Although many consumers believe buying a truck for towing or hauling means sacrificing fuel economy, we think good gas mileage and traditional pickup truck capabilities aren’t mutually exclusive. To prove it, we’ve compiled a list of six pickups that achieve great fuel economy and can still handle your chores, whether they include off-roading, heavy-duty towing, hauling materials to a job site or just cruising around town.
Although Chevrolet’s base-level four-cylinder single-cab Colorado may seem tempting due to its low price and great gas mileage, we’d skip the midsize truck’s two-seat models and go straight for the four-wheel drive Crew Cab. That’s because four-wheel drive Crew Cab variants of the Colorado trade the truck’s lethargic inline four for a powerful 3.5-liter five-cylinder, which provides a satisfying 242 horsepower – and, despite the power bump, only a slight efficiency penalty versus the 185-horsepower four-cylinder. The five-cylinder is also no stranger to workhorse duty, thanks to a 4,000-pound towing capacity and a robust 242 pound-feet of torque.
Although hybrid versions of Chevrolet’s Silverado pickup and its GMC Sierra twin have never sold in huge numbers, there’s no denying that the full-size trucks are great on gas. Although the pickups’ EPA rating of 20 miles per gallon in the city and 23 mpg on the highway aren’t up to the standards set by some hybrid cars, the figures are impressive considering the pickups don’t use a tiny four- or six-cylinder but rather a brawny 332-horsepower 6.0-liter V8. That puts the most efficient Silverado and Sierra models among the pickups’ best performers – and their 6,000-pound towing capacity means they’re no slouch when the discussion turns to heavy-duty use, either.
It’s hard to deny the impact Ford’s turbocharged EcoBoost engine has on the full-size pickup market. For the first time ever, truck buyers have access to an engine that achieves eight-cylinder power and torque – 365 horsepower and 420 pound-feet at just 2,500 rpm – yet impressive six-cylinder fuel economy of 16 miles per gallon in the city and 22 mpg on the highway. The fact that the muscular powerplant costs less than $1,300 extra in most configurations is icing on the cake – and it leaves us wondering why anyone would opt for the truck’s 5.0-liter V8, which offers less power and less torque while consuming more fuel.
Honda’s midsize Ridgeline is an easy inclusion on any list of fuel-efficient pickups. Capable of towing an impressive 5,000 pounds, the car-based Ridgeline features a standard 3.5-liter V6 that produces 250 horsepower and achieves fuel economy ratings of up to 21 miles per gallon in highway driving. While the Ridgeline is no heavy-duty machine, it’s great for around-town driving – and its innovative, well-designed bed should put it near the top of the list for any city dweller interested in a pickup “just because.” With more than eight inches of ground clearance, it’s also capable of tackling the occasional off-road trail.
Although heavy-duty pickups like the Ram 3500, Chevrolet Silverado HD and Ford F-Series Super Duty don’t have to submit to EPA fuel economy tests due to their size, many truck shoppers believe the Ram’s Cummins diesel is among the most robust, fuel-efficient heavy duty truck engines on the market. With a strong 350 horsepower and an eye-popping 650 pound-feet of torque available at just 1,500 rpm, the engine is certainly potent – but it’s hard to believe such an enormous engine could also achieve good gas mileage. Nonetheless, in spite of its big numbers, most reviewers report around 15 miles per gallon in mixed city and highway driving – not bad for an engine that motivates the Ram 3500 to tow nearly 23,000 pounds.
Although many pickups boast strong gas mileage figures, no truck offers the all-out fuel efficiency of the four-cylinder Toyota Tacoma. Among the most dependable trucks on the planet, four-cylinder Tacoma models equipped with the pickup’s standard manual transmission can achieve an EPA-rated 21 miles per gallon in the city and a whopping 25 mpg on the highway. Sure, the small truck doesn’t offer stellar towing capacity – and with just 159 horsepower, it’s no stoplight racer. But in the realm of small pickups that offer great mileage and bulletproof reliability, the Tacoma is king of the hill – especially considering its starting price of around $17,000 including destination.
What it means to you: Just because you’re buying a truck doesn’t mean you need to sacrifice at the pump.