Originally published December 21, 2015
A few years ago, it wouldn’t even have occurred to us to do a comparo like this one. Not only were there very few compact trucks left on the market, what was out there was sadly in need of updating.
It wasn’t always so. Thirty years ago, small trucks represented one of the hottest segments on the market, and nearly every large manufacturer had their own contender. The compact designation was somewhat elastic, with sizes ranging from the tiny Ford Rangers and Chevy S10s to the near full-size Dodge Dakota.
Instead of the “one-size-fits-all” approach of a conservative market, there was a truck to suit just about every purpose.
There were off-roaders like the Toyota Tacoma, Nissan Frontier, Jeep Comanche and Ford FX4 Ranger, general purpose trucks like the Chevrolet Colorado and Mazda B2000 and quirky little runabout pickups such as the Dodge Rampage, Subaru Brat and Volkswagen Rabbit Sportruck. Modified street pickup communities thrived, and it wasn’t uncommon to see tubbed and blown Chevy S10s square off against the imports at the drag strip.
But by the mid-2000s, most of these had disappeared here thanks to rising fuel costs and better alternatives – although the segment remains strong in the European and Asian markets.
The increasing levels of performance – and luxury – from the ever-more capable sports utility market proved too alluring to the average buyer who didn’t really need the full-time use of a pickup.
By 2013, there were only a handful of small trucks available, and woefully dated at that. Tacoma led the market, despite not having seen a refresh since 2005.
When GM announced they were introducing a pair of mid-size pickups that they believed would resurrect the segment, there was more than a little skepticism. After all, nobody was interested in compact trucks anymore. Or were they?
The Chevrolet Colorado and GM Canyon were almost instant hits, and GM claims they’re selling as fast as they can build them. Toyota’s newly improved Tacoma is gathering rave reviews for its impressive technology and Nissan will introduce a completely revised Navarro-based version of the Frontier sometime next year.
More on autoTRADER.ca: 2016 Canadian Truck King Challenge
Aside from attending the launches for Canyon and Colorado, and the latest Duramax Diesel-powered versions of GM’s compact twins, we were able to pit them back to back against the all-new Tacoma as one of the participating judges of this year’s Canadian Truck King Challenge. The comprehensive testing featured on-road drive loops, empty and with payload, towing and an off-road course. Read further to see how we ranked them.