Just because someone is buying a compact pickup truck, it does not necessarily follow that it will ever be used for work. In fact, the great percentage of small trucks are used for personal transportation and not toil.

All of this is easy to see when you take a look at some of today’s compact trucks. Not only are they better looking but are much more civilized than in the past. To be sure, there is still the bare-bones work pickup, but many of today’s small pickups have the equipment, decor and ambience that some small luxury cars have. But, then, many are costing more than comparable sized cars.

Take for example today’s test vehicle – the Nissan King Cab SE. This could very well be the ultimate Yuppie compact pickup. It is loaded with all kinds of equipment, has an interior as rich as any other Nissan vehicle and is very good looking. Although everyone realizes that there is not much that can be done with a pickup’s styling – there’s only a hood, cab and box to work with and the function of all three are pretty much dictated – Nissan really went out of its way with the design of its new pickup.

This shouldn’t be surprising since Nissan does know something about small pickup trucks and the American market. Back in 1958, when it was known as Datsun, the company introduced the first small truck into the U.S. market. That year it sold 159 small pickups. The last model year it sold 261,000 trucks to U.S. buyers.

The new truck even goes beyond the past to impress the American market. In fact, the new truck lineup (introduced as a mid-1986 entry) was designed in the United States especially for the American consumer. And if this isn’t enough, the test vehicle was manufactured at Nissan’s assembly plant in Smyrna, Tennessee. So, it can’t very well be called a foreign truck. (Nissan may be getting the money but the Americans are getting the truck.)

Basic dimensions for the King Cab (what I consider the most practical and family-oriented model in the 15-model pickup lineup) includes a wheelbase of 116.1 inches, overall length of 190 inches, width of 65 inches, height of 62.4 inches, cargo box of 73.4 inches by 59.8 inches and a curb weight of slightly under 3,000 pounds. This makes it over one inch longer and an inch wider than its 1986 predecessor. There’s about an inch of additional leg room and head room. However, the interior even looks larger because the interior surfaces were ”pushed” away from the driver and front seat passenger.

The two bucket seats should accommodate drivers and passengers of all shapes and sizes. The two fold-down and facing center jump seats are perfect for children and will even carry adults if they are desperate enough. If the extended cab area isn’t used for passengers it can carry a goodly amount of luggage or other items you don’t want bouncing around the pickup box.

The overall design is very smooth and very slick. The body and pickup bed appear to be integrated into a single form. And although everything is very aerodynamic there are still front and rear fender flares to give it a touch of dash. The grille area is rather unobtrusive but there are hood slots that appear to be borrowed from the Pulsar NX.

The test vehicle was powered by a 3-liter/181-cubic-inch V-6 engine, the largest displacement and only overhead cam V-6 in a compact pickup. The engine is really a slightly detuned version of the V-6 used in the 300ZX. It is rated at 140 horsepower at 4,800 rpm and 166 foot pounds torque at 2,400 rpm. Performance, as could be expected, was very good. The test vehicle’s five- speed manual (a four-speed automatic is optional) was geared more like a car than a truck and got the most out of the engine’s power. Things were a little touchy off the line and it was easy to spin the rear wheels if you laid on too much pedal. Fuel mileage on the test vehicle averaged 15 mile per gallon for city driving and 24 miles per gallon f or highway driving. Since the fuel tank measures 15.9 gallons, the vehicle does have a long range.

The standard engine is a 2.4-liter/144-cubic-inch four-cylinder. It is rated at 106 horsepower at 4,800 rpm and 137 foot pounds torque at 2,400 rpm. This engine should provide decent power for all conditions.

The King Cab has fairly typical pickup suspension – coil springs up front, leaf springs in the rear but the ride is more like a passenger car. No doubt helping out here is the long wheelbase. The payload – passengers, cargo, et al – is 1,400 pounds and the gross vehicle weight rating is 4,400 pounds.

Driving the King Cab should present any problems to anyone. You sit fairly high and the extra two windows of the extended cab provide even better visibility than a conventional pickup car. To make things even a little easier, even the oversized outside mirrors are power assisted. Handling isn’t bad but, keep in mind, it still is a truck.

The Nissan pickup is also available with a standard cab in either a regular or long bed, and in a four-wheel drive model with regular or long bed or King Cab. There is also four levels of trim – standard, E, XE and SE.

Now to the bottom line, you shouldn’t expect to get all this luxury without paying for it. Full price on the test vehicle – a two-wheel drive King Cab in SE trim – came to $14,179, which is certainly a tidy sum of money. The base is $11,149 and includes a goodly amount of equipment and trim. The single biggest option was the sport power package at $1,950 and included the pop-up sun roof, road wheels, power door locks and windows, power mirrors and four- speaker AM-FM stereo/cassette radio. The two other options were air conditioning at $750 and SE graphics at $140. Delivery came to $225.