Most fuel-efficient pickups of 2013Automakers have done much to improve fuel economy in recent years, but the biggest strides havecome in the smallest vehicles. What about pickup trucks? In compiling the following list onpickups’ fuel efficiency, it became obvious that trucks are far thirstier than cars and crossovers. Infact, the top entry on this list wouldn’t even show up at the bottom of a list of fuel-efficientcrossovers — let alone cars. We considered both rear-wheel-drive and 4-wheel-drive pickups, andpushed the qualifying criteria down to an Environmental Protection Agency fuel-economy rating of17 mpg combined. But if you need a truck and fuel consumption is a tipping point, the followingare the best you can get today.
• 17 mpg combined (15 mpg city / 21 mpg highway)In our opinion, the best engine in a full-size pickup is the 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 in the Ford F-150.This turbocharged V6 delivers power that meets or beats any V8 on the market while offeringcompetitive fuel economy. It can also tow a whopping 11,300 pounds — tops among light-duty,full-size pickups. It comes mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission, and opting for 4WD costsonly 1 mpg overall.12. 2013 Honda Ridgeline 4WD• 17 mpg combined (15 city / 21 mpg highway)While other pickups use a ladder-type frame with separate bed and cabin structures, the HondaRidgeline uses a car-type unibody design that mates the cab to the bed and uses the body as part ofthe structure. It also has a unique, lockable trunk accessed from the bed. The Ridgeline comesstandard with all-wheel drive and a 3.5-liter 250-horsepower V6 engine. The unibody structuregives the Ridgeline exceptional ride and handling characteristics.11. 2013 Toyota Tundra• 17 mpg combined (16 mpg city / 20 mpg highway)The Toyota Tundra was last redesigned for the 2007 model year, so its 2014 update is certainly due.However, Toyota has made no mention of new engines or improved fuel economy, and that could be
a problem. The most fuel-efficient Tundra features rear-wheel drive, a 4.0-liter 270-horsepower V6engine and a 5-speed automatic transmission. Every rival pickup offers 4WD and a V8 — orturbocharged V6 — engine that provides better fuel economy than the most basic Tundra.10. 2013 Chevrolet Silverado C15 XFE• 18 mpg combined (15 mpg city / 22 mpg highway)Chevrolet introduced the Silverado XFE (Xtra Fuel Economy) for the 2008 model year, makingquite a few changes to gain 1 mpg in combined mileage. The rear-drive XFE comes with the 5.3-liter 315-horsepower V8 engine and 6-speed automatic transmission from other GM pickups, butgets mechanical and aerodynamic changes to increase fuel economy. Mechanical changes include afuel-saving 3.08 axle ratio, low-rolling-resistance tires, lighter aluminum wheels and lower controlarms. For better aerodynamics, the suspension is lowered, the lower front air dam is unique, and thebed is fitted with a standard soft tonneau cover.9. 2013 Nissan Frontier 4WD• 18 mpg combined (16 mpg city / 21 mpg highway)Nissan doesn’t offer a 4-cylinder engine with 4WD in the Frontier, so that makes the 4.0-liter 261-horsepower V6 the most fuel-efficient 4WD Frontier. Predictably, fuel economy with the 6-speed
manual transmission is best, beating the 5-speed automatic by 1 mpg in city driving and 1 mpgcombined. According to the Energy Department, a year’s worth of gas will typically cost $3,050. Bycomparison, a year’s worth of gas in the Toyota Prius will run $1,100.8. 2013 Ford F-150• 19 mpg combined (17 mpg city / 23 mpg highway)The Ford F-150 is due for a redesign soon, but it received a new lineup of engines for the 2011model year, all of which improved fuel economy. The 3.7-liter 302-horsepower V6 engine and 6-speed automatic transmission is the most fuel-efficient setup. That engine provides useful powerand can tow up to 6,000 pounds, but it’s pretty coarse in the F-150, especially at high rpms. The365-horsepower turbocharged V6 offers more power and towing capacity at the cost of just 1 mpgoverall. We’ll take that tradeoff.7. 2013 Ram 1500 4WD• 19 mpg combined (16 mpg city / 23 mpg highway)With its 2013 redesign, the Ram 1500 stands out as the most refined full-size pickup on the market.The cabin is quieter and better appointed than the competition, and the coil spring rear suspensiongives the Ram the silkiest ride of any full-size truck. The combination of a smooth and responsive3.6-liter V6 engine and 8-speed automatic transmission makes the Ram 1500 fuel efficient withrear-wheel or 4-wheel drive.
6. 2013 Toyota Tacoma 4WD• 19 mpg combined (18 mpg city / 21 mpg highway)With its small size and relatively fuel-efficient 4-cylinder engine, it’s no surprise the Toyota Tacomashows up on this list twice, once as a rear-wheel drive model and as this 4-wheel-drive variant.Buyers must opt for the 2.7-liter engine that produces only 159-horsepower, but both the 4-speedautomatic and 5-speed manual transmissions return 19 mpg combined.5. 2013 GMC Sierra Hybrid 4WD• 21 mpg combined (20 mpg city / 23 mpg highway)General Motors’ new hybrid system is found in both the GMC Sierra Hybrid and the ChevroletSilverado Hybrid, which are basically the same truck. Opting for 4-wheel drive over rear-wheeldrive costs 2 mpg overall, but the Sierra Hybrid is still in the top tier of fuel-efficient pickups. GMis redesigning its pickups for the 2014 model year but has made no announcement about anychanges to the hybrid system for its 2014 pickups.
4. 2013 Nissan Frontier• 21 mpg combined (19 mpg city / 23 mpg highway)The Nissan Frontier is one of the best midsize pickups on the market, but that’s not saying muchconsidering the lack of competition. For best fuel economy, buyers should choose the rear-wheeldrive Frontier with the 2.5-liter 152-horsepower 4-cylinder engine and 5-speed manualtransmission. We like the Frontier’s just-right size, controlled handling and rugged capability.According to the Energy Department, a year’s worth of gas will cost $2,600.3. 2013 Ram 1500 HFE• 21 mpg combined (18 mpg city / 25 mpg highway)The Ram 1500 is the newest of the full-size pickups, and it’s no surprise that it’s also one of themost fuel-efficient. To get the best fuel economy, buyers must opt for the HFE (High FuelEconomy) variant, which comes with rear-wheel drive and the same 3.6-liter 305-horsepower V6engine and 8-speed automatic transmission as other Rams. It adds 1 mpg to combined fuel economythanks to the addition of start-stop technology and active grille shutters. This V6engine/transmission combination is smooth and powerful, but those who need to tow should choosethe 5.7-liter V8.
2. 2013 Chevrolet Silverado Hybrid• 23 mpg combined (21 mpg city / 25 mpg highway)Much more work has been done to improve fuel economy in full-size pickups than in their midsizecounterparts. GM has even developed a hybrid system, and that powertrain makes the rear-driveversion of the Silverado Hybrid the most fuel-efficient full-size pickup. This two-mode hybridsystem features a 6.0-liter V8 engine mated to a transmission that houses a pair of electric motorsand four fixed gears. Total output is 332 horsepower, and the EPA ratings for this 5,573-pound truckmatch that of the much smaller, 3,315-pound Toyota Tacoma.
1. 2013 Toyota Tacoma• 23 mpg combined (21 mpg city / 25 mpg highway)Even the most fuel-efficient pickup isn’t that fuel efficient. Buyers must opt for the very basicTacoma to get the best mileage. That means this compact pickup comes with rear-wheel drive, the2.7-liter 159-horsepower 4-cylinder engine and the 5-speed manual transmission. Still, when youconsider that fuel economy wasn’t a major consideration when the Tacoma was developed for the2005 model year, it’s impressive that such an old product gets the best fuel-economy ratings eightyears later.