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Small Trucks with the Best MPG

Charles Krome
by Charles Krome
March 8, 2019
3 min. Reading Time
2019 Toyota Tacoma ・  Photo by Toyota

2019 Toyota Tacoma ・ Photo by Toyota

The latest wave of midsize pickups certainly has some advantages. Fuel economy, however, isn’t necessarily one of them. It may surprise you, but the small trucks with the best mpg actually have lower EPA ratings than the most efficient full-sizer - the Ford F-150. The F-150 can achieve fuel-efficiency grades of 22 mpg city/30 mpg highway/25 mpg combined with its available 3.0-liter turbodiesel engine. No smaller truck can top 23 mpg in combined driving.

So, what exactly are the benefits of a small truck then? Easier-to-manage dimensions, noticeably smaller starting prices, and a wide range of modern goodies such as mobile Wi-Fi, Android Auto, and Apple CarPlay. Most small trucks even come equipped with the latest advanced safety features and luxuries like a heated steering wheel. Read on for our list of small trucks with the fuel economy.

2019 Nissan Frontier

The small trucks with the best mpg usually have four-cylinder engines, as is the case with the 2019 Nissan Frontier. The Frontier comes with a standard 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 152 hp and 171 lb-ft of torque. With that motor and a five-speed manual transmission, you can see EPA ratings of 19 mpg city/23 mpg highway/21 mpg combined - the highest in the Frontier lineup.

Opt for the five-speed automatic and the truck’s EPA line slips to 17/22/19. Nor is there much change if you pair the automatic transmission with a more powerful V6 engine that makes 261 hp and 281 lb-ft of torque. This powertrain delivers one fewer mpg in the city, but one more on the highway, with the same rating for combined travel.

 Photo by Nissan

Photo by Nissan

2019 Toyota Tacoma

The 2019 Toyota Tacoma is next in our gallery of small trucks with the best mpg. Its standard powertrain is just a bit more powerful and efficient than the one in the Nissan Frontier. For the Tacoma, the entry engine is a 2.7-liter four-cylinder unit with 159 hp and 180 lb-ft of torque. A manual transmission isn’t available with this unit, but the truck gets fuel-economy ratings of 20 mpg city/23 mpg highway/21 mpg combined with a standard six-speed automatic.

Now, like the Nissan, the Toyota provides its four-cylinder powerplant mostly for a low price - not because it’s more efficient than the V6 option. Both engines earn the same 21 mpg combined, but the V6 has almost 120 more horsepower and 85 extra pound-feet of torque.

 Photo by Toyota

Photo by Toyota

2019 Honda Ridgeline

The 2019 Honda Ridgeline is an outlier among the small trucks with the best mpg, in a lot of ways. The Ridgeline is the only pickup on the market for 2019 with unibody construction and front-wheel drive. It’s also the only midsize entry without a four-cylinder engine. That shouldn’t bother efficiency-minded customers, though. The Ridgeline puts up better combined and highway ratings with six cylinders than the Toyota Tacoma or Nissan Frontier do with four.

To be exact, the Ridgeline has EPA scores of 19 mpg city/26 mpg highway/22 mpg combined with a standard 3.5-liter V6 and six-speed automatic transmission. Yet the same engine is strong enough to produce 280 hp and 262 lb-ft of torque.

 Photo by Honda

Photo by Honda

2019 Ford Ranger

The brand-new 2019 Ford Ranger leads the gasoline-powered small trucks with the best mpg. For this honor, the Ranger rocks a 2.3-liter EcoBoost engine with 270 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque. The revived Ranger can tow up to 7,500 pounds with that powerplant, which is 50 percent more than the Honda Ridgeline.

Ford’s turbo-based efficiency then combines with a sophisticated 10-speed automatic transmission for EPA grades of 21 mpg city/26 mpg highway/23 mpg combined. Coincidentally, the Ranger also had a standard 2.3-liter engine the last time it was sold new in this country. That naturally aspirated unit provided a 2011 EPA line of 22/27/24. On the other hand, that was with a much less powerful 143 hp, 154 lb-ft of torque, and a five-speed manual.

 Photo by Ford

Photo by Ford

2019 GMC Canyon

No. 1 among all small trucks with the best mpg is the 2019 GMC Canyon, but with a few asterisks. First off, the Canyon is tied at the top of the heap with its corporate cousin, the Chevy Colorado. Second, GM’s midsize pickups may have the highest peak fuel-economy rating, but they both trail the Ford Ranger for city and combined efficiency.

A final difference is that the Canyon requires a more expensive diesel engine to score its top EPA grades. Because that 2.8-liter turbodiesel only is available on higher trims, and requires additional content, Canyon customers have to pay north of $30,000 to get one. The good news? The truck also supplies a tow rating of 7,700 pounds and a fuel-efficiency line of 20 mpg city/30 mpg highway/23 mpg combined.

 Photo by GMC

Photo by GMC

2019 Chevrolet Colorado

The 2019 Chevrolet Colorado caps off our list of small trucks with the best mpg. As we just mentioned, the Colorado is closely related to the GMC Canyon beneath the skin, and that results in both trucks having the exact same fuel-economy ratings.

It all starts with the Colorado’s Canyon-matching diesel scores of 20 mpg city/30 mpg highway/23 mpg combined. But the similarities continue when we check out the pair’s gas engines, too. The Colorado and Canyon each can post an EPA line of 20/26/22 with their standard naturally aspirated four-cylinder motors, and they can hit 18/25/20 with their optional V6s. The two trucks’ same two engines also can pull up to 3,500 and 7,000 pounds, respectively.

 Photo by Chevrolet

Photo by Chevrolet


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