In chronological order from right to left, we have here a compact pickup version of the familiar timeline showing the ascent of humanity from knuckle-dragging apes to upright, intelligent-looking humans. First, a Toyota Hi-Lux, square and no-frills, wearing a stakebed in its third decade of hard work; second, a Toyota Tacoma, with curves and bulges and more advanced technology, and similar or better work capabilities; third and finally, a Ford Explorer Sport Trac that is all cab for passengers and hardly any bed for cargo. It’s the pickup equivalent of being all hat and no cattle, or to use the evolutionary metaphor, like a homo sapiens gone fat from sitting and watching his big screen TV and not getting any exercise. The three trucks are in the same size class but otherwise share little aside from their paint color. Which compact pickup would you prefer?
Depends – is it a weekend hauler or a daily driver. If the former, give me the HiLux, and the Tacoma if not. For some reason, the Sport Trac never really appealed to me.
I would take that middle 95-04 generation Tacoma in a heartbeat, always loved those. They are the perfect size and have that short walled bed that makes them look so purposeful and “off-road”. I especially like the Xtracab SR-5s with TRD pack.
I heard there was some frame rust issue but not a worry in Calif. The only problem — I’m not the only one who likes them. Although there are plenty still on the road owners with nice ones keep them forever. When they do come on the market they are very expensive.
I drove a Pre-Runner V6 once and it was very, very nice.
Are you calling me fat?!
I had to search my soul about this recently when it came time to replace my beloved ’97 4Runner with another vehicle. Requirement were: seats 4 comfortably, can pull 3500lbs safely and reasonably easily (boat) and had to be no more than a V6 for reasonable daily commute economy and I wanted a truck this time instead of an SUV. I ended up choosing a late model Tacoma double cab short bed (5.5′). They make one with a 6.5′ bed, but then the the truck gets really really long. This one is already substantially more difficult than the 4runner to park since its wheelbase is about 18″ longer–the long bed must really be a pain in tight spots.
I like it so far, but I am always conscious of the bed being so short–not that I’m trying to compensate, haha. Besides (I say to myself) my other truck, a ’72 F100 has an 8′ bed. In conclusion I am not all hat, but my daily driver is conspicuously a suburban male’s compromise. Guess that’s why I see so many trucks like mine with 4 doors and a small bed.
4 cylinders, 2 wheel drive, 5 speed manual.
Throw a slab-sided (and decidedly non-aerodynamic) camper shell on it, and you just described the 2000 Tacoma I drove for eight months on a 250-300 mile daily route through northern New Mexico.
#333 had less than 500 miles on its odometer when it was assigned to me, and even though it wasn’t mine (and for that matter, it was also shared with a driver on the night shift) I made it a point to keep that truck looking like new. After all, it was a lot nicer than my crappy LeBaron convertible, and I was spending a lot more time in it.
Sometime around February 2002:
And in 2009, shortly after I returned to the same company on the customer service side. By this time #333 was pretty well worn out, but at least the door and shell logos finally matched!
A driver finally killed it sometime in early 2011, by which time it had close to 400,000 hard miles on the clock. I STILL miss that little truck.
That’s my kind of truck. I had an older Toyota like that and the thing wouldn’t die. Rust and a driver who ran a stop sign took care of it.
Now I couldn’t justify having a pickup at all, because I don’t believe a crew cab truck was made to be a family car- so I use a small trailer with my Subie when I have to haul stuff.
Here’s mine (Nissan version), photo taken a few years back, now at age 15 and still going strong.
No chassis cracks? Nissans have quite a rep for those.
Just had the truck on the lift at work last week to change the oil; only a little rust was evident. The worst spot is the exhaust pipe between the cat and muffler, but no leaks yet.
The snow in the photo is typical of the minimal amount we receive for an individual storm, so there’s not too much salt used here (central VA). I also try to hose off the underbody not too long after it gets exposed to the stuff.
Perfect for a little commuting and household duties!
Being 6’4″ and with 3 kids in carseats, I’d pretty much have to go with the SportTrac, but with such a tiny bed I’m not sure what I’d use it for.
If kids weren’t a consideration, I’d probably go for the Tacoma. I had a 4Runner of that vintage that was OK. I’d never pay market price for it used though, I think they are overpriced and weak performing.
Not a big fan of small trucks anymore since most modern ones don’t get much better mileage than a full size. The SportTrac and Tacoma actually do worse than some full size trucks.
I’ve always had a soft spot for the 1986-1992 Mazda B-series trucks. I think they’ve got the cleanest styling ever applied to a small pickup. Mostly straight lines with enough aerodynamic touches to look modern without looking bulgy or bloated. Compare something as simple as the side window profile – Toyota, Nissan, Isuzu, and Mitsubishi all had weird windows on their extended cabs that didn’t match up to the front side windows. Mazda not only designed this cleanly, but tied it all up with nice chrome trim around the perimeter.
Also, at the time, Mazda had the most commodious of the extended cabs in compact pickups. At the time, everyone else was using tiny side facing jump seats. Mazda had front facing seats that are terrible by modern standards, but in the mid-1980s they were a revelation. That’s part of why my parents bought two of them over the years.
Mazda, being the small manufacturer they are, used many components from the first-generation RX-7 in these trucks. The transmissions are identical save the gearing and bellhousing. The rear end is also shared with the RX-7 – an LSD from one of those swaps right in. In fact, most RWD Mazdas of all types shared variations of most of these parts. Even the Honda S2000 borrowed the RWD drivetrain components as Honda had nothing suitable in it’s parts bin.
This meant that the B-series had what I feel is far and away the best shift action of any truck I’ve ever driven. The weak point really is the engine – they’re very durable (though not quite to Toyota 22R standards) but just wheezy, unpleasant units. Even the 12-valve 2.6L in my B2600i basically has a powerband that runs from maybe 2,800 RPM to 4,200 RPM. But with 121 hp and 150 ft-lbs it is adequate. Should this engine give up the ghost – and with a rebuilt cylinder head just installed, it will be quite some time – I will be driving over to Racing Beat for a rotary swap. No more torque, but a wider powerband that is well suited to the short gearing in these trucks. Mine has a 4.44 rear end as it is 4WD.
I had a 1988 B2200 as my first car, and it was only the Pennsylvania Tin Worm that killed it. I’ve moved on to much more powerful and refined vehicles – my current primary car is a Dodge Challenger R/T – six speed of course – but I took the opportunity when I moved here to Southern California to get myself this 1992 Mazda B2600i 4×4, partly to satisfy my need for a truck but mostly for nostalgia’s sake. It even smells like my old truck did.
Also called a Ford Courier in this part of the world the 2.5 TDI is the pick of them
Sadly we stopped getting the diesels after the previous version.
Find me a Hi-Lux with a bed.
Two wheel drive 2.4 turbodiesel manual Hilux coz it will work reliably and run economically while doing it.We dont get the Tacoma here and the Exploder well we dont want it even the regular wagon version has no market propects down under anymore it was finished the moment the Ford Territory was introduced. I will shoot a new Territory for you guys and a new 5cylinder diesel Ranger just to show you what Ford US could have done if they knew how.
My first pickup was closer to the HiLux; a long-bed ’84 Ranger with the V6. Got a lot of use out of it. When my soon-to-be wife bought her ’98 Ranger, I donated the ’84 to the Salvation Army and used her ’86 Toyota–extended cab, a bit fancier than the Ford.
We needed 4WD when we moved to Oregon (about once per trip in winter–our garage approach is a killer) so we got the V8 Silverado. We were thinking of getting rid of the ’98 Ranger when we got a Forester, but it’s in good shape and much better for mileage than the Chevy. We’ll hang onto it for the while–parts are readily available and it’s easy to keep running. The Chev is a stripper, with the Ranger semi-plush–it’s a good road truck, but for towing, I like the Chevy.
Are there any Toyota Stouts in Eugene, or even the successor built through about ’78? I see a few of the mid-70’s version but haven’t seen a Stout for years.
No Stouts, and no gen1 HiLuxes, but lots of gen2 HiLuxes (from 1972 up). I’ve been wanting to find a Stout for a long time; used to be fairly common in CA.
Actually there was a Stout (although I think it was listed as a Scout) on craigslist last summer. Me and Jerry were both tempted but it needed a motor, I believe. Nice looking truck.
All three of those vehicles serve different purposes. The old Toyota is probably handyman’s truck or some other commercial purpose, the middle truck is probably for some single guy that wants to drive a truck but may or may not put anything in the bed and the Explorer is probably used much like my neighbor who is a professional guy in his late 30s, wife who works as well, and two small children. He takes the one son who is old enough to go to school to the nearby elementary school every morning, has a small fishing boat he pulls periodically, and go to Home Depot now and again. So it has become something of a suburban family vehicle they typical use that when they depart as a family. Most of the Sport Tracs that I have seen are covered with a plastic flip tonneau. The closest I can think that is similar to the Sport Trac is the Honda Ridgeline but you rarely if ever see those around here.
If the picture will upload, I think I will just take this one. 91 S10 4.3/700r4 with equip and tools for an AC install. Since that didn’t make the springs frown I hooked up this trailer load of soil.
I honestly never thought I was going to like this but I can’t seem to get the best of it.
Being that my 92 Explorer is currently out of commission I’d take any of the above (if free). For an every day driver, if I didn’t drive so much, I’d take the Ford. For a weekend project beater, I’d take either of the Toyotas.
Is the above photo in Georgetown, Washington, DC?
Compact trucks would be very useful in dense urban areas like G’town, San Francisco, etc.
I’d guess that the photo was taken in the Old Town section of Alexandria, VA. There are a lot of old grand townhouses there, just like the ones seen here.
Good eye! The scene is indeed in Georgetown, on P Street I believe. I happened to jog past this line of pickups and realized that I had found an excellent photo-op.
Old Town Alexandria was a good guess too; many streets east of Washington Street look exactly like this.
Whichever one has the lowest liftover to the bed. If I need to haul something big or heavy, I take the one-ton. In a small truck, I want something I can easily toss crap into, lift stuff out of, and which will fit into small places. Fuel mileage doesn’t enter into it, so all the “but the F1veradoram gets just as good mileage” comments utterly miss the point.
For my money, the first generation Dodge Dakota extended cab. V6 or V8, hard on fuel, but a good driving, good hauling truck. I wish I could get my 1995 SLT back… A nice size with plenty of cargo capacity. With my long bed SLT, I could haul a full pickup load of rocks or mulch or whatever. Even with the coarse 3.9 V6, I had plenty of power to run up and down hills, fully loaded. Try that with your ‘Yota or Nissan…
BUT, and this is a big but, I have fallen completely in love with my buddy’s Explorer SportTrac. Something I never would have imagined I would EVER do. The tiny bed is not entirely useless, unless you’re hauling serious cubes of mulch or something. For most daily usage, the bed IS sufficient, or at least it has been in my experience with the truck. You can take four people in complete comfort to the Home Depot and take everythng home that you bought there. There’s a lot to be said for that capability.
Between the Dak and the Sport Trac… I don’t know. That would be a hard choice…
How do I like my compact pickups? Compact! But in the last decade, that’s become a negative to this segment’s North American target market, who often seem to use them as tall family sedans with an open trunk.
Several high-school friends in the late ’90s drove four-cylinder, regular-cab pickups from the late ’80s and early ’90s, and I recall most of them being quite brilliant to drive in their own simple, honest way (B2000s, Rangers, Dakotas etc). They could haul a lot of real-world cargo, too – if not the imaginary 7,000 lb yacht today’s marketers like us to think we all own.
/curmudgeon mode off
My dad had three compact pickups in the 80’s and early 90’s, a B2000 and two Rangers. All of them were cramped, and only the 3.0 V6 Ranger could manage 70 MPH towing two snowmobiles, just barely. Made for good part runners around town but limited in capability otherwise. Sure Ford had the 4.0 available eventually, I had the SOHC version in an Explorer and it made great power. Unfortunately it was no more economical than a full size truck.
With higher speed limits and the space, comfort, power, and economy of today’s full size pickups, combined with all the small trucks available in the US being quite outdated, small trucks in general aren’t as attractive as they used to be.
Early on compact trucks were popular because they were cheaper and more economical to operate. Also, the beginnings of the SUV market with Bronco II Blazer and 4Runner help keep the lines moving. Eventually the SUV market got so big and vehicles so diverse they diverged from their truck brethren. All of our S10s early on had no air and rubber flooring. Compacts began to creep a bit in content and size and the line between full and compact grew close. Now, it’s easier for the makes to produce an entry level model with V6 and less content on a full size chassis that turns respectable economy and has versatility And MSRP at $23,xxx. You do miss the size though especially for urban driving. We had an 85 S10 4cyl 5speed as a parts hauler and it regularly got 20s in town and was super easy and inexpensive to maintain even 8 years later.
I’ll pick up on mcc.pj’s curmudgeon mode and take it from there.
Whenever the subject of “compact” pickups comes up, I put my rant hat on because I still cannot believe that this market segment evaporated to the extent that it has in this country over the past decade and a half or so. With the discontinuation of the Ranger, there really are no truly compact pickups sold in this country. I know the Nissan and Toyota offerings are still classified as compacts, but are they really the simple, light trucks that were in the real spirit of this segment from the ’70s to the ’90s?
I believe the reason behind this market shift was a manufacturer driven desire to sell us more, not less. The convenience store would rather sell you a 32oz Big Gulp than a 24oz. one. And Ford (or insert any other manufacturer), would rather sell you a full sized pickup than a compact one. In other words, the “super-size it” phenomenon.
The manufacturers say the compact pickup market died because consumers did not buy them. I am not so sure that I buy that. It is a classic example of the chicken and the egg, in which came first. Did we stop buying them so they stopped making them? Or, did they stop making them and we had none to buy?
I realize that compact truck sales numbers started to drop off in the early 2000’s, and even the Ranger’s numbers were a far cry from where they were 5 years earlier, but I still contend that, because of a lack of choice, the manufacturers pushed consumers out of this segment.
Am I the only one who believes that if a manufacturer would today release a truly compact pickup, that was simple, not fat and bloated, not over-contented, and was dirt cheap, it would sell?
“The manufacturers say the compact pickup market died because consumers did not buy them. I am not so sure that I buy that. It is a classic example of the chicken and the egg, in which came first. Did we stop buying them so they stopped making them? Or, did they stop making them and we had none to buy?”
NAPA and Orkin, to name two companies, have massive fleets of Ford Rangers. Apparently they don’t need full-size pickups for their operations. I have no idea what they’ll do now the Ranger is out of production.
These things were in fact wildly popular at one point. So what happened? I have no idea what the profit margins were on these, but I’m presuming they were much lower than for the bigger trucks. My opinion: the manufacturers were unwilling to sink much money into updates, so consumers lost interest. Self-fulfilling prophecy.
For me, mid-’80s-early ’90s Toyota pickups were utterly brilliant machines, rust issues notwithstanding. Count me as someone would would buy an updated version today.
I thought we were going to get a chance to see who would buy a compact truck (diesel no less) with Mahindra. When they bailed out I figured a compact was going to remain the lot of F150, silverado, and ram. I think something big will have to happen for compacts to come back.
I think the market niche is going to be filled with the new compact utility vans. Ford treats the Transit Connect as a Ranger replacement and I have to agree. We will be getting some Fiat vans as Rams as well.
What they don’t do is fill the small 4×4 segment, but as far as smaller utility vehicles go, one could argue that the vans are superior anyway.
First, love the site. Not only does CC scratch my weird car itch but contains scads of photos of my homeland, Oregon…sigh, I miss her.
Second, the Sport Trac doesn’t belong in the photo. The thing is a flabby crossover (I’m still not entirely clear as to what that means) with weird design issues that would render it useless off pavement. The low-hanging exhaust being one example. A Ranger or Frontier would be better contemporaries to the Tacoma.
I still have my 4×4 Hilux which has survived just brutal neglect by its previous owner, violent rear-ending, and triple use as adventure machine, commuter, and ranch worker. It has the second-worst engine Toyota ever put in a Hilux (the 3.0 liter 3vze) but at a quarter million miles it still goes great. No rust on the frame or body except for the bed (junkyard) that I installed after the aforementioned rear collision.
Compact trucks, as a class, seem forgotten in the U.S., but cross the southern border and behold their continued ubiquity! I met some Guatemalan guys at a truckstop in western Arizona because I was curious about their odd Toyota caravan (each man driving a Hilux that towed a Hilux). They are shipping these things into Central America by the thousands.
I drive all sorts of not compact trucks while working, most recently the new F250 with the 6.7 diesel. Now, my Hliux cannot even dream about competing with the towing ability of that Ford–800 ft, lbs. torque!–but it can haul a similar amount in the bed and is actually fun to drive. And yes, the Hilux is preferable in the bush for its low gearing, relative light weight and ability to squeeze into and through tight places. I just wish that Toyota had sent these things over with the 3.0 liter diesels.
Tacoma vs. pre-Tacoma: Tacoma wins for engines, though an argument can made for the 22re, and more IFS travel; the pre-Tacoma wins for pretty much everything else.
Jonesy called it. Sometimes they aren’t Toyotas. This picture has a distinctly North American flavor. Truck towing a truck, towing a dolly, towing a truck. Stuff like this goes up and down US59 every day. You can’t find a good used truck that is economical down here due to this. Not the tin worm.