9 Trucks With Small Engines (& Good MPG)

Although trucks are considered high-utility vehicles, not everyone needs the power of a full-sized pickup truck. 

If you crave the utility and versatility of a truck, but you want the better gas mileage (and cost savings) that comes with a smaller engine size, you’re in luck.

In this article, we look at 9 trucks that come with smaller engines, and what kind of gas mileage they get.

1. Ford Ranger

The Ford Ranger was reintroduced in 2019 after a long hiatus. And this time, Ford opted to make the four-cylinder engine the standard across all models and trims of the Ranger. 

Since 2019, the Ford Ranger has regularly featured a four-cylinder engine that cranks out 270 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque. So, this small engine is not a pushover. And its performance enables the Ranger’s stout towing and hauling capacities. 

The 2.3-liter turbo engine also has good gas mileage. Its estimated fuel economy ratings are 21/26 MPG (city/highway). And it has a reliability rating of 4 out of 5, according to RepairPal.

2. Chevy Colorado

The Chevy Colorado is a class leader in the compact trucks class. It boasts a powerful engine, smooth ride, and superb towing ability. It’s also remarkably fuel-efficient.

Its recent models have a 2.5 liter, four-cylinder base engine. This engine delivers 200 hp and 191 lb-ft of torque, enabling the Colorado’s 3,500 lbs towing capacity. Also, the Colorado is a mix-and-match. So this engine is available across all its trims. 

The Colorado has a decent mileage rating of 19/25 MPG (city/highway). And it has a reliability rating of 4.0 out of 5.0, according to RepairPal. 

3. Toyota Tacoma

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The Toyota Tacoma is one of the most popular compact trucks, thanks to its excellent off-roading ability, upscale interior, and low ownership costs. The Tacoma is also more pleasant to drive than its rivals.

A 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine is standard in the base SR and SR5 trims of the recent Tacoma models. This engine delivers a 159 hp and torque of 180 lb-ft, which is relatively low. As such, it has a below-average towing capacity. Still, the high sales number of the base Tacoma suggests that it’s good enough for many shoppers.

The four-cylinder Tacoma has an average gas mileage of 19/23 MPG (city/highway) (for the FWD). In addition, it has an average reliability rating of 3.5 out of 5, according to RepairPal.

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4. Ford Maverick

The Ford Maverick boasts a stylish cabin, brawny engine performance, nifty handling, and excellent fuel economy, especially in its Maverick Hybrid powertrain.

The Maverick Hybrid is a 2.5 L four-cylinder engine that cranks out 191 hp and 155 lb-ft of torque. And it’s the standard base powertrain in recent Maverick models. This engine delivers impressive estimated mileage of 40/33 MPG (city/highway). And it is available across all three trims of the Maverick.

The Maverick also has a turbocharged 2.0 L four-cylinder engine that cranks out 250 hp and a torque of 277 lb-ft. This powertrain is also available across all Maverick trims. It has a gas mileage rating of 23/30 MPG (for its FWD), which trumps some of its rivals.

The Maverick has a reliability rating of 3.5 out of 5.0, according to RepairPal.

5. GMC Canyon

The GMC Canyon is a popular compact pickup known for its classy cushy cabin, stout towing ability, and agile handling dynamics. It also offers the best towing capacity of trucks in its class.

Four-cylinder engines have been regularly available on the GMC since as far back as 2009. Recent models of the Canyon are available in gas and diesel four-cylinder engine options. 

On the one hand, you have a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 200 hp and 191 lb-ft of torque. This engine has a mileage of 19/25 MPG (city/highway). And it’s standard in the Canyon Elevation Standard trim and available in the Elevation trim.

On the other hand, a 2.8 L turbodiesel four-cylinder engine makes 181 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque. Canyons with this engine have a gas mileage of 20/30 MPG (city/highway). It’s available in the Elevation, AT4, and Denali trims of the GMC Canyon.

This engine gives both cats a towing ability of about 3,500 lbs. And that’s enough to pull a Jetski trailer. The GMC Canyon has a reliability rating of 4.0 out of 5.0, according to RepairPal.

6. Hyundai Santa Cruz

The Hyundai Santa Cruz is a relatively new kid on the compact-pickup-truck block. And it made quite an entrance with its distinctive and impressive interior and a high-end interior. Despite its sturdy structure, this truck is remarkably fun-to-drive.

The first Santa Cruz model is offered with two engine options. The base engine is a 2.5 L four-cylinder engine that delivers 191 hp. This engine is standard in Santa Cruz’s SE and SEL trims.  

Then the second engine option is a turbocharged version of the base engine, and it belts out 281 hp. This engine has an EPA rating of 19/27 MPG (city/highway). And it’s available in the SEL Premium and Limited trims—Santa Cruz’s topmost trims.

The Santa Cruz models equipped with the base engine can tow up to 3,500 lbs. But those with turbocharged engines have a towing capacity of up to 5,000 lbs. 

7. Chevrolet Silverado 1500

Chevrolet first introduced a four-cylinder engine to the Silverado full-size pickup in 2018. And that move was considered highly unusual for a truck of its size. But the Silverado has held up just fine.

The latest generations of the Chevy Silverado have a 2.7-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine option, which delivers 310 hp. This powerful engine enables the Silverado 1500’s tremendous towing capacity of 9,600 lbs.

The turbo-four engine gets a gas mileage of 20/23 MPG (city/highway). And it’s available in the WT, Custom, LT, and RST trims of the turbo-four engine.

The Silverado 1500 has a reliability rating of 3.5 out of 5.0, according to RepairPal.

8. GMC Sierra 1500

The GMC Sierra 1500 is an excellent full-size truck. But it’s nothing special when compared to its class-leading competitors.

You get a line-up of powerful engines, smooth ride quality, and a spacious cabin. Still, competing trucks deliver more power, towing and hauling ability, better off-road ability, and a classier style.

Newer models of the Sierra 1500 have an optional turbocharged 2.7 L four-cylinder engine, which belts out 310 hp and 348 lb-ft of torque. The four-cylinder Sierra 1500s have a maximum tow rate of 9,200 lbs.

The turbo-four engine has a fuel economy rating of 20/23 (city/highway). And it’s offered as optional in the base Sierra, SLE, and Elevation trims.

The Sierra 1500 has a reliability rating of 3.5 out of 5.0, according to RepairPal.

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9. Nissan Frontier

Four-cylinder Nissan Frontier models have been available since as far back as 2010. However, Nissan discontinued the four-cylinder models in 2020.

The 2019 Nissan Frontier had a four-cylinder base engine with 152 hp and 171 lb-ft of torque. It was standard in the Frontier S and Frontier SV trim. And it had a gas mileage rating of 19/23 mpg (city/highway) for manual transmission and 17/22 mpg for automatic.

Although this 2019 Frontier had an outdated interior, it had the excellent off-roading ability and a decent towing ability — the four-cylinder models could tow up to 3,810 lbs. It has a reliability rating of 4.0 out of 5.0, according to RepairPal.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, opting for a smaller engine sacrifices some of your truck’s power and off-roading capabilities. However, in exchange, you get much better fuel economy, with a few of the trucks on our list reaching up to 30 mpg


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