What's the Best Midsize Pickup for 2016? Results May Surprise You

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Some Cars.com editors joined Mark Williams, editor of sister site PickupTrucks.com, along with others to put five midsize pickup trucks through their paces for the 2016 Midsize Pickup Truck Challenge. We put them through a week’s worth of tests, including a 165-mile fuel-economy drive (loaded and unloaded). We also took the pickup trucks to a track where we conducted acceleration and braking tests, and we took them to an off-road course in south-central Michigan to see how they fared in the mud and muck.

Here’s how they finished:

No. 1: 2016 GMC Canyon SLE

No. 2: 2017 Honda Ridgeline RTL-E

No. 3: 2016 Chevrolet Colorado Z71

No. 4: 2016 Toyota Tacoma TRD Off-Road

No. 5: 2016 Nissan Frontier Pro-4X

What was the surprise? The Honda’s performance. While the Canyon edged out the Ridgeline to retain its title as Best Midsize Pickup, the completely reimagined Ridgeline stunned us at the track, where it drew top marks, and also on the off-road course, where it managed to climb sand hills far better than we had reason to believe it would.

It still has some issues the others don’t: reduced payload and towing capacity, unibody construction, low clearance. But despite the complaints of many about the last-generation Ridgeline, this one is far more of a truck’s truck than the previous version.

Another surprise was the top-selling and all-new Toyota Tacoma coming in fourth place in a five-truck comparison. The Toyota Tacoma’s love-it-or-hate-it interior caused the pickup truck to lose some points as did its ride height and seating position. On the fuel-economy front, the Tacoma scored the highest mpg in the payload mileage test.

The GMC Canyon and Chevy Colorado had the same 3.6-liter V-6 paired with a six-speed automatic transmission. The Chevrolet had an additional 12 inches of wheelbase thanks to its 6-foot-plus bed. That longer wheelbase helped it in our off-road test, keeping it from getting its wheels stuck in the shorter wheelbase holes and ruts.

The four-wheel-drive Canyon pulled ahead of the pack – just barely. Our judges noted how confident this pickup was on country roads, the track and at the off-road park.

While the aging Nissan Frontier came in last place, it stood out thanks to its powerful engine – a 4.0-liter V-6 – and capable brakes. 

For this challenge, these midsize pickups had to have four-wheel drive, crew cabs and V-6 engines. The price cap for these pickup trucks was $37,500, though the Honda came in significantly lower.  

Click here to see all of the data and results at PickupTrucks.com.

Cars.com’s Editorial department is your source for automotive news and reviews. In line with Cars.com’s long-standing ethics policy, editors and reviewers don’t accept gifts or free trips from automakers. The Editorial department is independent of Cars.com’s advertising, sales and sponsored content departments.

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