2016 Midsize Pickup Challenge Is Coming

Ridgeline bed II

It's one thing to look at factory specs and dealership materials or take a pickup truck for a quick test drive; it's an entirely different thing to drive a new pickup in a head-to-head comparison test with all of its direct competitors.

Many automotive media outlets and websites are comfortable choosing winners in different automotive segments based on one editor's driving impressions or manufacturer-supplied marketing material and specifications. We see it all the time.

But that's not how we do comparisons and choose segment leaders at PickupTrucks.com.

We lasted tested the midsize pickup truck segment early in 2015, and since then Honda has released the all-new 2017 Ridgeline, and Toyota has seriously redesigned and enhanced the Tacoma. So we thought it was time to find out which midsize pickup now sits on the top of the hill.

If you've seen any of our past comparisons, you know we like to test. Specifically, we like to test trucks for their intended purposes — hauling and towing, for example — and sometimes beyond their intended abilities.

For our upcoming 2016 Midsize Pickup Challenge, we required all competitors to have four full-size doors and a four-wheel-drive system; we also asked manufacturers to get as close to a price cap of $37,500 as possible.

Winners of our comparisons tests are chosen after a week or more of testing by PUTC and sibling site Cars.com expert judges. Our fuel-economy tests are done doing empty and full-payload runs; other tests include a day at the track testing acceleration and braking (empty and loaded), dyno testing, off-roading, towing and back-to-back driving loops over the same dirt and paved roads. We even invite an in-market family, who serve as judges, to listen to manufacturer presentations and test-drive each of the competitors over identical routes. The family's scores are included in the overall test results.

From all of this we select our winner and present our data, making our testing procedures and results as transparent as possible.

The competitors for our 2016 Midsize Pickup Challenge were:

  • 2016 Chevrolet Colorado: All new two years ago and one of two platforms from GM. We had a Colorado Z71 long bed.
  • 2016 GMC Canyon: All new two years ago and one of two platforms from GM. We had a Canyon SLE short box.
  • 2017 Honda Ridgeline: All new this year, it continues to provide qualities of both an SUV and pickup. We had a Ridgeline RTL-E.
  • 2016 Nissan Frontier: The oldest of our competitors still offers a strong value. We had the Frontier PRO-4X.
  • 2016 Toyota Tacoma: Significantly upgraded and improved for 2016, this is the volume leader. We had a Tacoma TRD Off Road.

As you can imagine, putting a PUTC Challenge together takes some time; you can expect the full story and results in late August. Any guesses how it turned out?

Cars.com photo by Angela Conners

 

Comments

Yeah this Ford stuff is getting totally out of hand...

Prediction: the Tacoma wins the off-road portion of events and that is all that matters to me!

A truck can do anything, pull or haul depending on how much and carry folks on the roads! Big deal, your preference as to size/shape and how much or little BUT the true difference or what makes a truck unique is its off-road ability!

And I mean REAL off-road and not some local gravel or graded road which defines off-road in definition only!

Another area I think is vital that no magazine or website will ever rate is modifications! That is how easy it is to mod a truck, put larger tires on, beef up the suspension to carry additional weight and gear, you name it above and beyond stock capabilities!

You know this testing will favor the GM twins, you can tell by the image above. But I know when it comes to serious off-roading, I would only trust the Tacoma!

This site is so Ford biased, I don't know why I come back here. They've proven it over and over, and they only care about promoting Ford. I'm sure this test will do the same, and point out how the Ranger is better than any of these other mid sized trucks, and how it should sold in the U.S.

The Honda will win for grocery getter, maybe payload and highway. Taco for slow off-road trails. If the Canyon has AWD, I would take that over any of them. Get tired of the rear tires spinning on black top right after a rain. The diesel should win for towing.

Why are they testing only Ford's?? That doesn't seem fair!

Ford made it pretty clear back in2011/12 you don’t need a smaller than full size truck and we are not going to build one any more. They said if you need a truck you need a F-150 if you need anything littler than that you need one of their small suv’s. Don’t tell us what to build we’ll tell you what to buy.

Well we know the Taco will win the off-road parts. The Honda will win the empiricals and Colorado will win fleet sales category.

This will be useful for the old, the young, those with money to burn, those that don't value interior space/capacity/value/capability, those doing lots of u turns, those with small garages and those who want to pretend they need a truck but really just want one because its cool.

Will they be dumping a load of paver stones from 48" up? If so then the contest is only between the Ridgeline (a car since its not body on frame) and the Taco.

What GM is doing must be working because their second quarter profits are double last year and close to half of what Ford made all last of year.

Once again, too bad they will be testing an auto Frontier. The 6M offers 40% better gearing off the line and better fuel economy than the 5A. As for the "Taco winning the off-road" statements, remember that last time the TRD-PRO may have won the off-road section, but they had this to say "It's the Nissan that plays in the dirt like a mini-Raptor".

GM twins of this test won before it even starts, only thing you can knock them for is interior and that's personal taste.

I will pick Honda for the overall win, hands down?!

@ K-1500.Suburban,

The Raptor is big, wide and heavy for true off-roading!

It can off-road but the weight empty, wide width and size is a hindrance off-road.

Some of the best off-roaders I have seen out there have been 4-cylinder Jeep's and Toyota's over the years!

Predicting Toyota for the win!

The Hon-duh will be a close second based on content and execution, but it's really an SUV with a bed.

I just got the 17 Ridgeline RTL-T. Had a Tacoma and last truck was a 2012 Frontier Pro 4x. I also have a Silverado 1500 4x4 for sale now (don't need it with the Ridgeline). So far, the Ridgeline is pretty darn hard to beat for what I use it for, 90% daily driver, 10% hauling. None of the others come close in that respect. Most comfortable truck (or vehicle in general) I have ever driven. I can also remote start it from over 60 yards away on the 4th floor of my building across the street from where it is parked! Also, for a short guy like me, I really love the swing out tailgate when I have to get something out of the bed, and the trunk is massive. All of my tarps and tie downs as well as an emergency kit are in there and there is still a ton of room.

The only way any testing done on this site could or even would be fair is if you get someone that represents the specific brand as the tester. Anytime you have someone who gets paid by Ford, i.e. every P U T C employee, as the tester how can you have an unbiased result. As you test drive the Toyota but you need the Ford to win how can you be fair?

@Clint
This will be useful for the old, the young, those with money to burn, those that don't value interior space/capacity/value/capability, those doing lots of u turns, those with small garages and those who want to pretend they need a truck but really just want one because its cool.

Your small garage comment hit my nerve. Careful, not everyone needs or can house a whale of a truck. Most garages are real close to 235" long. And a 6'4" bed RAM 1500 crew cab (full size one) comes in at 237.9" If manufactures could reduce the engine compartment by 6" they wouldn't have midsizers biting into full size sales. But of course the die hards gotta have their V8's, but Ford is changing that paradigm with the ECOboost whether we like it or not. I'm not crazy about midsizers, especially when Chevy says the bed is 6'2" long, but only measures that at the bottom of the bed, and 6'0" long at the top. Ford is right, why build a 90% full size truck: if Ford manages to go all V6's, and chop off the engine compartment substantially, a future full sizer might come in quite close to the size of a current day midsizer.

Funny about the garages- I can't believe they were ever built to park a car inside- A ford midsize sedan was as long the garage my nice, early 70's middle class home- zero margin.

I think the gm twins both come in last. That new Honda has it going on. Should finish near the top. Since this is a FORD site, the new BRONCO pickup beats em all hands down!!

Too bad GM couldn't cough up a Colorado/Canyon diesel. Guess one cannot be had for less than $37,500.

I can't wait for the Aluminum F-100 to come out in a few years.

Posted by: NISSANSRGREAT | Jul 21, 2016 3:08:22 PM

Haha, I said about a year ago that if FORD finally decides to join the mid size party that it will be a F-100 and not the Ranger. I was severely criticized for the comment. I guess the FORD girls are warming up to the reality.

Congratulation Rick on the 17 Ridgeline RTL-T. I have seen those around on the new car show circuit. Very nice, well executed design. As I have said before, it has a presence about it and it certainly isn't small in size.

Another Ford article! Dag nabbit. This site is biased.

Oh wait, 8 out of the last 10 articles were non-Ford. My bad.

@rick
Nice comment. Glad to hear some real world experience on a new truck without any apparent bias. Wish there were more of those kinds of comments here. I like hpw the ridgeline stands out from the other midsize trucks with very unique features. If it had seating for six I'd consider getting one for my wife.

And once again Frod and Fixitagain chrysco cant even offer anything,,
LOLOL

Watch the GM defeat all competitors again..LLLLL

The Diesel Canyon should be in this test. It gets 10 mpg better than the gas version and tows a load very well. No comparison, probably why they didn't include the diesel.

Here is my guess for a winner in each of seven (7) categories:
1) Towing: Colorado/Canyon;
2) Hauling: Colorado;
3) Off Road: Tacoma TRD Off-Road;
4) Comfort: Ridgeline;
5) Features/Options: Colorado
6) All Around Value (Price): Nissan Frontier Pro-4X
7) Fuel (gas) Mileage: Ridgeline

===================

The Colorado diesel stomped the ike gauntlet so I have to say the Colorado/Canyon diesel for the win. The Ridgeline will do well for those interested in grocery-getting.


I'm in the market, but not for four full doors. Otherwise, I'll be paying attention when the full story comes out.

Did GM at least send trucks with two different engines like they did in your last light duty max-two test sending the 6.2 Sierra and 5.3 Silverado?

It would be really cool to see them send one with the 3.6l gasser and the other in 2.8l diesel to see how they stack up against each other.

I'm in the market for a truck in the next 6 months and Tacoma and Colorado are two of the options I am considering. I cant wait till the full report posts!

Funny about the garages- I can't believe they were ever built to park a car inside- A ford midsize sedan was as long the garage my nice, early 70's middle class home- zero margin.


Posted by: Mr Knowitall | Jul 21, 2016 1:45:59 PM

Yeah, it's un-believable, my house has a supposedly two car garage, but I struggle to see it, I had to get one of those stop bars for my wife's Toyota highlander that we got earlier this year, because there is a less than 1ft difference between not being able to close the garage and not being able to use to the washing machine/dryer at the front of the garage, and unless you dont care about door dings forget getting anything remotely close to a fullsize pickup in there next to it.

The highlander is one of the smallest by overall length of the current "mini-van without sliding doors" 3 row SUVs out there. If we had gotten an Acadia or an Explorer it wouldnt fit.

We will see the new Ranger in January 2018.

IN 2018 I WILL UPGRADE BY 1993 CHEVY HALF TON TRUCK TO A NEW RANGER FROM FORD!

IN 2018 I WILL UPGRADE MY 1993 CHEVY HALF TON TRUCK TO A NEW RANGER FROM FORD!

Where is the Ford Ranger?

Chris,

...and we might also ask" Why is Ram dragging its feet on coming up with a reborn Dakota pickup?

=========================

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DANGER DANGER DANGER

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I have seen towing tests on the Canyon diesel that it BEAT the F-150 with the 5.0
The Chevy and GMC Dealers are using the Colorado-Canyon as bait to get people to the showroom where they want them to buy the Silverado instead.

Prediction: the Tacoma wins the off-road portion of events and that is all that matters to me!

A truck can do anything, pull or haul depending on how much and carry folks on the roads! Big deal, your preference as to size/shape and how much or little BUT the true difference or what makes a truck unique is its off-road ability!

And I mean REAL off-road and not some local gravel or graded road which defines off-road in definition only!

Another area I think is vital that no magazine or website will ever rate is modifications! That is how easy it is to mod a truck, put larger tires on, beef up the suspension to carry additional weight and gear, you name it above and beyond stock capabilities!

Posted by: oxi | Jul 21, 2016 9:32:24 AM

The problem with what you're claiming is that Toyota uses weak and cheaply designed differentials. You're going to end up with diff problems with that kinds of mods. The current front diff Toyota uses is complete junk.

Also, nobody buys a brand new Toyota to do real offroading. Sure some will take it down some dirt roads, but nobody is going to climb rocks or drive through water deep enough to get water in the cab.

Outside of ground clearance, the Tacoma offers next to nothing unique. Unless you count those ox-cart era rear brakes. Unfortunately Toyota hasn't addressed some of the major weaknesses of the Tacoma, namely it's massive corrosion issues. The Tacoma's one true advantage is aftermarket support.

The Frontier is a better value at the end of the day.

It may sound funny, but I never parked a truck in my garage!

I guess because I don't live in some neighborhood that says I must park a pickup in a garage, or one that moniters how many vehicles, and if I choose to work on one.

So I can care less if a quad cab Ram doesn't fit in my garage.

I had a 2007 Dakota SLT HO 4x4 quad or crew, whatever it is, 4 full doors, little 5'4" bed. Coulda fit in my garage, never cared to crowd my garage up.

The 5'4 bed was too short too.

I might consider a Colorado / Canyon, but it's MSRP for a z-71 6.5 bed is barely lower than a Ram quad Outdoorsman v-6, and the Ram will tow better, get close to same mileage, and put down as much power and run with the lighter truck.

So why bother with the medium size truck?

I don't go playing offroad like Oxi, so I can care less a fullsize can't go where a Tacoma can or Colrado bottoms it's air dam.

Alot of folks in NW Arkansas are happy to park under a shelter, no garage needed.

Still don't get the Honda thinking of putting the spare in the trunk. When you're hauling all those rocks in the bed, it would be a PITA to get the spare out.

PUTC has recently found it difficult to keep the content fresh on its site. Voila! Another truck test.

Unfortunately the mid size market has been stagnant to say the least. The GM twins being the only new-ish North American product.

Toyota and Nissan are selling midsize models that are ten years old, with the occasional smudge of lipstick to allow their marketing to say "it's all new!!!"

Honda's new trucklet is getting some buyers from the ranks of folks who want a four door sedan that can haul rocks. Most of them would be better off to buy a Pilot or a minivan and simply rent a truck for that annual trip to Home Depot's garden department.

Cheap gas and a changing auto industry means that the window has closed for the midsize pickup segment. Even GM's thoughtful midsizers are a bit pointless when you can buy a new half ton work truck from Chevy or GMC for thousands less--and you get a real truck for your money.

The market for midsize has come and gone.



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