As it rolls off the tongue, the term "small truck" is almost an oxymoron. Trucks are all about tackling jobs cars can't, so the thought of limiting a truck to small jobs doesn't have the same ring as a truck that can handle whatever you might throw at it. In general, the perception is the bigger the truck, the more capable.
Over the past decade, sales of full-size pickups have rocketed, thanks to personal-use buyers flocking to exciting new, big-rig-inspired designs from the Big Three and Toyota. Manufacturers have pumped time and talent into new full-size product, chasing the rich profit margins these vehicles command. At the same time, the less-profitable compact and midsize pickups have been largely ignored, and sales have languished. For the most part, compact trucks became cheap wheels for teenagers or retirees, a small rig the gardener or pool guy tooled around in, or something people drove until they could step up to a full-size.
As a result, a lot of people are driving much more truck than they really need. This is more than idle conversation with gas prices rising to $2 per gallon in some areas. Everyone knows you don't need a five-pound sledgehammer to hang a picture frame on the wall.
So the question remains: Is the reason small trucks have faded a lack of interested buyers or a paucity of exciting product?
General Motors is about to bet the farm that the latter is true. At Chevrolet, the compact S-10 is out and the "midsize" Colorado is in for 2004. What constitutes a midsize classification? It's just a question of a few inches here and there, but the perception of a midsize truck carries fewer negatives than a compact one. How does it fit in? The new Colorado's wheelbase is about three inches longer than the previous S-10, and it's about three inches taller, too. Though the new truck is no wider than the S-10, its stance is roughly three inches broader. The Colorado is larger than the Ford Ranger, Toyota Tacoma, and Nissan Frontier, but not as big as the other midsizer, the Dodge Dakota. GM has accomplished this increase without any severe weight gain.