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2012 Chevrolet Colorado LT (GM)
2012 Chevrolet Colorado LT (GM)

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Thinking small: Where have all the tiny pickups gone? Add to ...

Have you any news of a small pickup truck being made again in the future? I love ’em and have owned three Ford Couriers, two Mazda B2000s, two Chevy S-10s, two Ford Rangers and one Ford Bronco. From what I have read, the manufacturers always sold lots of them, but where have they gone? The current crop of small trucks is made of monsters taking up two parking spaces; I can’t see around them for road conditions and traffic ahead. They use more gas and mostly still only carry the driver – and his front bumper is higher than my rear view mirror. Stupid! Stupid! Stupid! What do you think? – Norris

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Cato: I think you’re right, Norris. Last year, Ford of Canada decided it would be better to sell a cheap version of the F-150 – the big pickup – than an even more affordable Ranger. A huge blunder.

Last year in Canada, Ford sold more than 16,000 Rangers – more than 1,000 a month. Why? Price. At its end, the Ranger started at around $14,000 before discounts, versus the $20,000 F-150. But because Americans don’t want the new Ranger, the one recently introduced for global markets, we don’t get it in Canada. Welcome to life in the 51st State.

Vaughan: There’s also a Brazilian Ford Courier, which would suit Norris perfectly, but it’s not coming here, either. I think Ford is so busy trying to build a lightweight aluminum full-size F-Series that it has taken its eye off the ball. There’s big money in big trucks and that leaves small truck fanciers out of luck.

Cato: Forget Ford. And remember General Motors. GM Canada still sells a really solid small truck, the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon. With discounts, you should be able to get one for less than $20,000. And yes, GM Canada plans to bring in an updated version next year, I think from Thailand. Ford’s loss is GM’s gain.

2012 Chevrolet Colorado LT

By the way, GM is not just paying lip service to Norris and his ilk. The current Colorado is sold with lots of variety. For instance, there’s a four-cylinder model (185 horsepower), a five-cylinder (242 hp) and even a V-8 (300 hp).

Vaughan: Don’t forget about the Nissan Frontier. Nissan was first to do a compact pickup truck back in the 1960s and you saw plenty of them around until they rusted before your eyes.

2012 Nissan Frontier S King Cab

The Frontier has been a terrific little truck over the years, but it’s not so little any more. Now it’s built on the same frame as the great big Nissan Titan, and downsized a little. Call it a mid-size and not a compact pickup. Maybe it’s too big for Norris but I’m sure he would like the big discounts that you can get on it.

Cato: I’m so glad you brought up the discounts. They are shockingly rich here. On some Frontier models, the factory is offering dealers incentives as high as $6,500 – on a $24,000 Frontier. If I hadn’t already lent my son the money to buy an old Ranger, I’d have gone for a new Frontier. At these prices, wow!

And cut-rate pricing is why I’m reluctant to steer Norris towards a Toyota Tacoma. Toyota’s mid-size rig is the quality king here, but I’m only seeing $1,000 in factory rebates. That’s just not competitive. Toyota could really make some noise with its Tacoma if the price were a little more in line with the competition – after discounts, of course. But as we all know, Toyota hates playing that game.

2012 Toyota Tacoma

Vaughan: If you get a Tacoma in the short wheelbase version, if you get the cheapest one at $22,100, it probably comes closest to the kind of compact truck that Norris remembers so fondly. But even the Tacoma has been super-sized over the years.

With the short version, you can get a 2.7-litre, four-cylinder, 159-hp engine and that should be enough. But if you want more than the basics, there’s Regular Cab, Access Cab and Double Cab editions with standard or long-bed lengths. I guess manufacturers just can’t believe that some pickup truck shoppers mean what they say when they demand “compact.”

Cato: If it’s a true small rig, Norris, go Colorado/Canyon. This one comes closest to what a true small pickup should be.

I mean, let’s be honest here. Most of the Norrisses of the world need a little runabout pickup to haul rubbish to the dump. It is also all the pickup needed by most ranchers, hobby farmers and tradespeople. Full-size pickups are overkill for the vast majority of buyers. And I hate trying to see over them in traffic.

Vaughan: Norris, you have my sympathy. You’re just not going to find a compact truck like you had in the good old days. Unless you move to Asia. As for your current offerings, get the biggest discounts you can now, on the truck you like most. Or wait to see what GM comes up with in the next Colorado/Canyon.


2012 Chevrolet Colorado LT regular cab2012 Nissan Frontier S King Cab2012 Toyota Tacoma 4x2 Access Cab base

Wheelbase (mm)


Length (mm)


Width (mm)


Track, front (mm)



2.9-litre four-cylinder2.5-litre four-cylinder2.7-litre four-cylinder

Output (horsepower/torque)

186/190 lb-ft152/171 lb-ft159/180 lb-ft

Drive system

Rear-wheel driveRear-wheel driveRear-wheel drive


Five-speed manualFive-speed manualFive-speed manual

Curb weight (kg)


Fuel economy (litres/100 km)

11.4 city/7.8 highway10.7 city/8.7 highway10.0 city/7.7 highway

Base price (MSRP)


Source: car manufacturers

Jeremy Cato and Michael Vaughan are co-hosts of Car/Business, which airs Thursdays at 8:30 p.m. on Business News Network and Saturdays at 11:30 a.m. on CTV.

You can e-mail Cato & Vaughan here: cato-vaughan@globeandmail.com

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