New small trucks include the 2022 Ford Maverick
Photo: Ford

Small pickup trucks are a big trend this season, with three new models to look for. “These all offer truck versatility at a lower price and in a size that makes them more suitable for daily use,” says Jake Fisher, CR’s senior director of auto testing.

The new Ford Maverick pickup truck shares a platform with the Ford Escape and Ford Bronco Sport SUVs and is the first pickup to come standard as a hybrid.

The Hyundai Santa Cruz brings the best of the impressive Tucson SUV to a truck.

And after 16 long years, the Nissan Frontier pickup has finally been redesigned, with an updated interior and powerful engine that make it a compelling alternative to the established body-on-frame models from Chevrolet, Ford, GMC, and Toyota.

Read on for a preview and our initial driving impressions. Then click through for a more complete perspective on these new, small trucks. 

Ford Maverick Preview

New small trucks include the 2022 Ford Maverick hybrid, shown driving
Photo: Ford

Serving as the entry point into the Ford lineup, the four-door-only Maverick is roughly a foot shorter bumper to bumper than a Ranger crew cab. The game-changing base 191-hp, 2.5-liter hybrid four-cylinder is linked to a continuously variable transmission that drives the front wheels and delivers a claimed 37 mpg combined and a range of 500 miles per tank. There’s an available 250-hp, 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder paired with an eight-speed automatic that can tow up to 4,000 pounds. All-wheel drive is optional with the 2.0L. Numerous accessories and Ford’s truck heritage add to the appeal.

Base price range: $19,995-$29,880
Destination charge: $1,495
On sale: Fall 2021

Read our complete Ford Maverick preview

Hyundai Santa Cruz First Drive

New small trucks include the 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz
Photo: John Powers/Consumer Reports

The dramatic lines of the Hyundai Santa Cruz are a departure from the blocky shape of most trucks. But beneath that skin you’ll find its chief appeal: a comfortable ride and smooth powertrain combined with truck versatility that includes lockable in-bed storage. The base engine is a 191-hp four-cylinder that we found dull in the Tucson. The Santa Cruz we purchased for testing has a 281-hp, 2.5-liter turbocharged engine that’s strong and smooth, and all-wheel drive, allowing it to tow up to 5,000 pounds. Overall, this is a refined daily driver that’s ready for pint-sized weekend adventures.

Base price range: $23,990-$39,720
Destination charge: $1,185
Price as driven: $37,290

Read our complete Hyundai Santa Cruz review

Nissan Frontier First Drive

New small trucks include the 2022 Nissan Frontier
Photo: John Powers/Consumer Reports

The new Frontier is built on the bones of the previous version, with upgraded road manners and a peppy powertrain among the many improvements. The 310-hp, 3.8-liter V6 and nine-speed automatic provide good acceleration and more power than rivals, and handling and ride also shine (though steering is oddly heavy at low speeds). Controls are simple and easy to use. The driving position is mixed, with a supportive seat but lacking some steering wheel adjustments. Downsides: The rear seat is rather tight, and the tall hood hinders forward visibility.

Base price range: $27,840-$37,240
Destination charge: $1,150
Price as driven: $35,140

Read our complete Nissan Frontier review

Editor’s Note: This article also appeared in the November 2021 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.