As trucks have gotten better and better, so too has their fuel economy incrementally increased.
Pickups today are as comfortable and well equipped as passenger cars, more capable of hauling and doing work than ever, and the best models typically lead their makers’ monthly sales.
It used to be the norm for trucks to get mpg in the low teens to less than 10 mpg however, and truth be told, there are still models out there that when pushed will plummet from their mid-teen mpg ratings to those same numbers.
Our list however is the best that’s now available by U.S. EPA reckoning, but there is room for improvement, and this has long been known.
It’s actually been a sore spot that automakers have made already efficient compact and midsized cars more efficient by hybridization, plug-in hybridization and full electrification, but they’ve by and large skipped heavier segments that need improvements more.
“We started at the wrong end. The whole automotive industry made the intellectual mistake of thinking EVs were all about maximum range, so we all started with small vehicles that are basically very economical anyway,” said “Father of the Chevy Volt” Bob Lutz in 2014. “Yes, you do save fuel. You can use a smaller battery, but it makes less sense to take a 40 mpg vehicle and make it electric than it does to take a full-size pickup or SUV, which in town realistically gets 11 to 12 mpg.”
Lutz said this while endorsing Via Motors’ series plug-in hybrid trucks based on GM models, but the point has been repeated widely.
Meanwhile, as carmakers today wait to see if federal fleet mpg rules are weakened at their request under the Trump administration, Ford is promising an electrified F-150 by decade’s end, and efforts from other brands are expected as well.
This said, here’s the list of what’s for sale in 2017.
Nissan Frontier – 21 Combined 19/23
The Frontier by Nissan is available in five trim levels and two cab configurations, but it is the basic manual transmission, rear-wheel drive version that rates 21 mpg combined based on 19 mpg city, and 23 mpg highway.
That’s about 5 mpg below the 25-26 mpg national average for U.S. passenger vehicles, and respectable for trucks at this stage.
One way the truck that starts below $19,000 gets there is not by serving up macho levels of horsepower.
The 2.5-liter four cylinder powering the S and SV King Cab versions is rated 152 horsepower and 171 pounds-feet of torque. An automatic transmission version is rated 19 mpg combined, 17 city, and the same 23 mpg highway.
Toyota Tacoma – 21 Combined 19/24
Toyota’s midsize Tacoma is its best-selling model, and starting at just below $25,000 the most-frugal auto-trans, rear-wheel-drive model like the Frontier is rated 21 mpg combined, 19 city, and it edges it out by 1 mpg on the highway with 24 mpg combined.
The only slightly superior economy comes via a much more potent 3.5-liter V6 which was new in the 2016 model year.
Replacing the 4.0-liter before it, the new V6 is rated 278 horsepower and 265 pounds-feet of torque.
When equipped with a Tow Package, the Tacoma can tow up to 6,800 pounds.
Honda Ridgeline FWD – 22 Combined 19/26
Not your typical truck at all is Honda’s second-generation replacement for its own rendition of what America needs in a vehicle with bed behind it.
The SUV-like Ridgeline riding on a unibody chassis makes a play at being an especially civilized truck. The FWD version is rated 22 mpg combined, 19 city, and 26 highway.
Power comes from a 3.5-liter V6 with 280 horses and 262 pounds-feet of torque. The AWD version gets 21 mpg combined, 18 mpg city, 25 mpg highway.
Ford F-150 2WD – 22 Combined 19/26
The most-efficient 2WD version of Ford’s top-selling F-150 is rated 22 mpg combined, 19 mpg city, 26 mpg highway.
Under the hood of the truck starting at just under $28,000 is a 2.7-liter EcoBoost V6. This is a twin-turbocharged engine that is rated a healthy 325 horsepower and 375 pounds-feet of torque.
That’s V8 level of power from the downsized iron and aluminum engine and rated by Ford for up to 8,500 pounds towing capacity.
Chevy Colorado/GMC Canyon Diesel 2WD – 25 Combined 22/30
Siblings from General Motors, the Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon in 2WD trim are rated a class-leading 25 mpg combined, 22 city, and 30 highway.
The midsized pickups do so when equipped with the 181-horsepower, 369 pounds-feet torque 2.8-liter turbo diesel and auto transmission.In 4WD configuration, the trucks are rated 23 combined, 20 city, 28 highway. The best mpg from the RWD gasoline version is 22 combined, 20 city, and 26 mpg highway.
Tow rating is up to 7,700 pounds for the diesels and up to 7,000 pounds with the gasoline-powered V6.
Become an AutoGuide insider. Get the latest from the automotive world first by subscribing to our newsletter here.