Overall, four of the eight pickups evaluated earned good ratings for protecting occupants in all five crash test categories — the Tacoma double cab along with crew cab versions of the Colorado, Canyon and Tacoma. But the poor headlights and lack of an automatic emergency braking system blocked any of the pickups from qualifying for the IIHS's Top Safety Pick awards.
The study looked at two pickup body styles using 2017 models: crew cabs, which have four full doors and two full rows of seating, and extended cabs, which have two full front doors, two smaller rear doors and compact second-row seats. It subjected each to five tests, and it evaluated the performance of front crash prevention systems and headlights.
The Toyota Tacoma crew cab was the only pickup in that class that earned a good rating for structure in the small overlap test, which replicates what happens when a vehicle clips a tree, pole or another vehicle that has crossed the center line. The model's Access Cab extended-cab version was rated similarly, though its structure was rated acceptable.
"This group of small pickups performed better in the small overlap front test than many of their larger pickup cousins," says David Zuby, the Institute's executive vice president and chief research officer. "The exception was the Nissan Frontier, which hasn't had a structural redesign since the 2005 model year."
The extended-cab versions of the Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon earned acceptable ratings, while both the Nissan Frontier king-cab and crew-cab models were rated marginal.
Toyota says its 2018 Tacoma will feature upgraded headlights and a standard autobraking system that can detect pedestrians.
"Headlights are basic but vital safety equipment. Drivers shouldn't have to give up the ability to see the road at night when they choose a small pickup," Zuby said.