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Short Work: The Best Midsize Pickup Trucks for 2023

Best Midsize Pickup Trucks 0 Hero
Photo: Ford Ranger Raptor

In 1925, Henry Ford began producing the Model T Runabout. What differentiated it from other motor vehicle models of that time was that, on top of having a passenger cabin, this car also features an elongated flat open-air cargo space in the back. Essentially, it was the world’s first pickup truck. Since that time, pickup truck models have become the gold standard for workman’s vehicles around the world because they are generally tough and excellent for transporting any manner of gear, power tools, and more.

Nowadays most pickups fall within the full-sized range – For reference, the Ford F-150 (America’s most popular truck) is can be over 20’ long and over 6′ tall. But a massive motor vehicle isn’t practical or necessary for everyone that wants a bedded truck. Luckily, those folks don’t have compromise, because full-sized trucks have smaller counterparts, known as mid-size pickups. If you’re looking for a truck with a bed, but you definitely don’t have the need or desire for a hulking behemoth, these little laborers are an excellent, nimble, and often more economical option. So get ready for work because these are the best mid-size pickup trucks available right now.

The Best Midsize Pickup Trucks

What Factors Should I Consider When Buying A Midsize Pickup Truck?

As vehicles that serve as both workhorses and as a means of transportation, there are quite a few factors that one can consider when shopping for a mid-sized pickup. Having said that, there’s a myriad of elements that undoubtedly stand above the rest in terms of importance — the most crucial of which we’ll be breaking down directly below. 

Powertrain: As the heart and soul of any vehicle, the powertrain is an area that should always be closely reviewed when shopping for a truck. This is because a pickup’s powertrain will play a direct role in determining the vast majority of the vehicle’s performance characteristics, from its speed and acceleration to its towing and hauling capabilities. When looking at a truck’s powertrain, you’ll want to consider factors such as whether its a regular petrol engine or diesel mill, the number of cylinders, layout, displacement, aspiration, and whether or not it uses any type of electric motor(s) or hybrid drive system(s). Additionally, you’ll also want to review the type of transmission that’s been mated to the engine. 

Horsepower & Torque: A vehicle’s power figures provide a more objective sense of the vehicle’s real world performance capabilities. As such, you’ll want to pay attention to a mid-sized model’s horsepower and torque numbers. 

Towing & Hauling Capabilities: One of the biggest selling points of any pickup truck is its workhorse capabilities. As a result, a model’s towing and payload capacity should always been closely considered. 

Fuel Economy: Traditionally, pickup trucks haven’t delivered the most impressive fuel economy numbers, though in more recent years this has been steadily changing as manufacturers have to contend with ever-more stringent emissions and fuel economy regulations — a feat that’s often accomplished through implementing a hybrid drive system. Because regularly filling up a a pickup truck’s tank quickly adds up, fuel economy is definitely an area you’ll want to review when shopping. 

Tech & Connectivity: Not unlike practically any other brand new vehicle currently in production, modern pickup trucks have been bestowed with ever-more-advanced suites of technological bells and whistles, including everything from 360° camera systems to state-of-the-art Bluetooth-connected infotainment displays to blindspot monitoring and lane-departure assist to Head-Up displays, and onboard wifi hotspots. It’s also become increasingly common to see pickup trucks with onboard battery packs that can charge devices or be used to plug-in power tools. 

Cabin & Creature Comforts: Traditionally, pickup trucks have been largely utilitarian in nature. As a result, they typically feature fairly spartan cabins. In recent years, however, this has massively changed, as a growing number of modern pickup trucks now sport cabins that are just as plush as those found in luxury sedans or SUVs. 

Driving Characteristics: Though hauling and towing capacities often receive the majority of the attention when shopping, it’s still very much worth considering a mid-sized truck’s overall driving characteristics, as how the vehicle handles and performs will unsurprisingly play a massive role in its day-to-day user experience — making this another area that’s instrumental to review when shopping. 

Bed: A pickup truck’s utility is largely owed to two areas; its powertrain; and its bed. As a result, you’ll want to explore a given pickup model’s available bed options, looking at factors such as length, overall dimensions, the bed’s construction (and any fortifying coatings or liners), and available tie-down and attachment points. 

Cab & Seating: Mid-sized pickups are offered in one of several different cab configurations. This includes standard and regular cabs, extended cabs (also known as access cabs, King cabs, SuperCabs, or Quad cabs), and crew cabs (also known as CrewMax cabs or Mega Cabs). If it wasn’t clear from reading this, different companies use different names for their own takes on cab and seating configurations. 

Off-Road Readiness: The vast majority of mid-sized pickup models will boast at least some basic off-roading capabilities — even in their lowest-specced base model form. As off-roading has grown more popular in recent years, however, we’ve started to see a growing number of marques begin churning out factory-lifted and kitted turnkey off-road models that typically come outfitted with flared fenders, off-road wheels and tires, and a bevy of other go-anywhere bits such as steel bumpers, skid plates, winches, snorkels, and headache racks. 

Trim Level: Just like most other cars and SUVs, the vat majority of pickup trucks are offered in multiple trim levels, each of which features its own factory-installed components, features and upgrades. These can include everything from utilitarian work-focused trims to factory-lifted hardcore off-road-specs. Trim level can also massively affect the price of a pickup truck, as some range-topping trims can often cost more than double that of a base model variant.  

Toyota Tacoma

Toyota Tacoma
Photo: Toyota
  • Backed by Toyota’s usual stellar reliability
  • Has available IsoDynamic seats w/ air-over-oil system
  • Offered w/ available hybrid i-FORCE MAX i4 engine
  • TRD Pro trim levels offers incredible off-roading capabilities
  • Tow rating lower than gen-3 predecessor
  • Yet to be revealed pricing

Best Hybrid Truck: Completely redesigned for its latest (fourth) generation, the Toyota Tacoma – and its varying iterations – could be one of the greatest pickup trucks of all time for its long-term reliability, overall performance and capabilities, and genuine good looks. And that’s not even with a sub-class consideration. Toyota just has a reputation for building really good pickups – it was, after all, a pair of Toyotas that the guys at Top Gear both drove to the North Pole and tried and failed to destroy. Not unlike its full-size sibling — which has also been treated to a major redesign for its latest gen — the Tacoma now comes with your choice of either Toyota’s 278-hp turbocharged 2.4-liter i-FORCE inline-four or the more powerful 326-hp 2.4-liter i-FORCE MAX hybrid four-banger — the latter of which puts down 465ft-lbs and offers up to 6,500lbs of towing capacity. And, if you’re keen on the idea of taking your vehicle adventuring, the TRD Pro trim comes with a heavy duty suspension, 4-wheel drive with an automatic limited-slip differential, and skid plates to help you get all four wheels wherever you’re planning to go. Oh, and if you expect that you might resell somewhere down the line, the Tacoma is an excellent option because they retain their value rather well.

Available Engines: Turbocharged 2.4L Inline-Four, Turbocharged 2.4L Hybrid Inline-Four
Power: 278HP & 317FT-LBs , 326HP & 465FT-LBs
Max Towing Capacity: 6,500LBs
Base Model MSRP: Aprox $28,000

Chevrolet Colorado

Chevrolet Colorado
Photo: Chevrolet
  • Features class-leading off-roading capabilities
  • Offered in ZR2-spec developed alongside American Expedition Vehicles
  • Has available class-leading 10-camera system
  • Fantastic-looking design (the ZR2 even more so)
  • Boasts impressive slew of available state-of-the-art tech
  • Very few standard tech amenities

Best Off-Road Truck: The Silverado is undoubtedly Chevrolet’s most well known and popular pickup truck, but that doesn’t mean that its little brother – the Colorado – isn’t worth a look. In fact, the Colorado still boasts an impressive range of features to pair with its smaller format, including optional 4G LTE WiFi connectivity, driver assistance safety features like collision alert and lane departure warning, and a best-in-class tow capacity of up to 7,700 pounds. With the Colorado, you can choose between a host of personalized options, as well as one of three different engines — all of which are turbocharged 2.7-liter four-cylinder mils, though power varies from 260ft-lbs to 391ft-lbs to 430ft-lbs depending on which lump. Of course, if you’re not interested in going through all the trouble to customize your ride but you still want something that can handle the job — as well as some serious off-roading —  you can rest easy knowing that the ZR2 sub-model is Chevy’s most capable midsize truck ever.

Available Engines: Turbocharged 2.7L Inline-Four, Turbo Plus 2.7L Inline-Four
Power: 237HP & 260FT-LBs, 310HP & 391FT-LBs or 430FT-LBs
Max Towing Capacity: 7,700LBs
Base Model MSRP: $29,200

Nissan Frontier

Nissan Frontier
Photo: Nissan
  • Offers excellent value
  • Starts at under $30,000
  • Has 6,640lb tow rating & payload capacity of over 1,200lbs
  • Produced in 4×4 & 4×2 versions across 8 trim levels
  • Winner of Texas Auto Writers Association’s Midsize Truck of the Year award
  • Options quickly add up in price
  • Only offered w/ 1 engine option

Best Value Truck: Let’s start with the obvious: Nissan’s Frontier has one of the lowest starting MSRPs of any pickup truck in its class. And while that might not seem like a huge gap, the money saved could go toward some optional upgrades, making this truck a pretty stellar contender. Every version of the current generation of the Frontier is kicked along by a 310-horsepower 3.8-liter V6 that cranks out 281 foot-pounds of torque. And, if you’re especially particular, you can choose from a myriad of upgrades including a bed extender, step rails, or even a bed-mounted tent that will allow you to take car camping trips to the next level. Just be sure that you adhere to a budget when putting together a custom package of the Frontier, because Nissan operates a bit of a nickel-and-dime upgrade scheme that can easily skyrocket your price.

Available Engines: 3.8L V6
Power: 310HP & 281FT-LBs
Max Towing Capacity: 6,640LBs
Base Model MSRP: $29,770

Ford Ranger

Ford Ranger
Photo: Ford
  • Fantastic handling & ride quality
  • Boasts very healthy 7,500lb towing capacity
  • Great suite of safety features
  • Offered in super-capable twin-turbo Raptor-spec
  • Rides on an old architecture
  • Cramped cabin/rear seating

Best Overall Truck: As the little sibling to the Blue Oval’s F-150 — aka America’s most popular pickup truck (and by a wide margin) — it probably won’t come a s surprise to hear that the Ford Ranger is widely considered one of the best mid-sized SUVs currently in production. Offering great value, the Ford Ranger is available with a trio of different engine options across four trim levels. A major part of what makes the Ranger so special, however, is the fact that Ford offers an enormous range of available options, accessories, and upgrade packages that allow the midsize pickup to be personalized to meet a wide range of needs and lend itself to a diverse array of uses. The Ranger is also offered in Ford’s go-anywhere, factory-lifted and kitted Raptor-spec, which gains class-exclusive 2.5″ FOX Racing Shocks with Live Valve tech, locking axles fore and aft, a CWatts-link rear suspension setup, bead-lock-capable wheels, a 360° camera system, 10.7” of ground clearance, and a twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter Ecoboost V6 engine that sends 405hp and 430ft-lbs of torque to a  permanent 4×4 drive system. 

Available Engines: Turbocharged 2.3L Inline-Four, Twin-Turbocharged 2.7L V6, Twin-Turbocharged 3.0L V6
Power: 270HP & 310FT-LBs, 315HP & 400FT-LBs, 405HP & 430FT-LBs
Max Towing Capacity: 7,500LBs
Base Model MSRP: $32,565

GMC Canyon

GMC Canyon
Photo: GMC
  • Truck can serve as Wifi hotspot
  • Features surprisingly plush & luxurious interior
  • Boasts class-leading 7,700lb tow rating & nearly 1,700lb payload
  • Loaded w/ cutting-edge tech
  • Only offered w/ 1 engine option
  • Costs over $7,500 more than Chevy-made sibling (Colorado) base model

Best Work Truck: GMC advertises the Canyon as “the only premium midsize pickup.” Whether that can be disputed or not, there’s no denying that the Canyon is an impressive machine in the midsize class. Much of its specs are on par with the Chevrolet Colorado, including its maximum tow capacity and MPG rating, but the aggressive Sierra-like styling is a bit more visually appealing. For its current model year, every version of the Canyon comes equipped with a turbocharged 2.7-liter inline-four engine that makes 310hp and 430ft-lbs of torque and offers a generous towing capacity of 7,700lbs. This pickup also doubles as a 4G WiFi hotspot, offers collision and lane departure alerts, and comes standard with an 8″ touchscreen control interface to satisfy your high-tech needs. If you think it seems like a pretty even tossup between the Colorado and the Canyon, you’d be right.

Available Engines: Turbocharged 2.7L Inline-Four
Power: 310HP & 430FT-LBs
Max Towing Capacity: 7,700LBs
Base Model MSRP: $36,900

Honda Ridgeline

Honda Ridgeline
Photo: Honda
  • Makes for practical daily driver while retaining workhorse capabilities
  • Backed by Honda’s usual stellar reliability
  • Offered w/ available iVTM4 All-Wheel-Drive system
  • Features super spacious crew cab
  • Comes loaded w/ Honda Sensing suite of driver assists
  • Towing capacity only 5,000lbs

Most Versatile Truck: At first glance, you might think that the Honda Ridgeline looks like they just slapped a bed onto the back end of a Pilot crossover. But, they’ve done a much more comprehensive rework than that. For starters, the bed features a built-in hideaway trunk for extra storage (maybe some grilling gear). It also features a dual-opening rear gate, so you can choose to swing it open like a door or drop it down like a traditional pickup gate. The bed is also designed to be free of those annoying wheel-well humps and has the option for a power outlet (perhaps to plug in a TV while you tailgate) and/or an in-bed speaker system. You can even choose between all-wheel drive or two wheel drive to pair with the standard 3.5L V6 engine with a 6-speed automatic transmission. As an added bonus, this pickup got an IIHS Top Safety Pick+ rating. 

Available Engines: 3.5L V6
Power: 280HP & 262FT-LBs
Max Towing Capacity: 5,000LBs
Base Model MSRP: $38,800

RAM Rampage

Ram Rampage
Photo: RAM
  • Boasts looks & much of the work capabilities of RAM 1500
  • Uses 2.0L Multijet Turbodiesel (or the Wrangler’s 2.0L Hurricane i4)
  • Also offered in sporty R/T variant
  • Backed by 3-year, unlimited mileage warranty
  • Has class-leading 12.3” central multimedia touchscreen display
  • Unknown tow rating
  • Not currently sold in U.S. market

Best Diesel Truck: The newest truck on our list, the RAM Rampage offers the looks and much of the performance capabilities of its bigger, full-size 1500 sibling, in a more compact — and more affordable — package. Also known as the RAM 1200, the Rampage is a unibody model that measures 198” in length and boasts a bed with 34.6 cubic feet of storage — along with another 1.25 cubic feet in the cabin. For its debut model year, the Rampage is being offered with the buyer’s choice of either a 2.0-liter Multijet Turbodiesel inline-four or the turbocharged 2.0-liter Hurricane four-cylinder engine borrowed from the Jeep Wrangler. RAM is also offering multiple trim levels of this truck, including a sporty R/T variant. Sadly, this legitimately attractive mid-size model is only currently available in the Brazilian market, though is expected to eventually arrive on U.S. shores in future years. 

Available Engines: Turbocharged 2.0L Inline-Four, 2.0L Turbo-Diesel Inline-Four
Power: 272HP & 295FT-LBs, 170HP & 280FT-LBs
Max Towing Capacity: N/A
Base Model MSRP: $47,580

Rivian R1T

Rivian R1T
Photo: Rivian
  • Offers impressive combination of workhorse & off-roading capabilities
  • Has range of between 328 & 400 miles
  • Makes up to 835hp & does 0-60 in as little as 3 seconds
  • Boasts 1,760lb payload & 11,000lb towing capacity
  • Features 3’ wading capabilities & up to 14.9” of ground clearance
  • Expensive price

Best Electric Truck: The Rivian R1T is a state-of-the-art all-electric pickup that offers an impressive mix of workhorse capabilities, ample storage, off-roading chops, and advanced tech. Affording 62 cubic feet of storage space, the truck boasts a pass-through gear tunnel just ahead of the rear wheels, a bed spanning 83.9” (with the tailgate down), and an under-bed storage compartment that can accommodate a full-sized spare wheel and tire — or a few more cubic feet of gear. The bed of the truck also features an onboard air compressor, and a a pair of 120-volt outlets. Good for 835hp and 908ft-lbs of torque, the range-topping quad-motor version of the R1T delivers a 3-second 0-60mph time and a range of 328 miles, though even the base model dual-motor AWD-spec offers 533hp, 610ft-lbs of torque, a 4.5-second 0-60mph time, and a range of up to 400 miles per charge. The R1T is also a surprisingly competent off-roader, thanks to the ability to wade through up to three feet of water, optional underbody skid-plates, 14.9” of ground clearance, and approach, break-over, and departure angles of 35.5°, 26.4°, and 30°, respectively. 

Available Engines: Dual Motors, Dual Performance Motors, Quad Motors
Power: 533HP & 610FT-LBs, 665HP & 829FT-LBs, 835HP & 908FT-LBs
Max Towing Capacity: 11,000LBs
Base Model MSRP: $73,000

Heavy-Duty: The Best Full-Size Pickup Trucks

Best Full Size Pickup Trucks 0 Hero
Photo: Chevrolet Silverado 1500

Want to check out a selection of bigger models? Then be sure to head over to our guide to the best full-size pickup trucks for a handpicked list of large-scale workhorses and off-roaders.