With gas prices touching five dollars a gallon recently, every segment of the automotive market is once again fuel economy aware. Even trucks. Given the fact more people than ever are choosing a truck as their primary means of transportation, auto manufacturers are striving to make their trucks more like cars in terms of comfort, ride quality and yes, fuel economy.
Today we routinely have trucks averaging 20 miles per gallon overall. In fact, the vast majority of the trucks on our list of the Best MPG 2012 trucks exceeds that 20 miles per gallon figure. When we consider highway MPG, every truck on the list betters 20 miles per gallon, while the best of the best achieves 25 miles per gallon. Thanks to hybrid technology, we even have trucks returning better than 20 miles per gallon in the city. In fact, the highest MPG truck on this list exceeds 20 miles per gallon in all three categories.
Times have changed considerably from the days when all anybody wanted to know about truck was how much it would tow. While that is still a significant question, it’s good to know people who like trucks can be more economically responsible while still enjoying the utility afforded by their preferred mode of transportation.
What follows is our list of the best MPG 2012 trucks.
Mileage figures are quoted in each model’s header as follows: city/highway/combined.
Fresh off a redesign for the 2012 model year, the highest MPG 2012 truck you can buy, the Toyota Tacoma, has a strong reputation for reliability, robust construction and a great deal of versatility. For urban dwellers who need a truck, or just like what driving a truck says about them, the Tacoma is a more than reasonable choice. Also, in keeping with the contemporary trend of endowing pickups with car-like features, the Tacoma’s telematics suite is quite strong.
Standard features for the most fuel-efficient 2012 Toyota Tacoma model includes a four-speaker sound system headed by a CD player, satellite radio, and an auxiliary audio input jack for portable audio devices. On the mechanical front, a limited-slip differential is part of the base package. Air-conditioning, a composite bedliner, a bed utility rail system, and a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel also inhabit the Tacoma’s list of standard features.
The highest MPG rated version of the Toyota’s powertrains is a 159-horsepower, 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine—producing 180 ft.-lbs. of torque—combined with a six-speed automatic transmission and rear-wheel drive.
Yes, you’re looking at a full-size pickup truck capable of an estimated 23 miles per gallon on the highway, 20 MPG in the city and a combined rating of 21 miles per gallon, (one MPG less than the top ranked Toyota Tacoma). In a feat of engineering so significant it took three car companies to pull it off, BMW, DaimlerChrysler and GM pooled their resources and came up with a full hybrid system robust enough to power a full-size pickup truck. We said a full hybrid; one capable of traveling on electric power alone at speeds up to 30 miles per hour.
Available only in the crew cab configuration with a five foot, nine inch cargo box, the standard feature set for the base Silverado 1500 Hybrid model includes alloy wheels, a soft tonneau cover for the cargo bed to improve aerodynamics, dark tinted privacy glass, heated exterior mirrors, a locking tailgate, and power windows, mirrors and door locks.
The Hybrid Silverado also comes with cruise control, remote ignition, a dual-zone automatic climate control, a 40/20/40-split front bench seat upholstered in cloth, and a leather-wrapped tilt steering wheel. Standard electro-tech includes OnStar, Bluetooth, and a six-speaker sound system fronted by a CD player, satellite radio and an auxiliary audio input jack.
The Silverado 1500 Hybrid’s powertrain combines a 6.0-liter V8 with two 60-kilowatt electric motors. The system can be configured to feed all four wheels—or the rear wheels only. Combined output with the electric motors is 379 hp.
Properly equipped, the Hybrid Silverado will tow a maximum of 6,100 pounds.
Mechanically and physically identical to the Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Hybrid, the GMC Sierra Hybrid is also largely equipped the same as the Chevrolet. Its maximum tow rating is the same 6,100 pounds too. The GMC looks a bit beefier, but for the money, the Chevrolet is a better value—that is if you’re simply after the 2012 highest MPG truck.
If you’re looking for a proven design in one of the 2012 good MPG trucks, Chevrolet’s Colorado will fill the bill. On the other hand, if you’re also looking for cutting-edge technology underneath of the truck, keep looking. The Colorado has gone essentially unchanged for the past nine years.
That’s a pretty long time in the car business—however, given the Colorado achieves the third-highest MPG rating on this list, maybe Chevy’s on to something after all.
Standard features of the base model 2012 Chevrolet Colorado include 16-inch steel wheels, a split front bench seat, a tilt steering column, air-conditioning, cruise control, OnStar, Bluetooth, and an AM/FM stereo.
The Colorado’s most fuel-efficient powertrain configuration consists of a 185-horsepower 2.9-liter four-cylinder generating 190 ft.-lbs. of torque. The engine is combined with a five-speed manual transmission feeding the rear wheels.
Like its Chevrolet Colorado corporate cousin, the GMC Canyon is also pretty well past its sell-by date. However, the Canyon is also a gas mileage champ in its most basic form. Of course given the two models are outfitted identically, this should come as no surprise.
Standard features on the best MPG version of the truck are similar to the Chevy, 16-inch steel wheels, a split front bench seat, a tilt steering column, air-conditioning, cruise control, OnStar, Bluetooth and an AM/FM stereo. The GMC adds a leather-wrapped steering wheel, as well as complimentary Directions and Connections service from OnStar for six months.
Also like the Colorado, the Canyon’s most fuel-efficient powertrain configuration consists of a 185-horsepower, 2.9-liter four-cylinder engine generating 190 ft.-lbs. of torque—combined with a five-speed manual transmission feeding the rear wheels.
Featuring rough and tumble good looks, a high degree of versatility and a strong reputation for reliability, the Nissan Frontier is a solid pick in the compact pickup truck segment. Rugged where it needs to be and stylish where you’d want it to be, the Frontier is as much at home in white paint and steel wheels on a farm as it is in black paint and alloy wheels cruising around town.
The high MPG version of the 2012 truck comes equipped pretty lightly, but still with most everything you really need. Kit includes 15-inch steel wheels, front bucket seats and cloth upholstery. Air-conditioning and a four-speaker audio system with a CD player are one step up the rungs of the Nissan’s prix fixe packages list.
The base model 2012 Nissan Frontier attributes its strong MPG performance to the powertrain configuration consisting of its 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, which is capable of generating 152 horsepower and 171 ft.-lbs. of torque. A five-speed manual transmission and rear-wheel drive complete the arrangement.
The sharp-eyed among you may have noted a strong resemblance between the Suzuki Equator and the Nissan Frontier. No, it isn’t a coincidence. Like the Chevrolet Colorado and the GMC Canyon, the Nissan and the Suzuki are siblings separated at birth. In other words, all Equators are basically Frontiers in disguise—albeit at a lower price and with a better warranty (seven years/100,000 miles on the powertrain vs. five years/60,000 for the Nissan).
So, you say if that’s case and all I’m looking for is the base truck with the highest MPG, why not just buy the Suzuki and save yourself some cash?
It makes perfect sense—if you can find a Suzuki dealer. That fantastic warranty has a caveat; an authorized Suzuki dealer must perform all of the services and Suzuki’s dealer network is a bit skimpy.
Other than that, the Equator’s best MPG model is equipped virtually identically to the Frontier; 15-inch steel wheels and front bucket seats with cloth upholstery are the star players. Just as with the Nissan, air-conditioning and a four-speaker audio system with a CD player are also one step up the rungs of the Suzuki’s prix fixe packages list.
America’s best-selling pickup truck is solidly on our list of the good MPG trucks, thanks to the miracles of turbocharging and direct fuel injection. The F-150’s “EcoBoost” engine generates the power and torque of a V8 with the fuel economy of a V6. This propels the F-150 into a whole new realm of fuel efficiency.
The most economical version of the Ford comes pretty lightly equipped, but it is possible to add some nice features to the Ford without completely decimating fuel economy. Standard features include 17-inch steel wheels, vinyl seating, an AM/FM radio, and A/C. The best-selling version of the F-150—the XLT— pre-packages cloth upholstery, power windows, mirrors and door locks; cruise control, and an upgraded sound system with a CD player and an auxiliary audio input jack.
That Eco-Boost engine we mentioned above is a 302 horsepower, 3.7-liter V6, which generates 278 ft.-lbs. of torque. The most fuel-efficient setup teams that engine with a six-speed automatic transmission and rear-wheel drive.
If you’re looking for the maximum versatility in a full-size pickup, you might consider the Chevrolet Avalanche. Equipped with a fold-flat rear seat in its crew cab and what Chevy terms a “midgate” just aft of the rear seats, the midgate opens to reveal the five-foot eight-inch cargo bed when rear seats are folded, giving Avalanche the equivalent of an eight-foot load floor to haul cargo. The Chevy’s hard tonneau cover turns truck bed into a secure area when valuables need to be left unattended.
Bridging the gap between SUVs and pickup trucks, the 2012 Chevrolet Avalanche’s standard equipment list is pretty long; 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, a roof rack, a composite cargo bed, heated mirrors, rear privacy glass, side assist steps to ease access to the cargo bed from the sides, and a removable three-piece bed cover are standard exterior features
For comfort and convenience, the Chevy provides manually operated dual-zone air-conditioning, cruise control, power adjustable front seats, split rear seats, a leather-wrapped tilt steering wheel, Bluetooth, OnStar and a six-speaker audio system.
That audio system is comprised of a CD/MP3 player, satellite radio, an auxiliary input jack for portable audio devices, an iPod/USB audio interface and rear-seat audio controls.
Power comes from a 320-horsepower, 5.3-liter V8 generating 335 ft.-lbs. of torque. A six-speed automatic transmission is standard—as is rear-wheel drive. Remarkably, four-wheel drive can be had as an option for this entry on our list of high MPG trucks—leaving its fuel economy ratings unchanged.
Interestingly, the Honda Ridgeline and the Chevrolet Avalanche post identical fuel economy numbers(which, we suppose, is a serious compliment to the larger and heavier Avalanche). Unlike the Avalanche though, the Ridgeline is based on a car’s platform, making it essentially a crossover pickup truck.
This means of course it drives like a car, which for urban usage might be all a small business owner, or someone into mild outdoor sports might need. Adding to the Ridgeline’s appeal in that regard is a lockable trunk under the bed of its cargo box.
Standard gear includes a six-speaker CD/MP3 stereo audio system; power windows, door locks, mirrors, and sliding rear window; air-conditioning, a split-folding rear seat with storage underneath, cruise control, and a trip computer.
Power comes from a 250-horsepower, 3.5-liter V6 generating 247 ft.-lbs. of torque. Completing the powertrain is a five-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel-drive.