Posts: 445
    You hit it Ed! Cheap to buy and run was the main selling point for small pick ups. That's why the aging Ranger continued to sell so well at the end of it's life. My suggestion is to build unibody pick-ups off a smal car platform. A new Nissan hard body built on a Sentra platform for example.
  • darthbimmerdarthbimmer Member Posts: 606
    @sdiego, a cheapo small pickup would not subtract much from sales of reasonably equipped midsize pickups, it would compete for sales with low end cars. That's what Ed argued in the article. Based on my friends who owned these pickups years ago, I agree. Most used them as daily runabouts. Their virtue aside from being able to handle occasional light hauling duty (e.g., weekend trips to the hardware store for DIY projects) was looking unabashedly masculine vs. econo cars which mostly look... weeny.
  • tonyhestonyhes Member Posts: 1
    I have been driving a 1993 Mazda b2200 for 6+ years and slowly watching it rust away.... I totally fit the bill as described but it should also so I'm angry I can't buy a new one. The big trucks are nice but I just don't need all the flab, I don't need hemi, a bed that is 4 1/2 feet off the ground or all the tough man BS. All the big trucks up here in Canada are getting groceries, driving oh so daintily over the pot holes and maybe hauling a "Manly" payload once a year. WASTE of money and space. And i'm afraid because the Jones's must be kept up with... the little truck is dead dead dead.... Manufactures don't make the trucks people want (there is not a single mini truck being manufactured) they tell you what to buy and most are dumb enough to listen. (And for gawd sake when the next guy chimes in and says for just a few thousand more you can get a bigger truck...smack them in the face SOME OF US DON'T WANT A BIG TRUCK!)
  • short_ladyshort_lady Member Posts: 1
    I TOTALLY CONCUR with tonyhes! I am a 5'2" female who loves pickup trucks. Correction, I LOVED my mid-1990s vintage Nissan Frontier. It was the perfect size for me. I could open the door and sit right now, pull my feet in, and I was in. Imagine my horror in 2010 when I went to buy another pickup and discovered that the Frontiers were now HUGE and I'd have to HAUL myself up to the seat, a major hassle. I MISS my little Nissan Frontier. I didn't WANT the giant muscle truck they had become, and I didn't buy one.
  • caddmann1caddmann1 Member Posts: 1
    I have had 3 trucks. A 1986.5 Nissan Hard-body 2wd Reg cab, 1995 Hard-body 2wd king cab and my current 2003 Frontier 2wd king cab. They were and are the perfect size for most people, with descent gas mileage and payload. It fits in my garage. It is a useful truck for my needs and most others. They were cheap and ran well.
    I was behind 3 truck not to long ago, a current F150, another one from, i would guess, the 90's and a new Toyota Tacoma. The Tacoma was almost the same size as the 90's F150.
    This so wrong on so many levels.
    I refuse to by a new truck for the price and the size. I don't want to drive an I-Pod on wheels, I want a truck.
  • johnnyringo7johnnyringo7 Member Posts: 1
    1988, Male, 20 years old and looking for a car to get me from A to B on a budget. Was looking at the very generic Dodge Colt OR look at that pretty Dodge Ram50 extracab (Mitsubishi Might Max) for the same price. No-brainer right. I would love to see a modern compact light pickup with an efficient engine, safer crumple zones, but retain the stripped down, basic feel
  • refereereferee SAINT LOUISMember Posts: 1
    I laugh at all of the small SUVs having the choice of the base engine 2.5 then 1.5 turbo required for 4wd then 2.0 turbo 4wd tow pkg when the base used to offer 4wd option and towing. I had a 1992 Ford F-150 work truck with 5 speed 302 V-8 crank windows AC AM/FM radio bench seat and I gave it to my nephew. He is using it out in the country and it is running great (it is rusting a little bit). The idea of having a compact PU that would fit in my garage would make me happy and probably my wife. PS we both grew up driving stick shift.
  • stickguystickguy Member Posts: 46,951
    saw the new ranger today. Very nice. seems like it should be big enough for the majority of owners, for what they use it for.

    2020 Acura RDX tech SH-AWD , 2022 Ford Maverick Lariat Ecoboost FWD.

  • kyfdxkyfdx Moderator Posts: 212,042
    I think you could throw the Ranger, Canyon, Colorado and Tacoma all in a basket, and then pick one.

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  • MichaellMichaell ColoradoModerator Posts: 212,210
    Not the Frontier?

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  • kyfdxkyfdx Moderator Posts: 212,042
    Michaell said:

    Not the Frontier?

    Not for me.. ;)

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  • stickguystickguy Member Posts: 46,951
    the compacts now just seem to make so much more sense to me, if you aren't in the small % that tows large weights. the Ranger, Canyon and Ridgeline all had quite useful bed space, roomy cabins, respectable towing capacity. So good for stuff you would use a personal use PU for. But, compared to the Ram and Silverado, so much easier to get in and out of, and appeared to be small enough to actually park in a normal parking spot, maneuver in a lot or garage, etc. Heck, I could likely fit a Ranger in my garage where the Odyssey used to go!

    If I lived on a farm or towed a house trailer, I would get a giant beast. If I live in suburbia, and need what serves as a daily driver that can do chores when needed, anything bigger than one of these is not gonna work.

    2020 Acura RDX tech SH-AWD , 2022 Ford Maverick Lariat Ecoboost FWD.

  • _OldGuy65__OldGuy65_ OshawaMember Posts: 1
    I am not a contractor, and don't haul around a thirty foot trailer but I do use my truck as a truck several times a week. I like having a "bare bones" vehicle (less stuff to break and wear out). I am am driving my fifth "Ranger" (I did have a Mazda B2300 in the mix as well). My current four cylinder '09 Ranger has about 380,000 km on it and is still going strong. I have got about 500,000 km out of each of my Rangers. I was hopeful when they announced the return of the Ranger that Ford would not follow the lead of every one else but actually build a small, inexpensive, cheap to run and maintain truck. The new new Ranger may be what they want in Austrailia (where it was first sold) but I think that they need to redo their market research, I think they will discover a real pent up demand for a small truck.
  • stickguystickguy Member Posts: 46,951
    sadly, this qualifies as small these days. But I agree with you, there could be a lot of pent up demand for something a size class below. Maybe about 198" long? so a foot shorter than this Ranger.

    2020 Acura RDX tech SH-AWD , 2022 Ford Maverick Lariat Ecoboost FWD.

  • PF_FlyerPF_Flyer Pennsylvania Furnace, PAMember Posts: 9,372
    I didn't have the fancy wheels, just white steel wheels, but I do miss having the truck now and then, especially when I want to toss something a bit bigger/heavier/dirtier than I'd want to throw in the back of one of my cars :)

  • stickguystickguy Member Posts: 46,951
    I had the prior generation of that Nissan. I think it was a 1990. Extended cab, 4 cyl 5 speed. Red. RWD. I really liked that beast. Would not mind having a new version of it.

    2020 Acura RDX tech SH-AWD , 2022 Ford Maverick Lariat Ecoboost FWD.

  • PF_FlyerPF_Flyer Pennsylvania Furnace, PAMember Posts: 9,372
    The only thing I would have changed on mine was the steel welds on the bed. By the time I traded it in, the bed has SERIOUS rust issues around the welds in the bed. One of the maintenance techs at the dealer bought the truck, replaced the bed, repainted the truck a dark green and drove it for at least 5 more years.

    I wouldn't mind a new version of it either!
  • CSXrockfordCSXrockford Member Posts: 1
    I just bought a 96 2wd hardbody just the otherweek it has almost 400k on the odometer but it runs and drives like a champ I paid $1,400 for it I had four brand new tires on it already the only thing that I've had to do to it is replace a timing chain guide valve cover gasket and replace all of the bushings in the rear suspension which were dirt cheap and took me all of about an hour and all four shocks it even has cruise control that still works, and I don't even think the clutch has ever been replaced on it.
  • SteveKluthSteveKluth Palm Springs, CAMember Posts: 1
    It's far more than the price. Most people driving a smaller pickup don't need a huge amount of hauling capacity. They just want a vehicle where you can put bags of dirt, a bigger potted plant, a few boxes, or other dirty things without messing up the inside of the vehicle (or trunk) - and don't get <20 miles/gallon. They're great if you're younger and single or a DINK couple, especially if you are renovating a home. I'm retired now and wish I could buy one, because current pickups are just too big - really useless if you live in most any city. I miss my old little 1990 Nissan pickup in which I used to do just those things when I was updating 1920's-era homes in St Louis.
  • 1CarBrew_Who1CarBrew_Who ColoradoMember Posts: 1
    Not sure bout the rest of the country, but in this town there are a lot of guys that would want to have a small truck. When I heard Ford was coming out with a new Ranger, I thought wow, the motor-execs finally listened, only to be let down. It is not small, it is same as a Toyota Tacoma. I had a 90 Toyota SR5 4x4 and loved it till it was minding it's own business and got totaled on the side of the road. I was fortunate enough to find a Chevy ZR2 4x4 in great shape with low miles. I haven't had the Chevy long enough to really test it out, but the Toy climbed liked a Billy goat and had a smother ride than the ZR2 does. I know can easily sell the ZR2 if the time comes that the manufactures realize the public need/want over their "brand ego" and make something we'll buy. To those other small truck lovers - keep the faith and your small truck forever, and see the others envy you, because it may never comeback (electric reincarnation doesn't count, cuz here in Colorado the trees in our forests don't have outlets). :)
  • 78CJ578CJ5 Member Posts: 1
    edited June 2019
    Whenever I see a lifted 4 door Tacoma, I pause and think -If only it had 2 doors it would be perfect. They along with Rangers used to be really popular to soup up for off road in the 90s, at least in Yuma, where I am from. They were small and nimble with a reasonable wheelbase and were tons of fun to fix up and go off roading. I can't imagine that attitude would change. Sports cars sell, I could imagine a small truck with a Jeep-like aftermarket selling too. Not everything needs to be "practical" in a day to day life kind of way. A smaller truck is more practical for off road or racing than a larger one.
  • MobiledanMobiledan Member Posts: 1
    I had an 86 Nissan king cab, 4 cylinder, 5 speed manual, 30+ mpg on trips. Huge regret that I traded it off. A new one should have a cvt, however.
  • 83cannondale83cannondale WisconsinMember Posts: 1
    Had a 1980s nisson small pickup which I leased and then a 1989 Tacoma - Loved them both - I live in suburbs and am a landlord so am often moving brush, tools, cleaning supplies - I also bicycle and canoe. I've got enough money ( I'm 67 ) to buy new truck but want one that is easy to park at Home depot, will fit in my garage easily and that I can do errands around town in - I bought a GMC sanoma off a corner lot but it turned out to be pretty bad - Come on carmakers, how about putting a good, cheap small truck out there...!
  • Real_Gone_KidReal_Gone_Kid Old Bridge, NJMember Posts: 1
    I am hoping to keep my '95 Tacoma until I stop driving. The new trucks are too big, too expensive, and not very nimble or sporty to drive;
  • humanwomanhumanwoman Member Posts: 1
    I have to say you are weirdly focused on dudes here...I (a woman, shocking, I know) would also like a tiny cheap truck because they are practical for boring stuff like dump runs, buying secondhand furniture, going kayaking, helping friends move. Trucks are not only for people who want to tow trailers or haul construction materials. They are not only for boys who want to look cool (that’s a little offensive to boys tbh...). Even a tiny weakling truck has very practical everyday uses!!!
  • AcrimonyAcrimony Dallas, TexasMember Posts: 1
    Most people nowadays just prefer larger pick up trucks if they are into pickups and if they want compact they'd rather go with SUVs.
  • ChiefltdChiefltd Member Posts: 1
    Years ago you couldn't give me a compact truck. But after owning a 05 2.3L Ranger which I still have and subsequently a 07 B2300, I.m hooked. I was recently T-boned and told the body shop not to get the price of the repair high enough for the Insurance to total the truck. "I don't want to replace it".
    When opportunity arises and I find one in good shape, I'll buy it for a spare.
  • MutatoMutato Member Posts: 1
    I drive a 1981 Rabbit pickup.
  • stickguystickguy Member Posts: 46,951
    that is about as small as you can go. I do like those, but doubt I could deal with the lack of recline space.

    2020 Acura RDX tech SH-AWD , 2022 Ford Maverick Lariat Ecoboost FWD.

  • stickguystickguy Member Posts: 46,951
    given that the Santa Cruz is selling well, and there are a huge number of reservations for the Maverick, it seems that the return of the compact PU (though the Maverick to me is decidedly mid sized!) is actually overdue.

    Assuming the Ford sales keep up, I suspect GM and Ram will rush to get their own smaller units out. Toyota should too since they have some overseas too already.

    2020 Acura RDX tech SH-AWD , 2022 Ford Maverick Lariat Ecoboost FWD.

  • JaneLakeJaneLake Member Posts: 1
    Well, I'm an old(ish) lady, in fact, not a young male, and I want one of these basic two-seater trucks. "Utility" has taken on quite a different meaning in vehicles -- more like luxury. Just a regular old new truck, please! Thank you.
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