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Best Pickup Truck of 2022

By Editors
February 25, 2022

Winner: 2022 Ford Maverick

When the Ford Ranger reappeared in the North American market for 2019, it was a lot bigger than the one it replaced. A truly small pickup truck still could not be had in the world’s biggest pickup market. But now, Ford’s new 2022 Maverick recaptures some of the magic of the old Ranger and presents truck shoppers with a truly appealing option.

And a truck it is — no silly “sport adventure whatever” moniker, no trying to convince the public that it’s not really a pickup. Ford is proud of the Maverick’s truck abilities and has designed the thing from the start to fit into its pickup lineup as one of the family. The Mav’s appeal starts with its novel choice for a standard powertrain: a gas-electric hybrid with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 191 system horsepower and 155 pounds-feet of torque running through an electronic continuously variable automatic transmission to the front wheels. It’s good for a healthy 42 mpg rating in the city, but our own testing has routinely seen more than 43 mpg.

If you’d rather have more power for towing, the optional turbocharged 2.0-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder’s 250 hp and 277 pounds-feet of torque and conventional eight-speed automatic will let you tow up to 4,000 pounds with the 4K Tow Package, enough for a small camper. You can load the bed with as much as 1,500 pounds of gear and either powertrain still pulls strongly.

But it’s the Maverick’s novel details that really sell us on it. The interior, filled with inexpensive plastics, is designed to have an industrial-chic look to it that makes you not care that it’s actually cheap. The stereo speakers are in the pillars instead of the doors and help to maximize space. The center console is super-low so your knees don’t hit it, allowing you to spread out more. It’s the fact that you can get a base trim level with plain-Jane steel wheels but still spec the more powerful turbo engine. Or that Ford includes QR codes throughout the truck that point you to websites to help you make do-it-yourself bed dividers or provide a 3D printer data file to let you make your own snap-in accessories.

And on top of all that, it’s a screaming value to boot, with a starting MSRP in the low-$20,000s. It might just be the most extraordinary, widely appealing truck to come along in decades.

hyundai santa cruz limited awd 02 angle exterior front scaled jpg 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz | photo by Christian Lantry

2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz: Nominee

What’s this? Somehow this year, we’ve been blessed with not one but two new small pickups, each taking a different tack toward this untapped class. Hyundai has repeatedly said that the new 2022 Santa Cruz is not a pickup truck, but a “sport adventure vehicle,” whatever that means. All we know is that it’s a four-door machine with a bed and tailgate in the back, and that’s pickup trucky enough for us to include it here.

Just as the Ford Maverick is related to the Bronco Sport, the Santa Cruz is a derivative of the Hyundai Tucson SUV and shares its fundamental platform, powertrain and interior. That means you get a unibody pickup with a standard four-cylinder engine (a more powerful turbo engine is optional), front- or optional all-wheel drive, a spacious and beautifully crafted interior chock full of the latest and greatest Hyundai multimedia tech, and excellent ride and handling characteristics that put most other pickups to shame. On the outside, the Santa Cruz is pure spaceship a wild assemblage of angles and camouflaged running lights hidden in the waffled grille, all painted in optional muted colors meant to evoke the outdoors. But like the Maverick, it does trucky things: It can tow up to 5,000 pounds, it can carry a payload of up to 1,753 pounds, and it can go off-road with a ground clearance of more than 8 inches. It’s certainly a more expensive option than the Maverick, but once you’ve been in it and driven it, you won’t wonder why.

toyota tundra limited 2022 01 dynamic exterior front angle red truck scaled jpg 2022 Toyota Tundra | photo by Christian Lantry

2022 Toyota Tundra: Nominee

Two revised trucks could have filled our third nominee spot for Best Pickup Truck of 2022: the new Toyota Tundra or the new Nissan Frontier. Our editors picked the Tundra for this honor, as it represents a much greater redo of the previous model than the Frontier does. The ‘22 Tundra gets a new chassis, a new body, new powertrains (no more V-8!) and a completely redone and far better interior, all wrapped in styling that’s both distinctive among full-size pickups and yet still fits well in the modern Toyota showroom.

Two twin-turbo V-6 engines are available, and the top one adds a hybrid drive system for power, efficiency and a boost to things like towing capacity. Both are mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission, a first in a Toyota-brand vehicle in the U.S. You have six trim levels to choose from, two cab configurations and three bed lengths, as well. Toyota in-house tuner TRD plays a big role, too, with two TRD packages (Sport and Off-Road) and one TRD off-road trim level (Pro). The rear suspension has been switched to a coil-spring setup like the Ram 1500’s, and an optional air suspension is available for the first time. 

It’s the first thorough redesign of Toyota’s full-size pickup in 16 years. The whole package creates a well-done reinvention of the Tundra, with snappy acceleration, decent ride quality and a few innovative features like an aluminum-reinforced composite pickup bed that are sure to keep Toyota owners coming back for more.