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I’ve been driving a Ford Escape for the past few years, but I’m thinking of making a move to a truck; it’ll be handy for moving my twins to university next year. I’m not sure if I should go with a small or big truck. I would like a diesel engine in case I decide to buy a small boat for the cottage. I know diesels are great for towing. Do you have a recommendation for a reliable diesel truck?

- John

Richardson: Ah – as soon as John gets himself a pickup truck, he’ll become everyone’s friend. Runs to the dump, moving kids, bringing home large items. All his neighbours will be knocking on his door.

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Gentile: You’re absolutely right. It’s so handy to have a truck, and they’re more popular than ever. There are even some electric trucks coming down the pipeline from at least seven U.S. companies including the Tesla Cybertruck, the Bollinger B2 and the GMC Hummer EV.

Richardson: Which are all hugely expensive and unavailable for at least a year, and nothing but status symbols.

Gentile: Not all are status symbols – the electric Ford F-150 isn’t a status symbol in my books. But you’re right; there’s a long wait, and they’re pricey. The GMC Hummer EV isn’t coming to Canada until the fall of 2022. Still, it’s interesting to see these new EV truck contenders.

Richardson: A friend of mine has his $100 deposit in for the Tesla Cybertruck. “I’m not even a truck guy; it’ll just be so cool,” he told me. Why do I have such idiots for friends?

Gentile: I could suggest a couple of reasons ...

Richardson: The problem with actually owning a truck is that when you use it just for regular transport, you’re driving something that’s twice as heavy as you need, slurping back far more fuel than you have to and taking up way more space on the road and in parking lots. But this is Canada. A lot of drivers won’t even consider driving something that’s not a truck.

Gentile: That’s true. And truck buyers are very loyal to their brand, too; there’s very little cross-shopping.

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Richardson: You know, I can’t recall a single pickup-truck driver among my friends who’s switched brands in the last decade.

Gentile: My dad drove the F-150 for nearly 50 years straight. He never bothered to cross-shop with another full-size pickup like the Chevy Silverado or Ram 1500.

Richardson: Well, John doesn’t need a full-size truck unless he’ll be towing a full-size boat. If it’s not a work vehicle, he’ll be quite happy with a mid-size, which will give him better fuel consumption.

The 2020 Ram 1500 Limited EcoDiesel.

Courtesy of manufacturer

Gentile: Not so fast. John wants a diesel engine. The Ram 1500 has a 3-litre V6 turbocharged diesel engine, which is great. It’s powerful and fuel efficient, averaging 9.7 L/100 km combined driving (11.1 L/km in the city and 8 L/km on the highway). That’s impressive for a big truck.

Richardson: I’ve driven that Ram diesel, even towed a big boat with it, and my mileage was better than my old Toyota RAV4 V6. I was astonished how little fuel it used for something so strong. It was quiet, too. I had to check the badges to be sure it was a diesel.

Gentile: And it’s so luxurious inside with lots of modern technology, including a centre touch screen that’s large and easy to use. But John may want to consider a smaller, mid-size truck. That segment keeps growing, too.

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Richardson: Not for Ram, it doesn’t – the former Dodge brand only makes full-size and heavy-duty pickups. But both Chevy and Ford are happy to pick up the slack. Pick up! See what I did there?

Gentile: Mark, this is a dad-joke-free environment.

Richardson: Pah. In any case, my choice for a diesel-powered mid-size truck is the Chevy Colorado. You can get it with three different engines, but if you choose the diesel, it’ll have a tow capacity of 7,700 pounds, which is probably way more than enough for John’s future boat.

The 2020 Chevrolet Colorado mid-size pickup.

The Associated Press

Gentile: I love the Colorado; it’s a good size and it has pleasant road manners. It doesn’t feel like you’re driving a monster truck. The styling is pretty sleek, and it comes with two different bed sizes – 5-foot-1 or 6-foot-2. But John should also consider the Colorado’s cousin, the GMC Canyon.

Richardson: Colorado or Canyon, they’re two peas in a pod with the same basic mechanicals. It just depends what features John wants and what he’s prepared to pay for.

Gentile: And the GMC Canyon costs slightly more than the Chevy Colorado – $29,998 versus $28,880 right now to start for a five-passenger crew cab. But if you want that powerful 2.8-litre turbo-diesel four-cylinder engine with 181 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque, it’ll cost a lot more cash because you have to move up the model chain – $34,310 for the Colorado and a hefty $42,788 for the Canyon!

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Richardson: Those are today’s prices, after rebates, for the 2020 models, which are basically the same as the more expensive 2021 models. People think pickup trucks are cheap, and they see the entry-level prices in the $20,000s, but they usually cost more than SUVs once they’re properly specced. And diesel always demands a premium.

Gentile: If John wants to avoid paying a premium and skip the diesel, he should also check out the Ford Ranger with the 2.3-litre EcoBoost engine. It’s very fuel-efficient and powerful, but it does start at around $32,000.

The 2019 Ford Ranger.

Brendan McAleer/The Globe and Mail

Richardson: The Ranger is a new product for Ford, and it’s very strong competition to the Colorado/Canyon in every way. There’s no diesel option, but that EcoBoost engine can tow 7,500 lbs when you add the towing package, which you can do with the most basic version. Right now, with a $2,000 manufacturer’s rebate, this brings it in at $32,800 before taxes. That’s a tidy savings from the GM truck.

Gentile: The Ford Ranger is definitely a better deal than the Colorado or Canyon. But if John’s heart is set on a diesel, spend a few grand more and go for the Chevy Colorado. If he needs more towing power, move up to the full-size Ram 1500 with the turbo-diesel engine.

Richardson: But don’t forget, John, these aren’t apples-to-apples figures, and once you start adding some extra options, those prices vary between brands. But cost aside, you’ll be pleased to have any of these trucks in your driveway.

What car should you buy? Write to Mark and Petrina at globedrive@globeandmail.com and use ‘What car’ as as part of your subject line. Emails with different subject lines may not be answered.

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