Comparison between the 2022 Toyota Tacoma and all non-full-size trucks
The small and medium-sized truck segment has almost doubled in number over the past few years.
The Toyota Tacoma is the “oldest” model in the segment.
The Ford Maverick and Hyundai Santa Cruz are the latest players.
Not so long ago, truck buyers had several options from the ex-Big 3 as well as at least two other imported automakers. Between the mid-2000s and early 2010s, their numbers decreased by about half, but lately new members have joined the segment. Interestingly, the Toyota Tacoma is the oldest nameplate among its colleagues.
He could also claim the title of most famous of the lot. The ultra-cool black 1985 Toyota SR5 Xtra Cab pickup briefly featured in the Back to the future The film is the direct ancestor of the Tacoma. Kidding aside and honestly, the “Taco” is the only midsize truck that can claim to be legendary due to its history and current track record.
Those are fighting words, especially when it comes to generally loyal and dedicated truck fans. Consider the segment and who the contenders are:
In no particular order, we have the Ford Ranger, Ford Maverick, Nissan Frontier, GMC Canyon, Chevrolet Colorado, Jeep Gladiator, Honda Ridgeline, and Hyundai Santa Cruz. In our opinion, this list should be much longer in our market because we are missing offers from Mitsubishi, Volkswagen and Ram to name a few.
Still, this cast of non-full-size trucks is wildly varied, but they all have one thing in common: they’re vying for your attention.
The following is a summary of our thoughts on each truck and, where available, a link to review. This time the trucks are listed in alphabetical order.
Chevrolet Colorado (GMC Canyon):
2021 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Review: DSSVs Are Magic Letters
GM’s truck duo offers the widest range of configurations. There are three powertrains, two bed lengths and two cabin configurations to choose from. GM is actually one of only two brands currently offering a diesel engine – for many that can make or break a deal. The Colorado ZR2 is an impressive piece of kit for on-road and off-road adventures.
Both of these trucks lack a certain level of refinement and would definitely benefit, in my opinion, from some interior upgrades.
Should you buy a 2021 Ford Ranger Tremor?
The Ranger returned to North America after a seven-year hiatus. Although it lost its truly affordable truck title, it makes up for it with some serious capability and power. The standard 2.3-liter turbocharged EcoBoost 4-cylinder engine fears no challenge and until the arrival of the Raptor for the 2023 model year, it will be the only one offered. The Ranger is available in two-cab and two-box configurations, so there are options here as well.
Visually, the Ranger isn’t much of a stunner, even in its more aggressive iterations such as the Tremor. Like GM trucks, it too would benefit from designer attention.
2022 Ford Maverick Review: A True Independent
This little truck is the one to watch. While it may be limited to a cab and box configuration, the available hybrid powertrain (at least on “paper”) makes the Maverick an efficiency champ. With the 2.0-liter EcoBoost turbocharged 4-cylinder, it turns into something of a street racer.
Despite its lower entry price, it offers extremely innovative interior storage solutions as well as what Ford calls the Flexbed. To mock the Maverick and dismiss it would be a huge mistake.
2022 Honda Ridgeline Touring Review: Perfect Compromise Perfectly Ignored
The Honda Ridgeline suffers from one thing, and only one: its image. For some reason it’s not taken seriously as a truck despite being capable of towing 5,000 pounds and hauling quite a haul. This is perhaps the result of its surprisingly high level of refinement, for a truck, which many may consider to be “too soft”.
In a realistic world, the Ridgeline is the truck that 75% of daily truck users actually need. Its only real problem is that it is very expensive. It is also only available in one configuration.
Hyundai Santa Cruz
2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz First Drive: Projecting a Lifestyle
The Santa Cruz is a demonstration of Hyundai’s ability to make whatever they want. They themselves describe the Santa Cruz as an addition to the Tucson lineup and little more than a lifestyle vehicle. The thing is, it can actually perform truck duties with a lot of capability.
This non-truck truck is a luxurious powerhouse equally suited to road trips and everyday driving thanks to its tech-rich and decently spacious cabin. Like all non-domestic brands, the Santa Cruz is only offered with one bed and one cabin.
2020 Jeep Gladiator Mojave Review: I Get It
The Gladiator probably isn’t as popular as Jeep thought, as it seems destined to be more of a recreational truck than a work truck. It doesn’t take anything away from it, although it is also only available with one body configuration, as it can also be fitted with a diesel engine.
The Jeep Gladiator is also offered in many versions including the mythical Rubicon and what’s more, can be ordered with a manual transmission, one of only two in the segment where this is still possible. The Gladiator’s biggest competitor is the Wrangler itself. Ultimately, it’s a very cool and unique truck.
2022 Nissan Frontier First Drive: Focus on Refinement
The Frontier, recently and seriously revised, corrects the main flaw of the previous truck. The new 2022 Frontier is much more civilized, but even so, it’s not as classy as the Honda Ridgeline. The Nissan is offered in one of two cabin configurations and two bed lengths. Unlike the others, the larger crew cab will be available with the longer 6-foot bed.
The Frontier is powered by a single engine-transmission combination, and it happens to be the most powerful in the segment with all its two horsepower. Despite the return of the PRO-4X off-road version, the Nissan truck seems geared more towards polished on-road driving.
And then we have the Tacoma. The affectionately nicknamed Taco is the oldest, least refined and almost backward midsize truck. And for these reasons as well as its legendary toughness, it is universally loved by everyone, including us.
Toyota’s 3.5-liter V6, at 278 horsepower and 265 lb-ft. of torque, is one of the least powerful here and the optional 6-speed automatic transmission is down on those mated to all other boosted V6 and 4-cylinder engines. But unlike some trucks in this segment, the Tacoma is uncompromising.
Out of the box, it comes with 9.4 inches of ground clearance, well over a ½ more than some “off-road” versions. And if the Taco needs to work, it can tow up to 6,800 lbs. or carry a payload of up to 1,440 lbs. Ride quality isn’t on par with the Frontier, but that’s part of its appeal.
Although the 2022 Toyota Tacoma still performs on paved surfaces, it prefers rough terrain. With TRD’s many options, including the nearly unstoppable TRD Pro, there’s a factory-tuned level of capability for everyone.
The Trail version we tested has an ORP skid plate, suspension lift (1.1-inch front and 0.5-inch rear), gorgeous 16-inch bronze-finish wrapped wheels Goodyear tires, and more for an ideal rugged balance value.
The Toyota Tacoma’s age surfaces in some of the on-board controls and infotainment system features, but most importantly, the ergonomics are good and everything works. The double cabin is just spacious enough for baby seats (as shown in the pictures) and the comfort levels are decent for all on board. Incidentally, there is a second Access cabin available, but the Double and the Access are connected by a 6.1 foot long bed.
In short, the Taco has character and personality. It’s reliable and only the automatic transmission can be a bit temperamental – let’s just say it’s not always smooth. The Toyota also retains its value like no other due to all of the above.
In this segment, non-truck buyers should consider the Honda Ridgeline. For almost everything else, there’s the Tacoma. For serious off-roaders, it’s a mix between a Taco TRD Pro and a Colorado ZR2. And yes the Gladiator Rubicon is good but then get the Wrangler.