As more buyers in the market for a pickup truck eye the smaller, more fuel-efficient alternatives to the major brands' full-size offerings, the attention is beginning to reveal some unpleasant details. Safety ratings based on IIHS crash tests indicate that many of the smaller pickup trucks on the market today offer dismal impact protection.

Some of the worst offenders are the Chevrolet Colorado (pictured) and its GMC Canyon doppelganger. Absent the optional side airbags, the truck scores the lowest rating possible for side impact. Marginally better were the Dodge Dakota and Mitsubishi Raider, also without side airbags, along with the Nissan Frontier, similarly equipped. Ford's Ranger and Mazda's B-series trucks, which share a platform, also scored with this group, rating at the next-to-lowest 'marginal' level. Neither the Ford nor the Mazda even offer side airbags as an option.

Only one small pickup scored a top rank of 'good' - the Toyota Tacoma, tested with side airbags that were optional for 2008, but which become standard equipment in 2009, reports MSNBC. The other pickups tested would likely fare much better if equipped with the optional side airbags, so those in the market should not choose to skimp in that department.

Front crash ratings for the small pickup crowd are generally stronger, with the Tacoma, Dakota, Frontier and Raider all scoring the highest rating, while the Ranger, B-Series, Canyon and Colorado all managed the second-tier score of 'acceptable'.