The midsize truck segment has been gaining in popularity in recent years. Now there’s a new player in the segment to further stoke a truck lover’s desire: the all-new 2020 Jeep Gladiator.
To find out how the Gladiator stacks up, we’ve compared it to its most established rivals: the Chevrolet Colorado and the Toyota Tacoma. Which of these midsize trucks is best at being a workhorse, an adventure vehicle, or a daily driver?
Both the Chevrolet Colorado and the Toyota Tacoma are available with different bed lengths, cab styles and engines. Jeep, which is related to the popular Wrangler SUV, is currently offering the Gladiator as a crew cab with a short cargo bed only. A V6 engine and four-wheel drive are also standard.
The Chevy and the Toyota win out when it comes to offering a greater variety of body styles and engine configurations. But the Gladiator’s singular configuration is the most popular one for truck shoppers. Pricing varies depending on the trim level you pick. For example, the midrange Gladiator Sport S trim level starts at $38,240. That’s with the standard manual transmission; add another $2,000 if you want an automatic. You’ll pay less to get a comparable Colorado LT ($35,395) or a Tacoma SR5 ($35,935) in that crew-cab setup with the short cargo bed, V6 and four-wheel drive.
TOWING AND HAULING
Want to pull a heavy camping trailer with your truck? The Colorado with the V6 boasts a standard 7,000-pound maximum tow rating. The Tacoma V6 is close behind at 6,400 pounds. In Sport S form, the Gladiator can only tow 4,500 pounds.
You can, however, boost the Gladiator Sport S’ capability to 7,650 pounds by adding an optional Max Tow package. Chevy, for its part, offers a diesel-fueled engine that allows for 7,600 pounds of towing on the four-wheel-drive Colorado.
All three trucks feature similar bed layouts, with tie-down points and tailgates that are light enough to open and close with one hand. We like the Gladiator’s low load floor and bed sides, which make getting cargo out of the bed easier if you’re standing at the side of the truck.
The Tacoma’s bed design is also quite useful, and both the Toyota and Jeep trucks offer movable tracked tie-down cleats and 110-volt household-style power sockets. Though the Colorado’s bed has the largest volume, it also has a high load floor and high bed sides that make accessing cargo harder.
ON THE ROAD
At this mid-$30,000 price bracket, all three trucks are acceptable replacements for a crossover SUV. And compared to full-size trucks, they are easier to drive in cities and parking lots.
The Colorado has the most power. And it is also the most comfortable truck to drive on the road with supportive front seats boasting a broad range of adjustability. Its excellent standard infotainment system supports Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. For maximum rear-seat comfort, look to the Gladiator. It has the most rear legroom in its class.
The Jeep’s convertible top, which you can fold or completely remove, is another unique feature that no other truck has. On the downside, the Gladiator’s steering has a numb and wandering feel at highway speeds that some drivers may find annoying. As for the Tacoma, taller drivers may not be able to find a comfortable position for long stints on the highway. And compared to the Gladiator and the Colorado, the Tacoma’s V6 powertrain is tepid and sluggish.
OFF THE ROAD
Trucks have a well-deserved reputation for being able to get you and your gear in and out of tough places. All three of these trucks have four-wheel drive and low-range gearing to tackle steep hills, rock crawling, or hauling a heavy boat out of the water. But they’re not all equally adept at these tasks.
Going off-road means climbing over obstacles, and the Gladiator can tackle ruts, rocks and steep climbs better than either the Tacoma or the Colorado. It’s also easier to see out of, which is helpful for driving on the best path along a dirt trail.
The Tacoma is plenty capable in its own right, even if it can’t quite match the Gladiator for supreme status. Least capable is the Colorado. In particular, its low hanging front spoiler reduces ground clearance when driving over obstacles. It’s removable, but the process to do so isn’t easy.
EDMUNDS SAYS: For a midsize truck in the $35,000 to $40,000 range, the best pick for on-road comfort and standard towing performance is the Colorado. But if you plan on taking your truck off-road, the Gladiator wins out with its go-anywhere suspension and ground clearance. Can’t decide? The Tacoma strikes a good blend of all the elements.
This story was provided to The Associated Press by the automotive website Edmunds. Calvin Kim is a vehicle test engineer at Edmunds. Instagram: @dck47.