Best New Mid-Size Pickup Trucks of 2021

Car and Driver

There’s nothing minor-league about the mid-size-truck segment. Sure, these pickups don’t have cabins as cavernous as larger full-size trucks, or have the towing capability to move mountains, but they get the job done. It’s all about utility value in this segment. They can afford to offer carlike reflexes on paved roads, with options for bigger tires and winches later, if you need them. What matters most about this segment is overall usability—the combination of strong horsepower offerings, decent fuel economy, and plenty of cargo space, all for a reasonable price. Here’s a roundup of mid-size pickups ranked from good to greater:

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7. Toyota Tacoma

The Toyota Tacoma was refreshed for 2020, receiving 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 offers the most standard driver-assist features in this segment; however, the rubbery cabin, lack of space, and somewhat awkward driving position are obvious drawbacks. The 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: $27,615
  • Powertrains: 159-hp 2.7-liter inline-4 with 6-speed automatic; 278-hp 3.5-liter V-6 with 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic
  • Max Towing: 6800 lb (RWD V-6 with Tow Prep


6. Ford Ranger

After its global release in 2010, U.S. fans of the classic Ford Ranger finally saw their prayers 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 and big-cab/short-bed configurations. The two-wheel-drive Ranger is the most fuel-efficient gas-powered pickup in the mid-size segment. The FX4 off-road package offers an exposed steel skid plate, front tow hooks, and plates to protect the 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 with more civilized rivals’. A Ranger Raptor is planned for the U.S. market and will likely offer more off-road capability with an improved suspension or powertrain.

  • Base Price: $26,015
  • Powertrain: 270-hp turbocharged 2.3-liter inline-4 with 10-speed automatic transmission
  • Max Towing: 7500 lb


5. Nissan Frontier

We’ve had mostly the same ol’ Nissan Frontier since 2005, but that’s finally changed. The new truck does have some leftover parts, such as the ladder-type frame, but with stronger mounting points for the suspension, new bump stops, and hydraulic body mounts that better insulate the cab from the road. The steering has been brought into the modern era with quicker reaction, despite its carryover hydraulically assisted rack. The Frontier offers the most power in the segment thanks to its 310-hp V-6, which pairs with a nine-speed automatic. Every new mid-size pickup has its über-off-road model, and the Frontier Pro-4X is a solid example of increasing capability without sacrificing the ride on paved roads. It’s also $7000 cheaper than Chevy’s Colorado ZR2 (more about that truck in a bit). An 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen is standard, and a larger 9.0-inch one is available too. Other optional interior features include wireless device charging, Wi-Fi connectivity, and a 10-speaker Fender audio system. The new Frontier is a big improvement that won’t disappoint its loyal following. Even if they’re still dreaming of a new Xterra at night.

  • Base Price: $29,015
  • Powertrain: 310-hp 3.8-liter V-6 with 9-speed automatic transmission
  • Max Towing: 6720 lb (RWD Frontier S)


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 a highly recommended 308-hp V-6 that makes this truck one of the quickest we’ve tested. The Canyon loses its optional six-speed manual transmission for 2020 but keeps the excellent suspension damping and road feel that we’ve come to love. The diesel-powered crew-cab configuration can tow up to 7700 pounds. Overall, this is a great truck that can be had for cheaper in Chevy form.

  • Base Price: $27,995
  • Powertrain: 186-hp turbo-diesel 2.8-liter inline-4, 200-hp 2.5-liter inline-4, or 308-hp 3.6-liter V-6
  • Max Towing: 7700 lb (RWD 2.8-liter and 4WD 2.8-liter extended cab with 6’2″ bed)


3. Chevrolet Colorado

The Chevrolet Colorado is available from two-wheel-drive work-truck spec all the way up to Moab-capable ox. It nears full-size capability in a mid-size package while achieving the segment’s best towing numbers. Chevy’s great-looking infotainment system 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 outdone only 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 turbo-diesel 2.8-liter inline-4 or 200-hp 2.5-liter inline-4 with 6-speed automatic transmission; 308-hp 3.6-liter V-6 with 8-speed automatic transmission
  • Max Towing: 7700 lb (RWD 2.8-liter crew-cab LT with 5’2″ or 6’2″ bed and 4WD extended cab with 6’2″ bed)


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’s modern take on a Jeep turned truck. Taking design cues from its smaller sibling the Wrangler, the Gladiator has an interior offering luxury unmatched by anything else you’d drive without doors. From the base model to the fully loaded Rubicon, the Gladiator comes with four doors and a five-foot bed. A 280-hp 3.6-liter V-6 and a six-speed manual transmission are standard. There’s also a 260-hp diesel generating 442 lb-ft of torque that makes the Gladiator the most fuel-efficient pickup on the list with an EPA-estimated 27 mpg on the highway. The Gladiator Mojave has the most ground clearance in the segment with 11.6-inches between the ground and the diffs. Thats 1.6-inches more than Colorado ZR2. The Jeep’s high starting price makes it the most expensive, costing more than even most base full-size pickups.

  • Base Price: $35,880
  • Powertrain: 260-hp 3.0-liter turbo-diesel V-6 with 8-speed automatic transmission; 285-hp 3.6-liter V-6 with 6-speed manual or 8-speed automatic transmission
  • Max Towing: 7650 lb (4WD V-6 with 8-speed automatic and 4.10 axle ratio)


1. Honda Ridgeline

The Honda Ridgeline is designed for folks buying mid-size trucks for everyday use rather than for the extreme. It shares its unibody chassis with the Odyssey minivan, Passport SUV, and three-row Pilot. Why does that matter? It redefines what driving a truck feels like, an overwhelmingly good characteristic. For most pickup owners, body-on-frame construction is unnecessarily rugged. While some body-on-frame trucks bounce and wiggle, the Ridgeline offers a smooth ride with easy-to-control handling. However, an obvious drawback to this design is its limited off-road potential. Of course for many, there’s a limit to how far they’re willing to dunk a $38,000 into the muck. It comes standard with all-wheel drive, meaning every Ridgeline can now tow up to 5000 pounds. The powertrain consists of a 280-hp V-6 with a nine-speed automatic transmission. It has the most rear cargo space in this segment, and an extra weatherproof in-bed cargo area can 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. We’ve spent 40,000 miles with one, and it didn’t disappoint.

  • Base Price: $37,665
  • Powertrain: 280-hp 3.5-liter V-6 with 9-speed automatic transmission
  • Max Towing: 5000 lb


The Cheapest New Trucks You Can Buy Today

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