RYAN ZUMMALLEN: Today, we've got four-- count them-- four of the top mid-sized trucks you can buy. There's the tried and true Toyota Tacoma plus the GMC Canyon and Ford Ranger, and then there's this, the brand new Nissan Frontier. We know these trucks well because we've put each one through our exhaustive testing process. And now we want to find out exactly how they stack up against each other.
If you ask me, midsize trucks are more like right-sized trucks. This group is livable and versatile while still packing a lot of utility and off-road capability. We'll run you through each of their strengths and weaknesses and show you some reasons why you might decide to buy one over the other.
While you're here, be sure to throw us a like. And don't forget to subscribe so you see more Edmunds videos just like this one. And hey, if you like money, go to edmunds.com/sellmycar to get a cash offer on your car right now. Seriously, right now.
You've been waiting for it. We've been waiting for it. Well, wait no more. The redesigned Nissan Frontier is here with a load of enticing upgrades for 2022. Most noticeably, it has a burly new look and tons of options, including a wireless smartphone charging station, surround view camera, and those sweet-looking grab handles. Yee-haw. There's a lot that interests us here. So let's dive right in.
One of the big highlights is a 3.8-liter V6 engine, which is standard on all trims. So there's no more 4-cylinder option. That engine is now the most powerful in the class. And it pairs with a 9-speed automatic transmission that delivers smooth power and comfortable shifts.
But perhaps even more crucial is the improved steering in the new Frontier plus Nissan's excellent zero gravity seats that come standard and a bigger stabilizer bar for better on-road comfort. Hill descent control is also standard on 4-by-4 models.
OK, you know what? Let's just talk about how the dang thing drives. When it comes to driving feel and refinement, the Frontier is powerful and smooth and a definite upgrade from past Frontiers the steering can still be a little bit vague, but it's not bad for the body on frame midsize truck class. And as far as off-roading, this Pro-4x trim checks all the right boxes. It's got extra clearance, bigger shocks, three skid plates, and yes, a locking rear diff, all stuff you're going to expect from a midsize off-road truck, plus looks tough.
Inside this Frontier, it's a world of improvement from the old one. First, you get an 8-inch screen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto all standard. You'll notice a lot of tightened design in here, which is not necessarily a bad thing. And that's a good base to start with.
It's still not super premium, and there is a lot of hard plastic. But hey, for some, that's part of the Frontier charm. Again, grab handles. You get a 6-foot bed on extended cabs and a five footer with the crew cabs.
One downside is the Frontier now has taller walls, so it's harder to reach inside the bed. But the standard damped gate is a big plus. Even better is a lot of tie-down options and an available cargo management system.
Now, when it comes to trim levels, you've got the Frontier S and SV. Those are the work trucks and daily use trucks although this redesign model now checks in at a base price of about $29,000 with destination for the extended cab and over $30,000 for the crew cab. That's a far cry from the past model, which you could get from around $20K.
Also new for this gen is the Pro-X trim, which is 2-wheel drive only and gets some of the cosmetic "off-road-y" bits, but it's nowhere near the equipment in the Pro-4x. Overall, this 2022 Frontier represents a big step forward. But at its increased price, is it still a work truck? Is it still a smart, affordable option? Let's see how it stacks up against the other three models we have here today.
We've not been very high on the Ford Ranger in the past. And there are myriad reasons why. At its core, the Ranger feels like a carryover model that hasn't been fully modernized yet. That said, the Ranger has its benefits. And this Tremor package fixes the majority of the issues we have with the Ranger, but it doesn't fix them all.
So what do we like about it? Well, the Ranger has strong acceleration from its turbocharged 4-cylinder engine, which is standard regardless of the trim level you choose. The infotainment system and available safety features are also strong points. Now, the Ranger has an admirable payload and towing capabilities in some configurations and even good fuel economy. But things start to go sideways as soon as you step through the doors beginning with a confusing layout and frustratingly small buttons, which can be annoying to aim for on bumpy roads.
And frankly, nothing really stands out. Space is mostly fine for average-sized drivers. The seats feel OK. The tech all works. But there are few highlights. We do like the up-fitter switches in this Tremor, but you have to get the Tremor to get them.
Once behind the wheel, you can appreciate the 2.3-liter engine. There's lots of torque. And it is not afraid to punch. However, the braking, handling, and shifting are not as refined. In fact, more than a few members on our team actually got some motion sickness while driving the regular Ranger.
Now, this Tremor has an upgraded suspension that improves the flowy ride on other versions. And it brings significant improvements to off-road capability. Check out Carlos's video comparing the Tremor with the Tacoma TRD Pro to see how it stacked up.
What about as a truck? Well, all of these trucks are body on frame, meaning they use an extra strong structure really good for serious off-roading and towing. And the Ranger does have strong max towing ratings. Its superb payload ratings are with the extended cab versions. We also find the bedsides to be way too tall. Worse, the rear seats lack 60-40 folding. And you can't lay the seatbacks down. Can you use it? Sure, but others offer a lot more.
There are three trims to choose from with the Tremor package available on XLT or Lariat, which brings up an important point. Ranger packages are more important than the trim levels. Regardless of the model, there are lots of features that are hidden in different packages you need to add on top of the base price. So pay attention during the ordering process so you make sure you get what you need.
From tip to tail, the Ranger just kind of misses the mark. If you need something that's versatile and good on gas, then sure. The Ranger makes some sense. But you'll be making concessions the others simply don't ask from you. Hey, maybe the next version will be better.
Up next is the truck GM would love you to think is a luxury pickup, the GMC Canyon, which is here today also representing the similar Chevrolet Colorado. The Canyon is an upscale version of the Colorado. And is it comfortable? Sure. Luxury, though, might be a bit of a stretch. Regardless, the GMC Canyon is refined. And its top Denali trim is the most plush size pickup you can buy.
But this ain't no Denali. This one here is the new AT4 off-road version. So what's really good in these streets? We like the V6 engine and especially the quiet cabin that keeps bumps and noises outside of the Canyon. We also like the available turbo diesel. And it's pretty tough off road because it shares a lot of DNA with the Colorado. These AT4 add-ons are no joke either, but best is the canyons mix of comfort, standard tech, and towing strength.
Inside, you've got pretty good space all around. And while these seats should fit a wide range of body types, they aren't particularly supportive. The rears have the opposite problem. They're quite firm and might get uncomfortable quickly, but the rest of the cabin is peachy. These controls are easy and straightforward. And they connect to an excellent technology system.
On the road, like I said, that V6 engine has solid acceleration and can really handle itself with a load. Driving response and feel are fine and accurate. It feels heavy at all times, though. But it puts all that toughness together when it's time to work. The Colorado and Canyon both are rated to tow up to 7,000 pounds with the V6 and 7,700 pounds with the available turbo diesel. The payload ratings are also high, making this a great choice if you have heavy needs and don't want to go full Gladiator. Our advice is if you're serious about towing, look for the integrated trailer brake.
The bedsides are rather tall here, but we like the built-in step for easy access. One big bummer when it comes to storage is that the rear floor isn't totally flat. In lower trims, we just don't see a whole lot of value. So a Colorado makes more sense unless you're getting a Canyon Denali or this AT4, which is growing on me.
All the serious off-road gear is here like skid plates and a locking diff. My one big beef, the Colorado and Canyon hang their shock towers down low and close to the middle where they're susceptible to rocks. Unacceptable.
The Canyon has a lot going for it, but are we sure this AT4 is the best idea? This is supposed to be the mid-size pickup as a classy affair. So ask yourself if you're really going to risk your majestic new GMC on some rocks. Go ahead. Are ya? It's the Canyon Denali for us, or go all in with the hardcore Colorado ZR2. Just throw on some red tow hooks if you really like that look.
The most tried and true of the bunch is the Toyota Tacoma. Granted, that's because it's been around for a while, since 2016 to be exact for this generation. But Toyota sells a ton of them because of its reputation for durability and the fact that you know exactly what to expect from them. There is plenty you should know about it.
The Tacoma is aimed squarely at off-roading. It's got excellent ground clearance and pretty direct steering and handling that help a lot on the trails, but it's also livable. Witness the extensive standard driver assistance technologies and 8-inch touchscreen that comes on this model. Plus, there's good visibility and no need for expensive protective bed liners because it's composite as standard. Should I keep going?
Now, it's not perfect. Step inside, and you'll see problems with, well, stepping inside. That high clearance means it's a steep climb just to get in. And once you're there, the steering wheel doesn't telescope very much, so it might be hard to get comfortable. However, the seats are much more adjustable than they've been in the past. And the control layout is excellent.
Under the hood, we recommend the optional V6 engine. The muscle comes in handy. And it's very responsive in low-speed, off-road situations. The brakes are also appropriately sensitive off road, but on road they have a jumpy feel that takes some practice to get the nose not to dive all the way down. But the 6-speed automatic transmission is smooth. It's just a little dated. And the steering and handling is probably the best in this group.
Ah, the bed. Like we said, it's composite, so you don't need to shell out for a protective lining surface, which is great. Also, the walls are low. So it's easier to reach the floor. And every Tacoma comes with tie-downs and a damped tailgate that opens nice and low to load heavy items. It's a simple, well-designed bed with the user in mind. Weird.
One complaint is that folding its rear seats is a little bit fussy. We think more trucks should follow the Tacoma's lead when it comes to its model lineup. You've got the SR and SR5, which are great, affordable, barebones options and the Limited for fancier folk. Then the fun starts. This TRD Off-Road is a seriously capable package, backing up its skid plates and locking diff with the Tacoma's good dimensions. The TRD Pro is even on another level.
As you can see, the Frontier is up against some stiff competition. You've got interesting outliers like the Jeep Gladiator, which we left out because it's more expensive than the rest here, and the Honda Ridgeline, which we left out because it's not a body-on-frame truck. With traditional pickups like the Ranger, Canyon, and Tacoma, there are distinct strengths and personalities to fit your needs. And the redesigned Nissan Frontier has clearly upped its game in response.
Today's comparison solidifies our mid-size pickup rankings. The Ranger still trails the class. The Frontier has made huge strides, but we're having trouble grasping its new pricing structure. And the GMC Canyon works best at its classiest. The rugged AT4 may be a bridge too far. It's the Toyota Tacoma that we still consider the top choice out of the group we have in this video. It's an inherently capable truck with enough creature comforts and usability to make your life easier.
Now, it's possible we could see new versions of the Tacoma, Ranger, and Colorado and Canyon very soon. But until then, if I got my choice out of the group, I'm taking the Taco. Thanks so much for watching. Don't forget to throw us a like and leave a comment below to tell me how we got this horribly wrong. If you'd like to read an in-depth article about each of these trucks, click the link in the description below.