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Most Fuel Efficient 4×4 Trucks

Fuel Efficient 4x4 Ute
Most-Fuel-Efficient-4×4-Trucks

Driving a 4×4 truck used to mean resigning yourself to big fuel bills, as the most fuel-efficient 4×4 trucks were gas hogs compared to most cars, and even compared to most 4×2 trucks. Truck makers wised up and started to pay attention. They now build lighter trucks with much more efficient engines. Each truck on our top 10 list averages 20 mpg combined or better, impressive figures for such capable vehicles. We consulted the Environmental Protection Agency’s official site, FuelEconomy.gov, for our ratings, and we’ve included variants within a model based on engine, transmission and fuel efficiency.

With so many engines and transmission options on the market today, this can turn into quite a complex question. It’s easy for a manufacturer to claim the most fuel-efficient truck, but they are most likely referring to the one with the least power or smallest engine. We want trucks to do truck things right, so the smallest engine might not work for everyone. To make it easier, I’ve compiled a list, taking the fuel economy numbers from the U.S. Department of Energy with vehicles placed in order based on ‘combined’ fuel consumption figures.

America is having a full-tilt love affair with sport-utility vehicles these days, and it’s easy to see why. Given their taller stance and upright rooflines, SUVs are generally easier to enter and exit than sedans, and because they sit higher off the ground they afford a see-over-traffic view of the road. Their basic “two box” designs afford more interior room than a same-size passenger car. Their generous cargo capacities make them ideal for growing families or anyone else who makes regular trips to the warehouse store or antique mall. 

Particularly popular are car-based crossover models that deliver more-easygoing road manners than the larger and more rugged truck-derived SUVs. Most offer all-wheel drive as an optional alternative to front-wheel drive for added traction over wet or snowy roads. What’s more, crossover SUVs deliver superior fuel economy over their truck-based counterparts, especially in gas/electric hybrid-powered models that are exceptionally frugal.

For some pickup shoppers, Fuel economy: is a high priority alongside traditional truck strengths such as towing and hauling. But just how fuel-efficient can a pickup truck be? If that’s what you’re wondering, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve sorted through all the numbers, giving you the best in the midsize, full-size and heavy-duty segments — and some of the best types of diesel to choose from, too.

From no-frills midsize work trucks up to the largest of heavy-duty pickups, every truck offers a unique set of skills and specific trade-offs when it comes to Fuel economy: Midsize trucks, for example, will have the lowest payload numbers and the smallest towing capability, but they’ll return higher fuel mileage. Diesel-powered rigs will give you extra towing power and a Fuel economy: boost, but the cost of upgrading to a diesel powertrain can be very high.

Whatever your choice of pickup segment, there are several competitors to choose from with varying virtues. Come along for the ride as we review the best mpg trucks for 2020 — and don’t forget to check out our expert Truck rankings, which are updated in real-time to show you how today’s trucks stack up overall.

For this list, the segments we’re covering are midsize, full-size, heavy-duty and diesel. Of course, you can get diesel powertrains in your pickup in all three size segments, but some buyers may prefer to look exclusively at diesel, while others may want to avoid it entirely.

Midsize rigs are modest and capable of towing small trailers with motorcycles or other small vehicles. Full-size trucks are a bit more versatile and capable of towing car trailers and big-box moving trailers, and they have more interior space. 

Then the heavy-duty rigs come into play. They can tow north of 30,000 pounds in some cases, and although they’ll hit you hard in the wallet when you visit the pump, it might be worth the trade-off. How did we choose the best gas mileage trucks for 2019? Simple: We looked at the EPA fuel mileage estimates for every truck on the market and found the top performers for 2019. They’re listed below with all the key specs. Please note, however, that we’ve given you the max towing and payload capacities only for the most fuel-efficient version of each truck. If you’re interested in the best trucks for towing, we’ve got a list for that, too — and if you’re interested in leveraging all-wheel drive or four-wheel drive for off-pavement adventures, check out our list of best off-road trucks.

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Chevrolet Colorado 

Along with stablemate GMC Canyon, the 2017 Chevrolet Colorado 4WD Crew Cab is the rarity in the midsize pickup class, and the most fuel-efficient truck for the second year in a row thanks to its turbocharged 2.8-litre 4-cylinder diesel engine. The Duramax engine is not only efficient, but it is also powerful (181 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque), a result of direct injection technology, and can tow up to 7,600 lbs and carry a payload of 1,477 lbs – almost ¾ of a ton. That’s a lot of capability for a fuel-efficient midsize pickup. Chevy’s Z71 off-road trim level is available on the diesel, subbing in off-road suspension and features to make the

If you’re just looking for a basic truck that’ll get the job done, the Chevy Colorado is a good place to start. It offers many powertrain options, but the one we’re picking here is the 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine with the six-speed automatic transmission. Other powertrains (such as the optional V6) will provide a bit more towing and hauling capability, but the Fuel economy: takes a hit.

GM didn’t spend all of its engineering capital on the diesel version of Colorado; they also worked hard to make the gasoline-powered 2017 Chevrolet Colorado 4WD impressively capable of travelling great distances on just sips of gas. It’s not as good at grunting out the torque as the diesel, but manages nicely with 2.5-liter inline 4-cylinder gas engine (200 hp and 191 lb-ft of torque). The Colorado can be ordered with an extended cab for those who find a crew cab too much like an SUV. Midsize Colorado is at its best as a light-duty, fuel-efficient work truck, maximizing economy not only in fuel but in features. Leave the Denali home, and get to work!

2017 GMC Canyon 

23 mpg combined/20 mpg city/28 mpg highway

Tied for first place among the ten most fuel-efficient 4×4 trucks, the 2017 GMC Canyon 4WD comes as a Crew Cab with either a short (61.7-inch) or long (74.0-inch) box and the same 2.8-litre turbocharged 4-cylinder diesel engine that you can find in the Chevy Colorado 4WD Diesel. In addition to fuel efficiency, Canyon can also add some genuine luxury when you order the Denali trim level. It’s quite a package with 23 mpg combined, diesel power and 4-wheel drive, plus interior and exterior bling befitting a luxury automobile. The Denali trim level has grown from a niche version of the Yukon to a broad symbol of rugged capability and signature design.

The GMC Canyon is essentially a slightly more upscale version of the Chevrolet Colorado. Both tracks offer the 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine on the base trim level with the six-speed automatic transmission. The Canyon comes with a bit more in the way of standard and optional equipment, and it carries the same EPA Fuel economy: an estimate of 22 mpg combined.

GMC used to brag that “We are professional grade,” and the 2017 GMC Canyon 4WD lives up to the phrase with impressive fuel efficiency, a ton of features, and leading capability. Available in an extended cab with long (74.0-inch) or short (61.7) box or crew cab with short box configuration, the Canyon squeezes the same fuel efficiency out of its 2.5-litre inline 4-cylinder gasoline engine. The naturally-aspirated (non-turbo) engine pumps out 200 hp and 191 lb-ft of torque. Unfortunately, the Denali trim line is not available with the 2.5-litre gas engine – you have to choose between the 2.8-litre turbo-diesel or a 3.5-litre V6 gasoline engine that is less fuel-efficient than the 2.5-litre 4-cylinder.

2017 Honda Ridgeline 

21 mpg combined/18 mpg city/25 mpg highway

The newly redesigned Ridgeline has always been a different animal than the other trucks. Rather than defaulting to classic body-on-frame construction like the competition, the 2017 Honda Ridgeline AWD is built on a unibody platform. This results in lower weight and greater fuel efficiency, which means that Honda can use a 3.5-litre V6 gasoline engine that produces 280 hp and 262 lb-ft of torque. Not only that, but Ridgeline also has 4-wheel independent suspension, a great advantage in many situations while using the all-wheel drive. Add in Ridgeline’s in-bed trunk, available truck-bed sound system and Honda Sensing active and passive safety features, and the oddball in the class starts to look pretty special for the right buyers.

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2017 Toyota Tacoma 

20 mpg combined/19 mpg city/22 mpg highway

The base 2017 Toyota Tacoma SR 4×4 6AT benefits from a total makeover for the model year. It uses a 2.7-litre naturally aspirated (non-turbo) 4-cylinder engine and 6-speed automatic transmission to achieve its fuel efficiency. Tacoma has been the sales leader in the midsize pickup truck class for years, with a well-earned reputation for rugged dependability. The tough-as-nails Tacoma SR can only be ordered with an extended (Access) cab and 6-ft long bed if you want the most fuel-efficient version. Tacoma is a very popular vehicle for off-road applications. It is supported by a very robust aftermarket for suspension parts, as well as a whole line of Toyota Racing Development (TRD) parts and accessories.

For a truly elemental 4×4 truck experience, consider the 2017 Toyota Tacoma SR 4×4 5MT. In contrast with the SR 4×4 6AT, SR 4×4 5MT pairs a 5-speed manual transmission with the fuel-efficient 2.7-litre naturally aspirated (non-turbo) 4-cylinder engine. The manual isn’t quite as efficient as the 6-speed automatic transmission, exacting a one-mile-per-gallon penalty on highway fuel economy. Still, it allows for the pure off-road driving experience that many enthusiasts crave. An automatic transmission doesn’t require as much driver involvement in demand situations – and experts often prefer the challenge and triumph of modulating all three pedals to overcome obstacles. Toyota’s well-mannered transmission is easy to drive on a day-to-day basis so that the sacrifice may be worth the glory.

2017 Ford EcoBoost

20 mpg combined/18 mpg city/23 mpg highway

The first full-size pickup on our list, the 2017 Ford F-150 4×4 2.7 EcoBoost, achieves its impressive fuel efficiency with a compact 2.7-litre turbocharged V6 EcoBoost engine that is tuned to produce 325 hp and 375 lb-ft of torque. A range of cab and bed configurations is available with this engine and 4×4 capability, from Regular Cab to SuperCab to Crew Cab and bed lengths of 5.5 feet, 6.5 feet and 8 feet. F-150’s revolutionary aluminum body construction makes for a truck that is lighter and more rigid than ever before, which is great for efficiency and 4×4 operation. There’s a reason that the F-150 has been the best-selling truck in the U.S. for 40 years.

If you need the capability of a full-size 4×4 pickup with 12,200-lb towing capacity and a 3,220-lb maximum payload, you don’t have to sacrifice fuel efficiency with the 2017 Ford F-150 EcoBoost. The 3.5-liter EcoBoost turbocharged V6 engine pumps out 375 hp and 470 lb-ft of torque, better overall power figures than many large V8 engines, and with a better EPA rating than all V8 pickups. Fear of turbo lag and durability concerns have been erased with the EcoBoost’s wide application. The engine’s smoothness and prodigious well of torque make it an excellent off-roader. It’s even the powertrain of choice in the 2017 Ford F-150 Raptor, one of the most capable and mean off-roaders on the planet.

2020 Toyota RAV4 

Annual Fuel Cost: $1,200 | 28/35 mpg city/hwy | $25,950 | USN Overall Score: 8.4/10

U.S. News ranks the 2020 Toyota RAV4 highly among compact crossover SUVs. It’s an ideal ride for small families, singles, and empty nesters alike for its roomy and nicely finished passenger cabin, amenable handling, and its many standard features. These include the Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 suite of advanced driver-assist systems. Though it carries a somewhat steep sticker price in this class, it’s predicted to be eminently reliable over time.

The RAV4 comes adequately powered by a 203-horsepower 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that, unfortunately, becomes loud and feels unrefined when pushed hard. Unlike some other models in its class, there is no turbocharged upgrade.

Android Auto, satellite radio, and a built-in Wi-Fi hot spot are added for 2020, as is a new all-wheel-drive TRD model with a specially tuned suspension and specific tires for a bit of added off-road prowess.

The 2020 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid is U.S. News’ top-ranked model among hybrid and electric SUVs and was awarded our 2020 Best Hybrid or Electric SUV for the Money award. 

Its fuel economy is inarguably frugal, and the RAV4 Hybrid backs it up with lively acceleration. A 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine and two electric motors combine to produce the perky equivalent of 219 horsepower. It rides smoothly over most road surfaces. All-wheel drive is standard.

Like its gasoline-only companion, the RAV4 Hybrid offers a spacious and upscale-looking interior with a generously roomy cargo hold. Android Auto is added to the vehicle’s connectivity features for 2020.

Top Toyota Hilux ute for efficiency
Top Toyota Hilux ute for efficiency

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2020 Lexus UX Hybrid

Annual Fuel Cost: $850 | 43/41 mpg city/hwy | $34,350 | USN Overall Score: 7.5/10

The luxury automaker’s smallest gas/electric-powered model, the 2020 Lexus UX Hybrid gets the best fuel economy among non-plug-in SUVs sold in the U.S. It affords a reasonably roomy cabin. However, some interior materials are on the cheap side, and there’s little in the way of cargo space. The UX comes packed with all the requisite bells and whistles, including the Lexus Safety System+ 2.0 aggregate of high-tech safety systems. It includes automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control, and more.

A four-cylinder gas engine and dual electric motors combine to generate 181 horsepower, which should be enough for most drivers, though it’s less than with some other hybrids. It’s tuned to deliver a well-cushioned ride with reasonably energetic handling abilities. As with some other Lexus models, the UX’s infotainment system can be difficult and distracting to operate, though it does come with most of the latest connectivity features.

The Android Auto smartphone interface is made standard for 2020, with blind-spot monitoring newly available.

 2020 Ford Escape Hybrid 

Annual Fuel Cost: $900 | 44/37 mpg city/hwy | $28,255 | USN Overall Score: N/A

Ford brings back the Escape Hybrid for 2020 after an eight-year absence, and it gets the best fuel economy in city driving among our list of gas-sipping SUVs. The Escape Hybrid was not ranked as of this writing because it had not yet been evaluated for its crashworthiness. Its critics’ rating, however, is a stalwart 7.9 out of 10.

While the vehicle’s interior is sufficiently spacious and quiet, it could use some better quality materials for a richer look and feel. The infotainment system is intuitive to operate and includes a wide variety of functions.

The Escape Hybrid’s 2.5-litre four-cylinder gas engine is augmented by an electric motor to produce a net 198 horsepower, which is sufficient to get the vehicle up to speed without much fuss. It drives much like the standard-issue Escape, with modestly playful steering and a pliant ride over most surfaces. A generous list of standard driver-assist systems includes Curve Control, which helps safely manage the vehicle’s speed when approaching a curve.

2020 Toyota Highlander Hybrid 

Annual Fuel Cost: $1,000 | 36/35 mpg city/hwy | $38,200 | USN Overall Score: 8.1/10

The 2020 Toyota Highlander Hybrid gets the best fuel economy of any gas or hybrid-powered midsize three-row SUV. It’s fully redesigned for 2020 and adds key features like the Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Amazon Alexa interfaces. A host of the latest accident avoidance safety features are also newly standard.

Combined, its four-cylinder engine and dual electric motors send the equivalent of 243 horsepower to the pavement via a CVT automatic transmission. It’s peppy around town, but less so when trying to muster passing speeds on the highway. The suspension is tuned to soak up bumps and highway imperfections nicely.

Its negatives are nitpicked, but not necessarily deal-breakers. As with many SUVs in this size class, the rearmost row is short on legroom, and it’s not a particularly crisp-handling vehicle. The sticker price is also rather steep.

2020 Nissan Kicks 

Annual Fuel Cost: $1,100 | 31/36 mpg city/hwy | $18,870 | USN Overall Score: 7.8/10

Yet another funky-looking subcompact crossover SUV, the 2020 Nissan Kicks, is one of the better examples in a burgeoning field. Aside from its impressive fuel economy, its most noteworthy attributes are a generous number of standard features, a spacious cargo area, and its decidedly affordable sticker price.

Among the Kicks a few drawbacks, its 122-horsepower 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine fares better in city traffic than it does getting up to highway speeds, and it could stand quicker handling and better braking to keep up with its rivals in terms of drivability. All-wheel drive is not available here, however, though its front-drive setup should suffice for all but those living deep within snow country.

The Kicks receives several drivers assist systems as standard equipment for 2020, including automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, automatic rear braking, lane departure warning, blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert, and high beam assist. 

2020 Lexus UX 

Annual Fuel Cost: $1,100 | 29/37 mpg city/hwy | $32,300 | USN Overall Score: 7.6/10

The distinctively styled subcompact 2020 Lexus UX gets impressive fuel economy in its standard version without the added cost of a hybrid-drive system. A generous feature set includes a long list of accident-avoidance safety features that include forward automatic emergency braking. A blind-spot monitor is newly available for 2020. You may get frustrated learning to operate the vehicle’s fussy infotainment system without incurring undue distraction, however.

While the UX delivers a smooth and comfortable ride with precise handling, it’s not as fun to drive as some of its rivals. A lot of that has to do with its lacklustre 169-horsepower four-cylinder engine that makes it feel sluggish on the uptake; fortunately, its CVT automatic transmission operates smoothly.

The Android Auto interface is included for 2020, joining the Apple CarPlay and Bluetooth connectivity systems.

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2020 Honda CR-V

Annual Fuel Cost: $1,200 | 28/34 mpg city/hwy | $25,050 | USN Overall Score: 8.7/10

The 2020 Honda CR-V fares much better than its smaller sibling, the HR-V, with U.S. News ranking it the No.1 model among compact SUVs. There’s a lot to like here, including a spacious and nicely finished five-passenger interior that features enough cargo room to handle even the biggest shopping sprees. 

While the CR-V’s previous 184-horsepower four-cylinder engine has been dropped from the lineup for 2020, a smaller 1.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder exceeds it with 190 horsepower and 179 pound-feet of torque. Its CVT automatic transmission operates more smoothly than most, and the CR-V exhibits well-balanced ride and handling qualities.

The exterior gets some modest tweaks for 2020, and the Honda Sensing suite of high-tech safety systems is now standard across the line.

Admittedly, most of the crossover SUVs presented here are either compact or subcompact models and aren’t built to venture away from paved roads. If you require a larger three-row SUV or one that comes with three rows of seats for kids and carpooling – or instead favour a sedan, coupe, or pickup truck you’ll want to consult our new car rankings. And whether you’re buying or leasing a vehicle, it pays – literally – to check our new car deals page as part of the shopping process to see what’s being offered in terms of automakers’ cash-back rebates, cut-rate financing programs, and lease deals, updated monthly. 

Finally, don’t take a step onto a showroom floor without first visiting our Best Price Program page to obtain pre-negotiated prices from auto dealerships within a set distance from where you live. How valuable is this service? The average shoppers save more than $3,000 by participating in the Best Price Program.


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