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If you enjoy off-road driving but you prefer a smaller truck, there are more good choices this year than ever before.

PMG PHOTO: JEFF ZURSCHMEIDE - This is a great time to consider buying a serious off-road midsize pickup. The choices (from left) including the 2019 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Bison, the 2019 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro, the 2019 Ford Ranger FX4, and the 2020 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon.

The market for midsize pickup trucks has never been more competitive, and most brands offer at least one model outfitted for serious off-road use. We recently got the chance to drive four of the top-selling midsize trucks all together at a dedicated off-road driving event in the heart of Pennsylvania's coal country. This event allowed us to make a direct comparison between the 2019 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Bison, 2019 Ford Ranger FX4, 2020 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon, and the 2019 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro.

The Toyota Tacoma is by far the best-selling midsize truck on the market. Buyers choose Tacoma twice as often as the second-place Colorado. Four times as many buyers choose Tacoma as the third-place Ranger. The Gladiator has not been on the market long enough to generate enough sales data for a fair comparison.

PMG PHOTO: JEFF ZURSCHMEIDE - As expected, the 2020 Jeep Gladiator was the king of off-road challenges. But it was also the most expensive.

However, the Tacoma has not been redesigned since 2016, so it doesn't have some of the latest technology, such as the disconnecting sway bar and off-road progress control found in the Gladiator and the Ranger, respectively. Both those trucks are new this year.

We had the chance to drive each of the trucks in turn. The route featured natural trails and man-made challenges including steep uphill and downhill sections, water crossings, and rock crawling obstacles. We evaluated each truck on its off-road capability as well as its technology and basic comfort. Additionally, we drove the trucks to and from the event to compare their on-road manners.

PMG PHOTO: JEFF ZURSCHMEIDE - The Toyota Tacoma is by far the best-selling midsize truck on the market, and even though it has not been redesigned since 2016, the TRD Pro version is very capable.

All of the trucks made it through the off-road course successfully, but we did notice some differences. As expected, the Gladiator was the king of off-road challenges. No other automaker can beat Jeep at hardcore four-wheeling. The Colorado came closest with a host of driver assistance features and special off-road suspension. Both the Toyota and the Ford also performed well in the off-road segment.

However, developing off-road performance often means a tradeoff in on-road comfort and economy. Here again, the Jeep Gladiator did a great job at balancing performance with comfort, and the Jeep's removable roof and side panels make it the only convertible pickup truck on the market.

PMG PHOTO: JEFF ZURSCHMEIDE - The 2019 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Bison impressed with a host of driver assistance features and special off-road suspension.

However, the Jeep was also the most expensive of the four trucks we tested. The Toyota was the most affordable. Ultimately, the Ford Ranger got our vote as the best all-around choice for its excellent fuel economy, interior design, and efficient drivetrain combination.

If you enjoy off-road driving but you prefer a smaller truck, there are more good choices this year than ever before. All of the trucks we tested were more than capable when the pavement ends. It's just a matter of finding the right truck for you.

PMG PHOTO: JEFF ZURSCHMEIDE - The 2019 Ford Ranger FX4 is an all-around choice for its excellent fuel economy, interior design, and efficient drivetrain combination.

2019 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Bison

Price as tested: $49,745

Engine: 3.6-liter V6 (308 hp, 275 lbs-ft)

Transmission: 8-speed automatic

EPA estimated mileage: 16/18

2019 Ford Ranger FX4

Price as tested: $44,960

Engine: 2.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder (270 hp, 310 lbs-ft)

Transmission: 10-speed automatic

EPA estimated mileage: 20/24

2020 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon

Price as tested: $61,170

Engine: 3.6-liter V6 (285 hp, 260 lbs-ft)

Transmission: 8-speed automatic

EPA estimated mileage: 17/22

2019 Toyota Tacoma TRD PRO

Price as tested: $42,660

Engine: 3.5-liter V6 (278 hp, 265 lbs-ft)

Transmission: 6-speed manual

EPA estimated mileage: 17/20


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