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Pickup trucks are the most popular segment in the U.S. this year, with truck models taking the top three slots for vehicle sales to date in 2015.
Models like the Ford F-150 have become “as much of a status symbol as they are a tool,” according to Karl Brauer, a senior analyst at Kelley Blue Book. This means buyers especially appreciate new trucks that also add in high-end upgrades, and about half even step up to the luxury editions.
Though lower fuel prices may be one of the triggers behind the robust truck sales, fuel efficiency is not one of the main factors driving which trucks customers buy. This has contributed to automakers like GM deciding to abort slow-selling models like its 2-Mode hybrid trucks and SUVs from the market – not to mention these full loaded examples did not pay for higher sticker prices in fuel savings.
Though plug-in hybrid tech does exist for larger vehicles, only low-producing companies like VIA Motors are currently mounting these systems in passenger pickups. And, these are commercial only, and unknown is when VIA might offer products for consumer sale.
So for now mpg for trucks mostly hovers in the 20-mog range. At present, these are the five most fuel-efficient trucks from least to most efficient:
5. 2016 Nissan Frontier 2WD
Combined fuel rating: 21 mpg
Nissan starts the list with its two-wheel drive Frontier, which has undergone few changes since the generation’s launch in 2004. In its most fuel efficient form (a 4-cylinder gasoline engine with a 5-speed manual transmission), the 2016 Frontier is rated at 21 mpg overall (23 highway, 19 city). Switching to either an automatic transmission or a 6-cylinder engine drops the combined fuel economy slightly to 19 mpg.
4. 2016 Toyota Tacoma 2WD
Combined fuel rating: 21 mpg
Toyota updated its popular mid-size Tacoma pickup truck for 2016, but carries over a base powertrain from the current model year. The standard 4-cylinder, 2.7-liter gasoline engine is one of the most fuel efficient trucks on the market, with 23 mpg highway, 19 city and 21 overall.
Remarkably, if you step up to the Tacoma’s all-new 6 cylinder engine, fuel economy remains almost unchanged. That’s partially due to the new fuel system on this 3.5-liter engine, which uses both port and direct injection. Only fuel economy on the highway slips for the Tacoma’s bigger engine – dropping down to 23 mpg – though the 3.5-liter Tacoma still holds onto its 21 mpg overall rating.
3. 2016 Ford F150 Pickup 2WD
Combined fuel rating: 22 mpg
To date this year, the Ford F150 Pickup is the top selling vehicle in the U.S. As a standard pickup, it’s bigger than the Frontier and Tacoma, but still offers similar fuel economy. For the 2016 model year, a Ford F150 ordered with a 6-cylinder, 2.7-liter gasoline engine and an automatic 6-speed gets 22 mph overall, and as high as 26 mpg on the highway. Add the payload package and towing capacity increases from 7,600 pounds to 8,500, while overall fuel economy drops by only 1 mpg.
2. 2016 Dodge Ram 1500 HFE 2WD
Combined fuel rating: 24 mpg
Dodge proves that you don’t have to be small to get top fuel mileage. Its 2016 Ram 1500 HFE (which stands for high efficiency) is a half-ton pickup powered by a 6-cylinder, 3.0-liter diesel engine. Paired with an 8-speed automatic transmission, the Ram’s 240 horsepower engine (with 420 pounds-feet of torque) is meaty enough to tow 9,210 pounds. And it still gets an overall fuel mileage of 24 mpg.
A fuel efficient gasoline-powered Ram is also available for 2016. With the 3.6-liter 6-cylinder gasoline engine (also paired with an 8-speed transmission), the Ram is rated at 21 mpg.
1. 2016 Chevrolet Colorado 2WD/ GMC Canyon 2WD
Combined fuel rating: 25 mpg
The Chevrolet Colorado 2WD, also badged as the GMC Canyon 2WD, is the only 2016 pickup truck with fuel economy ratings breaking into the 30s. In its most fuel efficient setup, a 4-cylinder 2.8-liter diesel engine and an automatic 6-speed transmission, the Colorado achieves a class-leading 31 mpg on the highway. Overall fuel economy averages 25 mpg.
The Colorado’s two gasoline engine options are also rated as some of the best gas mileage trucks. Its 2.5-liter engine is slightly less efficient (rated at 22 mpg overall with an automatic transmission), and even the larger 6-cylinder, 3.6-liter gasoline engine gets 21 mpg overall.