It’s only a matter of time before small pickup trucks start winning the top safety honors

A lot of stress is being given to safety features in vehicles today. Although cars and SUVs use this as a selling point, trucks never really came loaded with a lot of safety tech. However, things are changing now for good, and automakers have upped their game. The 2020 Ram 1500 bagged the Top Safety Pick + award, something unheard of in the truck segment. There’s no doubt that the larger trucks are a lot more equipped than the compact trucks, but what is the benchmark in this segment, and which trucks have scored the best and the worst?

Who Tests and Rates These Vehicles?

Until recently, pickup trucks came with little more than basic safety equipment like seatbelts and other government-mandated goodies. However, with the way this segment has evolved over the last decade, it was only a matter of time before the top safety suites made their way here. To brief you a bit before we dive deep, there are two organizations in the U.S. that crash-test vehicles. The first one is the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), while the other one is the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). The NHTSA is a branch of the Department of Transportation, whereas the latter is an independent safety-research agency. Both organizations conduct similar tests using different methodologies, barring a couple of procedures. In addition to the front and side-impact crash tests, the NHTSA conducts a rollover test, whereas the IIHS tests cars for roof rigidity as well as rear crash protection.

The IIHS is generally considered as the more stringent of the two and, unlike the NHTSA, it is actually a group sponsored by auto insurers. The IIHS conducts nine tests – driver-side small overlap front, passenger-side small overlap front, moderate overlap front, side crash, roof strength, head restraints and seats, front crash prevention, headlight rating, and child seat anchors. These parameters are rated on two scales – one rates the test on “Good, Acceptable, Marginal, or Poor,” while the other one rates it on “Superior, Advanced, or Basic.”

Ford Ranger Crew Cab

There is no small pickup truck on the market that has won the coveted Top Safety Pick + award, or even the Top Safety Pick rating for that matter. This truck from the Blue Oval, however, tops the list. Given the price point that all the trucks in these segments cater to, you cannot expect them to have the same safety equipment as the larger trucks. The Ranger is scored fairly well, and much better than the competition, but it didn’t score a good rating in the passenger-side overlap test. If not for this ‘Acceptable’ rating, the Ranger would’ve been a no-brainer pick if safety is your top priority.

2019 Ford Ranger Crew Cab specifications
Small Overlap Front - Driver-Side: Good
Small Overlap Front - Passenger-Side: Acceptable
Moderate Overlap Front: Good
Side: Good
Roof: Good
Head Restraints and Seats: Good
Front Crash Prevention: (With standard system) - Superior
Headlights: Marginal
LATCH - Ease of Use: Marginal

Read our full review on the 2019 Ford Ranger Crew Cab

Toyota Tacoma Crew Cab

While the Tacoma’s elder sibling did not perform well in the crash tests, the Tacoma is on par with the Ranger and tops the list. It scores exactly the same as the Ford Ranger, and that instills some faith in the truck from the safety point of view. The Tundra had failed miserably, and it is a little weird to see the cheaper truck from the same stable be sturdier than the costlier offering.

2019 Toyota Tacoma Crew Cab safety ratings
Small Overlap Front - Driver-Side: Good
Small Overlap Front - Passenger-Side: Acceptable
Moderate Overlap Front: Good
Side: Good
Roof: Good
Head Restraints and Seats: Good
Front Crash Prevention: (With standard system) - Superior
Headlights: Marginal
LATCH - Ease of Use: Marginal

Read our full review on the 2019 Toyota Tacoma Crew Cab

Chevrolet Colorado Crew Cab

Chevy recently unveiled the 2021 model that comes with six airbags, anti-lock brakes, stability control, and a backup camera as standard. The higher trims come with stuff like Forward Collision and Lane-Departure Warnings, Automatic Emergency Braking, and Rear Cross-Traffic alerts. But, the 2019 model that took the test does not feature all of them. The passenger side overlap test is the Colorado’s Achilles’ heel as it managed to get a ‘Marginal’ rating only. It scored the lowest marks possible in terms of headlights, and a basic rating in the front crash prevention test. Since the 2021 model features autonomous emergency braking, we can surely expect this rating to get better.

2019 Chevrolet Colorado Crew Cab safety specifications
Small Overlap Front - Driver-Side: Good
Small Overlap Front - Passenger-Side: Marginal
Moderate Overlap Front: Good
Side: Good
Roof: Good
Head Restraints and Seats: Good
Front Crash Prevention: (With optional system) - Basic
Headlights: Poor
LATCH - Ease of Use: Marginal

Read our full review on the 2019 Chevrolet Colorado Crew Cab

GMC Canyon Crew Cab

There is no surprise that the Canyon scores the exact same marks as the Colorado. It would actually be weird if they didn’t. Both trucks are essentially the same structure-wise. We saw the same trend with the Silverado and the Sierra as well.

2019 GMC Canyon Crew Cab specifications
Small Overlap Front - Driver-Side: Good
Small Overlap Front - Passenger-Side: Marginal
Moderate Overlap Front: Good
Side: Good
Roof: Good
Head Restraints and Seats: Good
Front Crash Prevention: (With optional system) - Basic
Headlights: Poor
LATCH - Ease of Use: Marginal

Read our full review on the 2019 GMC Canyon Crew Cab

Toyota Tacoma Extended Cab

The Tacoma makes an appearance here again; this time in the extended cab avatar. The truck was not tested for the passenger side overlap test, and that should be a good enough reason to worry. Other than this, Toyota has not taken any cost-cutting measures to maximize its own profits, unlike some other manufacturers, you’ll see on this list. The fact that it receives a perfect rating in the front crash prevention test with a standard system itself is quite assuring. In the other departments, it scores the same as the Tacoma Crew Cab.

2019 Toyota Tacoma extended cab safety ratings
Small Overlap Front - Driver-Side: Good
Small Overlap Front - Passenger-Side: —Not Tested—
Moderate Overlap Front: Good
Side: Good
Roof: Good
Head Restraints and Seats: Good
Front Crash Prevention: (With standard system) - Superior
Headlights: Marginal
LATCH - Ease of Use: Marginal

Read our full review on the 2019 Toyota Tacoma Extended Cab

Chevrolet Colorado Extended Cab

The Colorado is one of the strongest selling products in the segment, and that is why it baffles me to see the Bowtie offer such a poor product in terms of safety. Unlike Toyota, which offers the Tundra with a nearly-same body even in the work truck form, Chevrolet offers the Colorado with a lot of cuts in terms of structural integrity. It scores just an ‘Acceptable’ rating in the driver’s side front overlap test, while the passenger side overlap test was not even taken. Even in the side crash test, it received an ‘Acceptable’ rating. The headlights receive a ‘Poor’ rating to make things worse.

2019 Chevrolet Colorado Extended Cab safety specifications
Small Overlap Front - Driver-Side: Acceptable
Small Overlap Front - Passenger-Side: —Not Tested—
Moderate Overlap Front: Good
Side: Acceptable
Roof: Good
Head Restraints and Seats: Good
Front Crash Prevention: (With optional system) - Basic
Headlights: Poor
LATCH - Ease of Use: Acceptable

Read our full review on the 2019 Chevrolet Colorado Crew Cab

GMC Canyon Extended Cab

It goes without saying that this version receives the same rating as the Colorado, too. However, the truck was not rated for the ‘ease of latch use’ test. Since this is a work truck of sorts, we won’t be stringent in this test. This is basically about how easy it is to use the hardware for installing child seat anchors.

2019 GMC Canyon Extended Cab specifications
Small Overlap Front - Driver-Side: Acceptable
Small Overlap Front - Passenger-Side: —Not Tested—
Moderate Overlap Front: Good
Side: Acceptable
Roof: Good
Head Restraints and Seats: Good
Front Crash Prevention: (With optional system) - Basic
Headlights: Poor
LATCH - Ease of Use: —Not Rated—

Read our full review on the 2019 GMC Canyon Extended Cab

Nissan Frontier Crew Cab

Nissan has sold around 80,000 examples of the Frontier, annually, on an average for the last three years. This is almost four times less than the Tacoma’s numbers. These pathetic safety ratings could be the reason partially. The truck has not even scored ‘Acceptable’ rating in the two overlap tests. With people getting more and more safety-conscious by the day, the Frontier may very well see the sales fall down consistently if it doesn’t mend its ways and offers a safer Frontier. Forget about offering it as a standard feature, Nissan doesn’t have autonomous braking even as an option. Does it make sense to buy this truck? If you are as inclined towards safety as I am, you’ll probably stay away from it.

2019 Nissan Frontier Crew Cab Safety Ratings
Small Overlap Front - Driver-Side: Marginal
Small Overlap Front - Passenger-Side: Marginal
Moderate Overlap Front: Good
Side: Good
Roof: Good
Head Restraints and Seats: Acceptable
Front Crash Prevention: —Not Available—
Headlights: Poor
LATCH - Ease of Use: Marginal

Read our full review on the 2019 Nissan Frontier Crew Cab

Nissan Frontier Extended Cab

The extended cab version of the Frontier doesn’t fare any better. In fact, this model was not even tested for passenger side overlap test. Is there any reason to buy this over the Canyon or the Tacoma? It just comes with the basic set of safety equipment such as seatbelts, airbags, TPMS, and a latch system. The IIHS should advertise the safety ratings all the more so people realize that this shouldn’t be taken lightly.

2019 Nissan Frontier Extended Cab Safety Ratings
Small Overlap Front - Driver-Side: Marginal
Small Overlap Front - Passenger-Side: —Not Tested—
Moderate Overlap Front: Good
Side: Good
Roof: Good
Head Restraints and Seats: Acceptable
Front Crash Prevention: —Not Available—
Headlights: Poor
LATCH - Ease of Use: Acceptable

Read our full review on the 2019 Nissan Frontier Crew Cab

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