Think Smaller: 2019 Midsize Truck Rundown

It’s true the Ford F-150 is America’s darling, with 40+ years in the #1 spot. And the other two prominent full-sizers—the Silverado and RAM 1500—are seeing exciting improvements for the new year. But from utilitarian to extreme off-road, right on up to uber-luxurious, the midsize truck market has stepped up its game to show that size isn’t everything. With nimbler handling and a less shocking sticker price, many midsizers deliver just as much capability and reliability as their big siblings. Indeed, even towing and payload capacities have become competitive. These little guys have come a long way, so if you’re thinking 2019 is the year you snag a new ride, here’s the midsize truck rundown to make sure you’re considering all options.

2019 Chevy Colorado (+ZR2)

While Chevy seems to be putting most of its eggs in the 2019 Silverado basket, the automaker has saved one or two for the Colorado. The popular midsize truck stays mostly unchanged for the new model year, save for an upgraded infotainment system, HD Rear Vision Camera, Ultrasonic Rear Park Assist safety additions, and a few new colors and USB ports. However, amid all the champagne toasting and resolution making, a beefy new performance variant will arrive on scene—the ZR2 Bison.

Don't let the name fool you. The ZR2 Bison is one off road midsize truck you don't want to ignore.

Alright, so a “bison” might not immediately draw your attention when compared to such highly-marketable names as Raptor, Trail Boss, Rebel, and Power Wagon. But don’t let the image of that slow-grazing bovine fool you. This thing is ready to party—like way out in the woods with only a campfire and a bottle of Old Grand-Dad.

Originally realized as a concept truck for SEMA 2017 by Chevy and American Expedition Vehicles (AEV), the 2019 Colorado ZR2 Bison is expected to go on sale as soon as January. Expanding upon the ZR2’s already well-stocked list of off-road equipment, the Bison adds a 2.0″ suspension lift, larger fender flares covering 17×8-inch aluminum wheels, a comprehensive skid plate package, a Chevrolet-lettered exclusive grille, and an optional snorkel. There are also new steel bumpers—the front accommodating that WARN winch as well as foglights, and the rear sporting integrated recovery hooks.

Altogether, this beast rolls in a little under $50K, adding about $6,000 to the standard ZR2 price and making it a worthy turnkey off-road contender to any possible Ranger Raptors that could appear on the market. If you’re looking for something big and bold to ring in the new year, this might just be the answer.

2019 Toyota Tacoma

Not to be outdone by Chevy’s innovations, Toyota is ready to join the extreme off-road-ready club with an upgraded TRD Pro model. Already a popular and plucky model known for successfully weathering the low tide of the midsize truck market, the base model Toyota Tacoma will see only a few convenience upgrades for 2019. (Just in time for its Ranger competition to re-enter the market, eh?)

The special TRD Pro trim package kicks things up a notch with a redesigned suspension worthy of desert racing, standard 16″ TRD Pro black alloy wheels with Goodyear Wrangler Kevlar all-terrain tires, new black-chrome tipped cat-back exhaust, and an optional Desert Air Intake designed to prevent excess dirt from getting into the engine.

Motor Trend reported, “anybody can Sawzall a hole in the fender and bolt a snorkel to the A-pillar,” but this TRD Pro Desert Air Intake is actually “stamped into the raw steel at the factory,” getting the “full anti-corrosion paint treatment.” Which means that now when you invite babes back to the garage to “see your snorkel,” you’ll actually have something impressive to show them…

The trim also adds Rigid Industries LED foglamps and an OE quarter-inch-thick front skidplate that can double as a vehicle jack. Toyota has thrown in built-in roof-rack fastening points, a moonroof, JBL audio system, and navigation—all for a grand total price increase of only $940 on the manual and $1,645 on the automatic. As usual, the Toyota Tacoma maintains its reputation as an affordable, ruggedly attractive midsize truck. (A reputation it will undoubtedly be drawing upon in order to stand up to a growing market of contenders.)

2019 GMC Canyon

Like its Chevy platform mate, the GMC Canyon sees only minor changes for 2019. But with a consistently comfortable ride, respectable towing abilities, and a robust V6, the model remains a solid and stable choice within the midsize truck market.

The 2019 GMC Canyon is a solid and stable midsize truck option.

The 2019 Canyon gains a new infotainment system and upgraded rear view camera, optional parking sensors, heated steering wheel and 6-way power adjustable seating features, boosted WiFi charging, and a new 17″ wheel design. Engine options remain the same: a 2.5-liter inline-4, 3.6-liter V6, or a turbodiesel 2.8-liter inline-4 offering up 30 mpg highway driving and 7,700 pounds of towing capacity. In fact, the 2.8-liter Duramax, which was designed specifically for trucks, is also the cleanest diesel truck engine GM has ever produced. And even among the gasoline powerplants, fuel economy ratings are at the top of the class.

It’s true, the Canyon often gets criticized for simply being a Chevy in a sharper suit. And yes, it can be hard to make the argument for purchasing one over its very capable (and more affordable) bowtie-badged sibling. At the end of the day it comes down to preference, and GMC fans continually appreciate the premium touches and efficient power of the Canyon, as well as the extra cachet and dose of exclusivity that comes with purchasing something a little further upmarket.

2019 Honda Ridgeline

If you’re looking for something that really stands out from the herd, it’s time to stop laughing at the Honda Ridgeline and consider the many benefits of its quirky perks. This out-of-the-box midsize truck sits on a unibody construction and fully independent suspension, giving it a much more car-like ride. And while its rounded edges and SUV-vibe may cause traditional truck lovers to rear back in horror, for the average consumer seeking comfort, fuel economy, and light-duty truck capabilities, it’s a solid option.

With the ability to tow up to 5,000 lbs (in AWD models), it’s not blowing the competition out of the water by any means. But for occasional DIY projects and weekend camping trips, it’s just gravy. Additionally, because of its unique construction, the Ridgeline’s truck bed is able to accommodate a seven-cubic-foot trunk hidden beneath the cargo floor. Plus, with a tailgate that swings both downwards and sideways, bed access is a breeze.

The Honda Ridgeline's uni-body construction allows for unique cargo solutions in the midsize truck segment.

Few changes are happening for 2019, as the model is a carryover. Lower trims gain a few more USB ports, while higher levels see a power-sliding rear window and moonroof become standard equipment.

While the Honda Ridgeline certainly won’t appeal to everyone, it’s (becoming) a respectable, albeit non-traditional, contender among niche midsize truck owners. And with a smoother ride, excellent cargo management, and Honda’s renowned safety technology, it’s no surprise it landed on Car and Driver’s 10 Best Award for midsize pickups.

2019 Nissan Frontier

If you’re looking at this list thinking “Who needs heated seats and state-of-the-art infotainment?? A truck is for workin!” the Nissan Frontier might be more your style. With only minimal changes during the past 10 years, the Frontier is the go-to midsizer for those seeking durable practicality. With a comfortable-enough ride, respectable towing, spartan interior, and fair price, the Frontier strives for mediocrity and achieves it just fine.

Virtually unchanged for the last 10 years, the Nissan Frontier is a great choice for the midsize truck customer seeking primitive styling and practical ability.

As the flip-phone of the midsize truck market, the 2019 Nissan Frontier sees only the slightest of updates for the new year: a standard 7.0-inch touchscreen and the addition of Cayenne Red to the paint line. Anddd that’s it. So, if bells and whistles make you nervous, and you just don’t understand what all these Millennials keep whining about, check out the Frontier. But hurry up, because the word is a major redesign is coming in 2020, meaning you’ll finally have to learn how to change that WiFi password yourself.

2019 Ford Ranger

Here it is. The one we’ve been waiting for. For nearly 30 years it was essentially synonymous with “midsize truck” until customer desires switched to the bigger-is-better mentality and the small pickup market began to fizzle. Built Ford tough, many old school Rangers still proudly roam the roads today. And with a proven track record of capability and reliability, the model is back—after eight long years—for 2019.

Redesigned for a stateside audience, the new Ranger maintains its vintage roots with a noticeable lack of aluminum in favor of hard steel. But with options galore and plenty of tech, it enters this new generation with all the aplomb of a pop star comeback. Eight colors, three trims, two cab configurations, and an optional off-road package amp up the choose-your-own-adventure vibe. Only one powertrain is available though, a 2.3-liter EcoBoost mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission, expected to put out around 300-hp. There are whispers of a diesel, but no confirmation yet. And if the towing capacity of the Honda Ridgeline had you scoffing, Ford promises the new Ranger will lead the pack with at least 7,700 lbs.

It’s true the full-size truck market has something for everyone. But the midsize segment has stepped up its game, with plenty of new flavors and added spice. Big and ruggedly handsome is great, but midsize trucks prove you don’t have to sacrifice agility and fuel economy for a towing package you’ll only use sparingly throughout the year. Providing customers with a great slice of fun and adventure in a smaller package, any of the models on this list would do you right in the new year.

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