Pickup trucks can be the most useful hardware in your garage. Just ask any friend who needs help moving this weekend.
That truck doesn't need to be a mega truck to come in handy. When flexibility and an open bed are more important than payload and towing, a mid-size pickup like the Honda Ridgeline or the Chevrolet Colorado might be the better tool for the job at hand.
For most drivers who don't seriously tax their trucks on a regular basis, we'd suggest the Ridgeline. It outscores the Colorado in one or two key ways, and that's before its safety ratings are complete.
Here's why we prefer Honda's take, point by point. (Note that we've changed the way we rate cars this year.)
Honda's finally erased the weirdness from the new Ridgeline. It no longer looks like it's been styled by Cubists run amok. The nose is low and sculpted just like the one on the Pilot that it calls kin, but from the side the Ridgeline is so relentlessly regular and angular, it makes the Colorado look experimental and edgy.
The cockpit's the more user-friendly, car-like environment of the two. The Ridgeline's center shield of controls, the high-quality matte finish of its plastics, the vast storage bins are nearly identical to those in the Pilot. The key difference: a shift lever in the truck, where the SUV has toggle switches for its transmission.
As for the Colorado, it's clearly a global design with some all-American bigness grafted on its nose and tail. We think its GMC Canyon twin fits better in its brand lineup, but the Colorado's a handsome pickup, with its slim grille, rising shoulder line, and conventional bed outline. It's the kind of truck shape that works equally well in Sumatra as it does in San Diego.
The Colorado's cockpit is narrower and more ruggedly finished than the Ridgeline, but many grades better than other rivals like the Nissan Frontier and Toyota Tacoma. There's a hint or two of GM sedans in the narrow seats, the shape of the center stack of controls, and the light touches of metallic trim that liven up the nicely organized cockpit.
Comfort and utility
The Ridgeline also benefits from SUV genealogy inside. Its cabin is wider, more spacious, and more flexible than that of the Chevy. The front seats could use a bit more support, but there's lots of small-item storage in the console and doors, a flip-up rear bench seat with under-seat storage, and a flat floor that can handle boxes or a bike with the front wheel in place.
The Colorado's a significant improvement over its pint-sized past, but it's narrower and has less leg room in back. It will hold a couple of child car seats or two cramped adults, but the bolt-upright seat backs even on crew-cab models are disappointing.
Both the Colorado and the Ridgeline have short beds like the ones typical on full-size, crew-cab trucks. It's how they make use of the space that gives the Honda the nod. The Colorado can tote 8-foot-long objects with a bed extender, and it offers all manner of nifty features, from bumper steps to tie-downs to cargo racks, nets, and a drop-in toolbox.
The Ridgeline's bed is a bit longer when the tailgate is up, and it's wide enough to carry building material between the wheel wells. Its tailgate is hinged on the bottom and left side, and it can drop down or swing to the left. There's a dry-storage bin in the bed wall, a huge weather-resistant trunk in the bed floor good for an 82-quart cooler, even a sound system that uses bed walls as speakers.