For years the compact pickup market remained static, offering few choices and little new. But the past year has seen fresh metal enter the segment, which our "Talking Cars with Consumer Reports" video podcast discusses in detail. One overarching question runs through this episode: How important is value or refinement to car buyers?

Substantially updated for 2016, the Toyota Tacoma has long dominated this segment. Traditional Tacoma virtues of reliability and resale value remain, but the same goes for the truck's lack of refinement—that continues, as well. Given the truck's loyal audience, we're not sure how much that matters.

Buyers who want something more cultured can opt for the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon. The new diesel engine in these twins solves one of the GM trucks' problems, but it adds significantly to the sticker price. Just over the horizon is the redesigned Honda Ridgeline, which will likely offer all of the refinement of a Honda Pilot SUV, just with a pickup bed on back. We wonder, though, how many buyers will value the Ridgeline's logic over typical truck machismo.

Along with the Colorado diesel, we have several new Chevrolets in our test track fleet. Previously nothing more than cheap wheels, the totally redesigned Spark mini-car now feels surprisingly grown-up to drive. This was never a problem for the Cruze compact sedan; to the contrary, it suffered from a bit too much bloat. Also redesigned for 2016, it goes on a diet and feels more contemporary.

Also fully up-to-date, the redesigned Audi A4 might just fill a missing hole in the compact sports sedan class. Enjoyable to drive and comfortable, the A4 should benefit from Audi's good brand reliability. However, some of us are a bit surprised at our test car's $48,000 sticker price.

A viewer question asks us about the value proposition of his Maserati Gran Turismo. Really. Finally, we answer perhaps our most frequently asked question: What cars do each of us own? 

Consumer Reports auto engineers Gabe Shenhar, Tom Mutchler, and Jake Fisher discuss whether compact trucks need to be refined.
Consumer Reports Auto Engineers: Gabe Shenhar, Tom Mutchler, and Jake Fisher.

As with the other "Talking Cars," this episode on popular cars is also available free through the iTunes Store. Subscribe to the video or audio. You'll also find the video on YouTube.

Share your comments on this show below, and let us know if you need any advice for choosing a car.

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2016 New York Auto Show Reveals Surprises, episode 90
What Makes a Car Fun?” episode 89
Straight Talk on the Best New Cars, episode 88
Popular Cars and SUVs, episode 87