04/21/2007 (LWN) While there has been much talk in recent months and years about the importance of improving auto gas mileage, statistics seem to indicate an opposite trend for most pickup truck models. Let's take a look at how the fuel economy of small trucks has changed over the years...
FORD: In 1985, a Ford F150 pickup truck with a six-cylinder engine was capable of getting 19-24MPG, and the smaller Ford Ranger was available in a 29-33MPG diesel version. By 1996, the six-cylinder F150's gas mileage had fallen to 15-19MPG, and the diesel Ford Ranger was no longer available. The current model year's F-150 receives only 16-21MPG.
DODGE: The four-cylinder 1989 Dodge Dakota had gas mileage of 22-28MPG. This decreased to 20-25MPG by 1998, and there is no four-cylinder model available for this model year. The current six-cylinder Dakota gets about 16-22MPG, less with four-wheel drive.
CHEVY/GMC: In 1987, several small trucks with relatively high gas mileage were available from these brands, including the El Camino six-cylinder (18-23MPG), the four-wheel-drive T10 (22-25MPG) and the four-cylinder S10 (22-27MPG). At present, these models have been discontinued and GMC's most fuel-efficient truck appears to be the Canyon four-cylinder, at 20-26MPG.
TOYOTA: During the late '80s, almost all of Toyota's trucks had four-cylinder engines; some offered fuel economy as high as 23-27MPG. By 1998, more six-cylinder models had been introduced, but the most fuel-efficient Tacoma still received 22-27MPG. This year's most efficient Tacoma has about the same mileage (23-28MPG), not much different than two decades ago. Still, the introduction of an eight-cylinder Tundra model can hardly be described as an improvement.
NISSAN: In 1986, the Japanese automaker Nissan's most fuel-efficient truck was capable of 26-31MPG, and a 30-33MPG diesel version was available. In 1992, Nissan's most economical truck achieved 23-27 miles per gallon. The 1999 Nissan Frontier pickup had slightly lower mileage, at 22-26MPG. Today, the most fuel efficient Frontier receives 22-25MPG, indicating a slow but steady decline over the years.
If American and Japanese automakers are truly serious about addressing the issues of climate change, oil depletion and air pollution, they should take measures to move their small trucks toward better fuel economy - rather than maintaining a trend toward poor gas mileage, as most of them have during the past twenty years.
Gas mileage statistics are from FuelEconomy.gov. Most MPG statistics are for models with a manual transmission; automatic transmission models generally have the same or lower mileage.