Could there really be a new Toyota compact truck to take on Maverick, Santa Cruz?


Toyota executives say they plan to produce a new compact pickup. And why not? Toyota is undoubtedly watching the Ford Maverick and Hyundai Santa Cruz trucks steal sales. These compact trucks, built on unibody car or SUV chassis, are capturing a significant share of the small truck market that Tacoma previously dominated. And, Volkswagen will come after the same market with the Scout. So when the Toyota executive told Motor Trend he was considering a new compact truck, we listened.

Before hoping for a new Toyota compact truck to arrive soon, hold your power. But, it’s interesting to know that Toyota is watching.

Ford Maverick and Hyundai Santa Cruz are built on SUVs

2022 Ford Maverick Hybrid XLT | Ford

Ford builds the Maverick on the same platform as the Ford Escape and Ford Bronco Sport SUV. These SUVs make for a great truck because they’re already built to hold plenty in the back and for towing. The Santa Cruz is based on the popular Tucson, which is also a popular SUV for the same reasons. Some say these two could even kill the Tacoma.

Toyota makes nine different SUVs. The 4Runner is already the SUV version of the Tacoma. The Sequoia is based on the full-size Tundra. The RAV4 is a popular SUV, but its design that prioritizes hybrid power requires a big bump in the rear that would likely limit bed creation. Same for the Highlander. Does that mean we could see a corolla cross with a bed? A Venza with a bed?

The Toyota brand’s heritage in the United States was built on small trucks

A white 1986 Toyota pickup truck. Could Toyota be considering a new compact truck?

The Toyota pickup | Thierry Falise/LightRocket via Getty Images

Toyota nearly invented the compact truck in the United States with the original HiLux in 1968. The little truck could barely get out of its own way, with a small 76-hp four-cylinder and seating for two in the cabin. There were no creature comforts in the truck. But who needed things like a radio, clock, or tachometer when you were just going to the jobsite? It was (slightly) bigger and more powerful than the original Datsun 521, which was also first sold in the United States in 1968.

The original pickup was a huge hit for Toyota

In 1980, Toyota’s truck offering was simply called the Pickup. Forget the Tacoma, or the Tundra, or even the HiLux name. Of course, we know the first trucks under the name HiLux, but this name was never officially used in North America for this generation of trucks. It was a truck, for doing truck things, and it didn’t need a fancier name than Pickup. The trucks were small, but slightly bigger than, say, a Chevy LUV.

You can order a two-wheel-drive or four-wheel-drive pickup. They had a four-speed manual transmission and seating for three if they were three good friends. It is virtually impossible to find a stock in early pickup. Almost all Toyotas of this era were lifted or had a more powerful engine than the 20R four-cylinder which produced only 90 horsepower.

The Tacoma SR is the spiritual successor

Tacoma SR5 is the best successor to the original 1980s Toyota pickup.

The Tacoma SR5 | Toyota

When most of us think of a Tacoma, we think of the raised 4×4 off-road TRD models. But the base SR version is probably the closest spiritual successor to those Pickups of yore. The SR, in its base form, has many of the features of the Maverick or Santa Cruz. Some may consider the SR the least expensive Toyota, we consider the TRDs the SR with $25,000 in upgrades. The base SR can do most of the truck stuff you need, and still get 23 mpg on the highway. It starts at $27,150 and it includes a ton of comforts that in 1980 would have sounded like science fiction, like power windows, USB ports and Toyota Safety Sense.

RELATED: Is the 4-Cylinder Toyota Tacoma Even Worth Buying?


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