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  • Writer's pictureKen

The Last Standing Small Trucks with V6 Engines: A Tribute

If there ever were a common link between vehicles that deserve the prefix "hot" to be added to their designation - whether it be a hot hatch or hot rod, it would be that these vehicles have been blessed with some disproportionate degree of power or engine size relative to the overall size of the vehicle. A Model B Ford with a V8, a Pulsar GTi-R with an SR20DET, a GTi with a VR6 engine (?) (Volkswagen enthusiasts: Please chime in) all have some sort of higher net-displacement powerplant shoehorned in the engine bay from a larger, or heavier model.

But even among those production models that were never marketed or popularized with the "hot" prefix, there are sometimes vehicles that surprise us with a larger-than-expected powerplant under the hood, where we might have expected something just big enough to economically putt the car around near the speed limit. Take the 2006-2012 Toyota RAV4 V6, for example, or today's feature: The Mazda B4000.

The Mazda B-series trucks were based on the Ford Ranger, as part of a partnership between Mazda and Ford that lasted for several decades. The B4000 was the largest and most powerful model in the Mazda B-series lineup, which also included the B2300 and the B3000. The B4000 featured a 4.0-liter V6 engine that delivered 160 horsepower and 225 pound-feet of torque, making it capable of towing up to 5,600 pounds. The B4000 was available with either a five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic transmission, and with either rear-wheel drive or four-wheel drive.

A rare, regular cab, short box truck equipped with the powerful 4.0L V6 engine.

The Trucks came in two body styles: a regular cab with a 6-foot bed, or an extended cab with a 7-foot bed. The extended cab also offered a second row of seats that could accommodate two passengers, although with limited legroom. The B4000 had a standard payload capacity of 1,250 pounds, which could be increased to 1,450 pounds with an optional heavy-duty suspension package. Depending on the trim levels and options, power windows and locks, air conditioning, cruise control, alloy wheels, fog lights, and a sliding rear window were available. Our example featured today is decked out with all power options, but surprisingly, with no A/C, as seems to be common in older Canadian-market vehicles.

The interior of our Mazda B4000 with a custom bench setup from a 1989 Ranger. A box of tissues awaits the next date night conversation overlooking the sunset,

The B-series/Ranger trucks were a competitive option in the compact truck segment, which was popular in the 1990s. It faced rivals such as the Toyota Pick-up/Tacoma, the Nissan 620/720/Hardbody/Frontier, the Chevrolet S-10, Mitsubishi Mighty Max, and the Dodge D50/Dakota. The early B-series/Rangers had some advantages over its competitors, such as its smooth ride quality, its spacious cabin, its strong engine performance, and its low price. The early rear-wheel drive models like our featured B4000 were equipped with a twin I-beam suspension system which offered a large amount of suspension travel even in stock form, and their durable designs were sought after as candidates for prerunner truck builds.

A prerunner, or desert truck against the evening sky.

The compact truck segment has declined significantly since the late 1990s, as consumers have shifted their preferences to larger, more spacious trucks, such as mid-sized or full-sized models. However, there are still some benefits to owning a compact truck over a bigger one. For example, a compact truck is easier to manoeuvre and park in tight spaces, costs less to maintain and insure, has lower emissions and environmental impact, and it can still handle most tasks a larger truck would handle, especially with a larger 6-cylinder engine.

A Datsun 620 - Yes, a compact pick-up truck, and one that's now very hard to find.

With the demise of the original-sized Ford Ranger in 2011, compact trucks with dimensions as small as a modern Corolla are sadly no longer available to buy new. However, as with all the fun and interesting cars of their bygone heydays, small trucks like the B-series can still be found used in the used car market. At the time of writing of this article, our featured Mazda B4000 is currently for sale; our beloved light-duty production truck for camera equipment and JDM parts now replaced by a slightly newer Honda Acty SDX - albeit the acceleration and cruising speed of 150 additional horses will be dearly missed.

Compact trucks like the B-series can offer a great midpoint for city-dwellers between today's "plus-sized" midsize trucks, and underpowered Kei trucks, having more than enough power to cruise comfortably at highway speeds. The B-series/Rangers have long been loved my many enthusiasts especially, for their reliability, versatility, and relative affordability even in today's used vehicle market. If you are looking for a small but powerful pickup truck that can tow, haul, and handle your everyday needs and occasional adventures, you might want to give these trucks a try.


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