Best New Mid-Size Pickup Trucks of 2021

Car and Driver

There’s nothing minor league about the mid-size-truck segment. Okay, they lack the size and generally the performance of the larger, full-size trucks, but although they may fall short in terms of the biggest and fastest, these pickups shine when it comes to utility value. They can afford to offer car-like reflexes on paved roads, with options for bigger tires and winches later, if you need them. What matters the most about this segment is overall usability: the combination of horsepower with decent fuel economy, plus plenty of cargo space and practical towing ability. Here’s a roundup of mid-size pickups ranked from lowest to highest:

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7. Nissan Frontier

The Nissan Frontier that’s been around since 2005 will finally be replaced for 2022. Until then, you can still get the second-generation pickup, and nobody will be able to tell if you’re driving a 2005 or 2021 model year. A 7.0-inch touchscreen comes standard, but the Frontier still lacks many interior frills found in other mid-size trucks like Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Tie-down cleats and other accessories ensure the Frontier will still get the typical pickup jobs done, and Pro-4X or Desert Runner trims lift its capabilities with off-road shocks and larger tires. The Frontier has lasted through four different presidential administrations, but it’s time to retire. We expect a big improvement in the new Frontier coming for 2022.

  • Base price: $27,940
  • Powertrain: 261-hp 4.0L V-6, nine-speed automatic transmission
  • Max Towing: 6710 lb

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6. Toyota Tacoma

The Toyota Tacoma was refreshed for 2020, and it received a truckload of updates inside and out. It’s a popular choice for off-roaders of all levels thanks to its rugged design and proven powertrain, even in three-pedal form. It does offer the most standard driver-assist features of trucks in this segment; however, the rubbery cabin and its lack of space is a drawback. Its definitive truck look comes with stereotypical poor fuel economy, in a segment teeming with better paved-road handling and fuel efficiency. The Tacoma can do it all, but the reality is that the newer mid-size trucks just do it better.

  • Base price: $27,425
  • Powertrain: 159-hp 2.7L inline-4, six-speed automatic transmission; 278-hp 3.5L V-6, six-speed manual, six-speed automatic transmission
  • Max Towing: 6800 lb

MORE TACOMA SPECS

5. Ford Ranger

After its global release in 2010, U.S. fans of the classic Ford Ranger had their prayers finally answered with the truck’s mighty return stateside for 2019. Every Ranger is powered by a 270-hp turbocharged 2.3-liter inline-four with a 10-speed automatic transmission even in small-cab/long-bed or big-cab/short-bed configuration. The 2.3-liter two-wheel-drive Ranger is the most fuel efficient gas-powered midsize pickup in the segment. The FX4 off-road package offers an exposed steel skid plate, front tow hooks, and plates to protect its fuel tank, transfer case, and front diff, giving it serious unpaved capability. We found that on paved roads the Ranger’s acceleration and braking performance are a bit old-school rugged when compared to its more civilized rivals. A Ranger Raptor is planned for the U.S Market, that’s likely to offer more off-road capability with an improved suspension or powertrain. MORE FORD RANGER SPECS

  • Base price: $26,015
  • Powertrain: 270-hp 2.3L turbo inline-4, 10-speed automatic transmission
  • Max Towing: 7500 lb

4. GMC Canyon

The GMC Canyon is what to get when you know exactly what you want in a mid-size pickup, with a comforting amount of Lego-brick configurability. There are two cabs for two beds and three available engines including the 308-hp V-6, which comes highly recommended, making this truck one of the quickest we’ve tested. The Canyon loses its optional six-speed manual transmission for 2020 but keeps its excellent suspension damping and road feel that we’ve come to love. The Canyon can tow up to 7700 pounds in crew-cab diesel-powered configuration. It’s a great truck that can be had for cheaper in Chevy form.

  • Base price: $27,595
  • Powertrain: 186-hp 2.8L turbo-diesel inline-4, 200-hp 2.5L inline-4, 308-hp 3.6-liter V-6
  • Max Towing: 7700 lb

MORE CANYON SPECS

3. Chevrolet Colorado

The Chevrolet Colorado is available from two-wheel-drive work truck spec all the way up to a Moab-capable ox. It nears full-size capability in a mid-size package while achieving the best towing numbers of the segment. Chevy’s infotainment system looks great and comes packed with modern tech, and even if the rest of the styling doesn’t quite keep up with the times, the available cargo room in the crew-cab model is only outdone by the Honda Ridgeline. Like its GMC brother, the Colorado is no longer sold with a manual transmission, but at least you can still get one with a snorkel.

  • Base price: $26,395
  • Powertrain: 186-hp 2.8L turbo-diesel inline-4, 200-hp 2.5L inline-4; six-speed automatic transmission; 308-hp 3.6L V-6, eight-speed automatic transmission
  • Max Towing: 7700 lb

MORE COLORADO SPECS

2. Jeep Gladiator

Back to battle golden bow ties and blue ovals in the mid-size-truck coliseum for 2019 after a long absence, the Jeep Gladiator is Stellantis’ modern take on a Jeep turned truck. Taking design cues from its smaller sibling the Wrangler, the Gladiator’s interior offers luxury unmatched by anything else you’d drive without doors. Unfortunately, only one cab and one bed length are available. A 280-hp 3.6-liter V-6 with a six-speed manual transmission is standard. There’s also a 260-hp diesel with 442 lb-ft of torque that makes the Gladiator the most fuel-efficient pickup on the list with an EPA-estimated 27 mpg highway. The Jeep’s high starting price make it the most expensive, even more than most base full-size pickups.

  • Base price: $35,060
  • Powertrain: 260-hp 3.0L turbo-diesel, eight-speed automatic transmission; 285-hp 3.6-liter V-6, six-speed manual transmission, eight-speed automatic transmission
  • Max Towing: 7650 lb

MORE GLADIATOR SPECS

1. Honda Ridgeline

The Honda Ridgeline is designed for folks buying mid-size trucks for everyday use, rather than for the extreme. Its unibody chassis is shared with the Odyssey minivan, Passport SUV, and three-row Pilot. Why is that a good thing? It redefines what it feels like to drive a truck, which is an overwhelmingly good characteristic. Where some body-on-frame trucks bounce and wiggle, the Ridgeline offers a smooth ride with easy to control handling. Body-on-frame construction is rugged, and unnecessarily so, for most pickup owners. However, an obvious drawback to this design is its limited off-road potential. It’s 5000-pound maximum towing capacity, only for all-wheel-drive models, is the lowest in the segment by 1710 pounds behind the Nissan Frontier. A 280-hp V-6 with a nine-speed automatic transmission is the only powertrain. The Ridgeline also offers the most rear cargo space in this segment. An extra weatherproof in-bed cargo area also works to store items you’d rather not put inside the cabin or hear roll around in the bed. The Ridgeline has been a C/D 10Best Trucks winner three years in a row.

  • Base price: $37,665
  • Powertrain: 280-hp 3.5L V-6, nine-speed automatic transmission
  • Max Towing: 5000 lb

MORE RIDGELINE SPECS

The Cheapest New Trucks You Can Buy Today

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