Ford division general manager Ross Roberts told us the new 1993-modelToyota pickup truck will be a viable competitor in the full-size market butthat none of its sales will come from Ford`s hide.

We suggest Roberts learn to suture.

Ford has been the leader in full-size truck sales for so long we can`tremember the last time Chevrolet sneaked past it. But Ford better not becomecomplacent just because the ``like a rock`` people can`t overtake it.

Toyota says it plans to sell about 60,000 of the pickups in the U.S.annually, but it didn`t say 60,000 annually forever. Toyota had meager plans, too, when it brought out the mini Toyopet car in 1949. And folks once laughed at a little car called Corolla. Toyota`s first venture into big trucks iscalled the T100-which doesn`t rule out a T200 or T300 down the line.

The T100 is built in Japan and carries the 25 percent import duty ontrucks when it is shipped here. But keep in mind that in 1996 the joint-venture agreement between General Motors and Toyota expires. Each side isthen free to vie for the Fremont, Calif., plant that makes Toyota Corollas andChevrolet Toyotas-called Geo Prizms-as well as compact Toyota pickups. With GMhellbent on cuts, it`s unlikely to want the Fremont plant. With U.S.production, the 25 percent duty disappears.

The T100 isn`t perfect, but for a first-year model it`s well aboveaverage. It can only get better with gradual refinement.

Toyota calls the T100 midsize because its 121.8-inch wheelbase is 11.5inches shorter than the full-size Ford F150 pickup`s and 10 inches shorterthan the full-size Chevy C/K pickup`s. The T100`s length, 209.1 inches, is 4.2inches less than the Ford`s and 8.3 inches less than the Chevy`s.

Pure semantics. The T100 is smaller than the Ford and Chevy from thecabin forward, not the cargo bed rearward. The bed is the same size as Ford`s F-150 and Chevy`s C/K. When it comes to hauling a load, the T100 goes head-to-head with the big boys.

Toyota boasts that the T100`s cargo bed holds a 4-by-8 sheet of plywood,which to trucks is like boasting that a car holds six people. What the plywoodbenchmark really means is you can haul the same amount of furniture, sod,fireplace wood or tools in the T100 as in the big Chevy or Ford trucks.

Toyota says it`s going after owners of its compact truck who need morecapacity. But it`s also going after the same buyers as the Ford F-Series orChevy C/K series by providing the same function as those rivals.

The cabin can hold three people, although unlike in the Ford or Chevyfull-size pickups, the person in the middle seat has to be a child or a veryslender adult. Still, leg, head and arm room are surprisingly abundant.

The T100 comes in standard and SR5 versions in two- or four-wheel drive.We drove the two-wheel drive with standard transmission.

The cabin has scads of room but doesn`t come with a lot of amenities.Other than a speedometer, a fuel gauge, a digital clock and a couple of clevercoin holders, the instrument panel is rather barren.

Windows and dual outside mirrors are manually operated. Those mirrors are huge and offer great visibility. You can tow a load or throw a camper top onthe rear cargo bed and not worry about obstructed vision. Some rivals, in the interest of aerodynamics, shrink the mirrors for lower wind resistance,forgetting their importance to safety.

The mirrors are so large, however, that you need power control,especially because the cabin is so wide you can`t reach to adjust thepassenger-side mirror. For the luxury of power mirrors you have to purchasethe ``power package`` option, which includes door locks and cruise control.It`s a $635 package available only on the more expensive SR5.

One glaring goof is the placement of the windshield-wiper lever directlyin front of the automatic gearshift lever. When you shift from park to driveyou can activate the wiper lever by striking it accidentally.

On the plus side, the cloth bench seat is very comfortable and offers anarmrest that pulls down from the seat back. Someone should come up with ameans of housing some storage space inside the armrest.

The T100 is powered by a 3-liter, 150-horsepower, V-6 engine teamed witha five-speed manual transmission. A four-speed automatic with overdrive isavailable as an option. Deactivate the overdrive and the V-6 performs well.You must accept, however, that you aren`t driving a pickup to beat othervehicles from the light but to have the capability to haul furniture, sod orfireplace logs.

The fuel-economy rating is 16 m.p.g. city/21 highway with the automaticor the manual-nearly the same as in the compact Toyota truck, rated at 16/23. The T100 wasn`t designed for a V-8, Toyota says. The intent was to givethose tooling around in compact trucks something bigger to move into that`sless thirsty for fuel than a V-8, and those driving full-size trucks somethinga tad smaller that not only drinks less gas but can be pulled into a parkingspace without the need for an attendant to give directions.

If you have to have a V-8, don`t rule out a larger engine from Toyota inthe future.

The ride is fairly smooth, but despite double-wishbone construction,torsion bars, hydraulic shocks, stabilizer bars and 15-inch tires, there`sjust enough bounce over the tar marks that you know you`re in a truck and not a family sedan. One annoyance was a slight metallic whine that came from underthe truck at low speeds.

The standard T100 is priced at $13,998 with the five-speed, $14,898 withthe automatic; The SR5, $15,718 with the manual, $16,618 with the automatic.With four-wheel drive, the standard truck is $17,368, the SR5 $19,028. For nowthe four-wheel-drive trucks come only with manual transmission. An automaticwill be added late in the model year or at the outset of the 1994 model year. Standard equipment in our test vehicle included power brakes andsteering, rear-wheel anti-lock brakes, tinted glass and dual cupholders.There`s no air bag, but one is expected within a year. Popular options includeair conditioning ($820), painted ($229) or chrome ($299) stepup rear bumper,AM/FM stereo ($210), bedliner ($299) and towing hitch ($310).

A slide-open rear window is available in the standard model as part of a$635 optional convenience package that includes tilt steering wheel,intermittent windshield wipers, tachometer and cruise control.