by Chris Chase
Welcome to the second instalment in our series of articles detailing Natural Resources Canada’s most fuel-efficient vehicles for the 2021 model year.
In our introductory story, we told you about the top-ranked car models. This time around, we’re looking at the pickup trucks, SUVs and crossovers that offer the lowest fuel consumption in their respective classes.
All of the fuel consumption ratings you’ll see here come from NRCan’s searchable online database of vehicle efficiency ratings, which you can find here. (https://fcr-ccc.nrcan-rncan.gc.ca/en) We also provided some additional information about NRCan’s data in our intro article[ALC1] .
Why are there no heavy-duty trucks and vans in the fuel consumption rankings?
Natural Resources Canada does not require manufacturers to calculate fuel consumption ratings for SUVs and vans whose gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) exceeds 4,536 kg (10,000 lbs). Also excluded are other vehicle types with a GVWR of more than 3,856 kg (8,500 lbs) or a curb weight exceeding 2,722 kg (6,000 lbs), which is why there are no heavy-duty pickups listed in the NRCan database.
Gross vehicle weight is the weight of the vehicle itself plus its maximum carrying capacity in cargo and/or passengers.
Without further ado, here are the most efficient trucks and utility vehicles as ranked by Natural Resources Canada.
Small pickup truck – Chevrolet Colorado/GMC Canyon diesel – 11.8/7.9 L/100 km (city/highway)
NRCan’s vehicle classifications are different from those used by the rest of the auto industry, so while we call the Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon mid-size pickups, they are “small” trucks for the purposes of fuel consumption ratings.
These two trucks are mechanical twins, so they share a 2.8L turbodiesel four-cylinder engine that makes 181 hp/369 lb-ft of torque and comes with a six-speed automatic transmission. Note that the Colorado and Canyon’s best-in-class ranking applies to the 2WD versions; adding 4WD makes these trucks less efficient, at 12.2/8.4 L/100 km.
Standard pickup truck – Chevrolet Silverado 1500 diesel – 10.2/7.2 L/100 km (city/highway)
In NRCan’s “standard” pickup class – what we call the full-size light-duty truck segment – the Chevrolet Silverado 1500 is most efficient with its available 3.0L turbodiesel six-cylinder engine. It makes 277 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque and is matched with a 10-speed transmission. As with the smaller Colorado and Canyon trucks, the Silverado diesel’s top fuel economy rating comes with 2WD. If you want 4WD traction, you get a less-efficient truck – especially on the highway – with ratings of 10.6/9.2 L/100 km (city/highway).
We think it’s significant that the Silverado diesel is more efficient than the Colorado and Canyon, despite being a larger truck and boasting a more powerful engine.
Just as notable is that the Silverado’s mechanical twin, the GMC Sierra 1500, does not qualify for NRCan’s top full-size pickup efficiency title. For reasons unexplained, a 2WD Sierra 1500 diesel is rated 10.2/7.8 L/100 km (city/highway). It’s not a big difference, but enough to kick it down to third-best in the segment, behind the Ram 1500 EcoDiesel 2WD (10.5/7.3 L/100 km). Ram’s claim to fame is that its diesel truck boasts the most driving range – 1,600 km! – on a single fill of its optional 125L fuel tank.
Because we know you might be wondering, yes, Ford offers its F-150 with a diesel. However, its efficiency is only good enough for 13th place in the class, thanks to rankings of 11.9/9.1 L/100 km. Part of that relatively poor finish is because the F-150 diesel comes standard with 4WD.
Small SUV – Ford Escape Hybrid – 5.4/6.3 L/100 km (city/highway)
Ford gets its number one in NRCan’s small SUV category with the popular Escape, which is marketed and priced in the compact crossover class.
The Escape Hybrid bolts a 2.5L four-cylinder engine to an electric motor and a continuously variable transmission for 200 hp.
A front-wheel drive Ford Escape Hybrid is rated at 5.4/6.3 L/100 km (city/highway), making it the most efficient conventional – which is to say non-plug-in – utility vehicle you can buy. Next on the list is the Escape Hybrid AWD, rated for 5.5/6.4 L/100 km.
Ford also makes a plug-in version of the Escape Hybrid that provides some electric-only driving on a full charge of its battery. When running as a gas-electric hybrid, its highway fuel consumption rating is ever so slightly better than that of the regular Escape Hybrid.
Standard SUV – Toyota Highlander Hybrid AWD – 6.6/6.8 L/100 km (city/highway)
Tops in NRCan’s standard SUV class is the Toyota Highlander Hybrid AWD, a mid-size crossover with three rows of seats. It uses a 2.5L four-cylinder gas engine that boasts 243 hp when it’s working with the Highlander’s two electric motors. One motor lives up front with the continuously variable transmission, and the second is located at the rear axle, where it provides the Highlander Hybrid’s AWD traction.
According to NRCan’s rankings, the Highlander Hybrid is most efficient in its Limited and Platinum trim levels. Lesser trims are nominally less thrifty in the city, with a 6.7L/100 km rating.
Minivan – Toyota Sienna – 6.6/6.5 L/100 km (city/highway)
Toyota redesigned its Sienna minivan for 2021, an update that made a hybrid powertrain the only one available. With 245 hp, the Sienna’s four-cylinder gas-electric power team is less potent than the old model’s V6. However, electric motors make a lot of torque, so even if the new Sienna does suffer a performance deficit, you probably won’t notice it.
You can option a Sienna with AWD (it uses a second, rear-mounted electric motor like the Highlander), but it’s a bit less efficient, with ratings of 6.8/6.6 L/100 km (city/highway).
With the 2021 Sienna, Toyota has the first hybrid-only minivan. However, Chrysler was first to roll out a gas-electric minivan option in 2017 with the Pacifica PHEV – which we’ll have more to say about in our article about NRCan’s most efficient plug-in models.
NRCan Most Fuel Efficient Cars can be found here.