The 2021 Ram 700 is too small for a Hemi, but could the Mexico-specific small pickup spark a resurgence of the segment in the U.S.?

Ram pickups sold in the U.S. are large brawny trucks with big powerful Hemi V-8s that make them quick off the line and capable of handling tough jobs. That reputation, along with an exterior look that reinforces it, helps the brand move a lot of metal.

However, Ram owners in the United States may be surprised to learn that in Mexico FCA sells a pickup truck under the Ram 700 nameplate — and that thing ain’t got a Hemi. However, its creation spurred the growth of a competitive segment in Mexico, leaving some to wonder about the potential revival of small pickups in the U.S.

FCA also sells the 1500 and heavy-duty versions of the Ram pickups in Mexico, but there is also a big market south of the border for compact pickups, smaller than the current Ford Ranger and Chevrolet Colorado. And that´s the void that the Ram 700 fills very successfully. So, what´s a Ram 700 you may ask?

(Ram 1500 takes top honor Texas Truck Rodeo — for third straight year.)

The Ram 700, which gets a makeover for 2021, is smaller than a Ford Ranger or Chevrolet Colorado.

The 700 badge is an indication this pickup is smaller than the ones sold in the U.S. It is a rebadged Fiat Strada pickup from Brazil. When it debuted in 2009, it was powered by a 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine – a far cry from the beefy and thunderous Hemi V8 – and carried a payload of 1,552 pounds in the single-cab version.

This small car-based pickup sold in Mexico as the Fiat Strada from 2009 to 2014, but in 2014 FCA Mexico decided to rebadge it as the Ram 700.

The move paid off handsomely. Because of the Ram’s brand recognition, it quickly shot to the No. 2 sales spot in its market segment starting October 2014, beating out the VW Saveiro and Chevrolet Tornado pickups, also produced in Brazil.

By 2015, the Ram 700 had become the top-selling small pickup truck in Mexico, and it held first place until 2019, when the VW Saveiro regained the top spot in the segment. As a result of the strong sales, there was also more competition in the segment in the form of the new Dacia Duster-based Renault Oroch, which quickly tied with the Ram 700 for second place.

Now a new generation of the Fiat Strada has been introduced in Brazil, and FCA Mexico just launched it as a redesigned Ram 700, influenced by the Fiat Toro pickup which debuted in Brazil in 2016.

The Ram 700, which is a rebadged Fiat made in Brazil, features a well-appointed interior.

It is a clean and aerodynamic design with rounded corners but muscular wheel arches and clean side detailing that gives it a very sturdy exterior look. The grille has been redone to differentiate it from the Fiat. The new grille is definitely a derivative of the Ram exterior design, look and the new truck has been appropriately rebadged as a Ram product.

However, one of the most important improvements is that the extended cab version has grown from the Club Cab with three doors to the larger Crew Cab with four full-size doors. So not only does the rear seat have now more legroom, but also cab access is improved because of the two full-size doors.

(Ram releases its newest beast: 2021 Ram 1500 TRX.)

The Ram 700 also offers the regular cab, which is the base model. Its cargo bed length grows from 4.2 feet in the previous model to 5.5 feet in the new one. And in the new model the spare tire goes under the cargo box, rather than being attached in the box right behind the cab.

Payload in the new generation single cab is 1,651 pounds, rather than 1,552 pounds of the previous model. In the Crew Cab version, the cargo bed length is 3.83 feet, which is basically the same as the previous generation. Payload for the Crew Cab remains unchanged at 1,431 lbs.

The Ram 700 is powered not by a Hemi, but a 1.3-liter 4-cylinder putting out 98 horsepower.

The engine is now a 1.3-liter Firefly 4-cylinder producing 98 horsepower and 94 pound-feet of torque and the only available transmission is a 5-speed manual. Fuel economy is 38 mpg city and 52 mpg highway. It is only available with front-wheel drive and it has a McPherson strut front suspension, while the rear uses tried-and-true leaf springs.

Safety equipment includes front airbags for the single cab model, while the Crew Cab adds side airbags. Brakes are discs in the front with rear drums and all versions have ABS and stability control.

The SLT is the basic trim level and is available for the single and Crew Cab body styles. The windows, locks and mirrors are manually operated, the wheels are steel with covers, and the bumpers are black. However, it does have some upgrades including air conditioning, a bed liner, Bluetooth, key lock for the tailgate and small roof rails

The single cab costs $244,900 pesos, which with an exchange rate of 20.08 pesos per USD would be about $12,200 — there is no $12K truck in Ram’s current new vehicle line-up. The Crew Cab retails for 269,900 pesos, or about $13,439.

The Ram 700 is designed to carry less than 2,000 pounds of gear.

The next trim level is the Bighorn Crew Cab. It adds aluminum wheels, color-keyed bumpers, power windows, locks and mirrors, a reverse camera and a 7-inch touchscreen with CarPlay and Android Auto. It has a retail price of $289,900 pesos, or $14,435.

The top-of-the-line model is the Laramie Crew Cab, which adds roof rails that extend into the cargo box sides, LED daytime running lights, leather and cloth upholstery and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. Its retail price is $334,900 pesos — about $16,675.

(Forget those high-line sedans, Ram 1500 named “luxury car of the year.”)

The small pickup market segment war in Mexico is heating up. Does that portend a comeback of the small pickup – especially as a low-cost option for fleet operators and small businesses ­– in the U.S.?

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