5 Top Pickups for Leaving the Smallest Economic and Carbon Footprints

The culmination of environmental awareness, economic mindfulness, and the need to haul lots of stuff has resulted in pickup trucks that aim to find the perfect balance of all three factors: a truck that combines fuel economy, is affordable up front and to own, and is still capable enough to live up to its work as a utility vehicle. While many argue that one truck is superior to others for whatever reasons, Automotive Science Group, or ASG, set out to find what the best truck was that fit all the criteria — at least on paper.

“Using a unique combination of vehicle data inputs that include conventional specifications as well as social, environmental and economic performance indicators, ASG’s vehicle assessments empower consumers to make choices based on one’s personal principles and financial requisites,” it said.

Using four different awards, ASG “assessed 245 light-duty trucks to trim level detail, annotating the performance differences between trucks with varying cab size, bed length, drivetrain and engine combinations,” according to a company statement. “While these significant differences in trim packages are on par with those distinguishing Crossover SUVs and Full-Size SUVs, truck buyers are offered little distinction in this regard when performance claims are advertised, as is often the case with the aforementioned eco badges. This is where ASG’s insights differ — and empower.”

The awards were broken down as follows:

  • Best Economic Performance: Lowest cost of ownership, attractive entry pricing, et cetera.
  • Best Environmental Performance: This is for trucks that offer superior fuel economy for their class, not only for their EPA-rated mileage, but the process for refining the fuel and the supply chain behind it (for this reason, diesel trucks didn’t fare as well as you’d think, once the background factors are accounted for — emissions, etc.).
  • Best Social Performance: This award took into account the corporate social initiatives of the automaker itself.
  • Best All-Around Performance: Exactly what it sounds like. This award was given to the trucks that offered the best blend of fuel economy, cost of ownership, and social performance.

ASG looked at full-size light-duty trucks, which it broke into Regular Cab, Extended Cab, and Crew Cab sub-categories. Midsize trucks were broken down into Extended Cab and Crew Cab sub-categories. “Regular Cab trucks performed vastly different than Crew Cab trucks with the same eco-branded engine, largely due to the difference in material weight between these two vehicles, exceeding 700 pounds in many instances. Purchase price also differed greatly between trim levels, further differentiating the eco-performance between different truck configurations,” ASG said. With that out of the way, here are the five top pickups for leaving the smallest economic and carbon footprints.

Ford F-150

1. 2014 Ford F-150, 3.7 liter V6

For the Automotive Science Group, the Ford F-150 was tops for smaller-cabbed models. “The 2014 Ford F-150 Regular Cab and Crew Cab won ASG’s most prestigious honor, Best All Around Performance, in the Full-Size Regular and Crew Cab Categories, demonstrating superiority in environmental, economic and social performance,” ASG said. In the XL trim, which ASG used as its baseline, the F-150 also costs just shy of $25,000, helping the F-150 also win the Best Economic Performance award in the extended cab category.


2. 2014 Toyota Tacoma, 2.7 liter In-line Four

With the exception of the Nissan Frontier, the Toyota Tacoma has more or less the entire midsize truck category to itself. It’s rated at 23 miles per gallon by the EPA, and boasting “a material composition weighing slightly more than 3,600 [pounds],” the Tacoma was determined to hold the smallest life-cycle environmental footprint of all model-year 2014 trucks sold in the North American market, therefore receiving ASG’s awards for both the Mid-Size Extended and Crew Cab categories, the press statement says.

Chevy Silverado Red Pickup

3. 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500, 4.3 liter V6 EcoTec3

The Chevrolet Silverado, equipped with Chevy’s 4.3 liter EcoTec3 V6, was awarded the top spot for Best All Around Performance for the Full-Size Extended Cab Category. Moreover, the 2014 Silverado, and its Sierra 1500 sister truck, also took the award for Best Environmental Performance in the same Full-Size Extended Cab Category. “When it came to those trucks with eco-branding, GM’s EcoTec3 trucks were the only eco-branded models to earn top awards in ASG’s 2014 study,” ASG said. You can read the full report here for why the Ram 1500 EcoDiesel didn’t make the cut.

Ram 1500

4. 2014 Ram 1500, 3.6 liter Pentastar V6

“One may have expected the Ram EcoDiesel with class-leading fuel economy to earn top awards in ASG’s assessment, but there’s more to ASG’s assessment than fuel economy alone,” the group’s statement says. “The life-cycle environmental cost of obtaining this diesel-fueled MPG rating must also be considered.” ASG decided that the Ram 1500 Pentastar V6 was the better choice, as both the Regular and Crew Cab trucks both won ASG’s 2014 Best Economic Performance Award; they sport the lowest cost of ownership among Regular and Crew Cab Full-Size trucks in North America, ASG determined.


5. 2014 Nissan Frontier

Finally, the Nissan (NSANY.PK) Frontier was determined to have the lowest cost of ownership over a five-year economic forecast after accounting for purchase and operating costs of all model-year 2014 trucks sold in the North American market, ASG reports. It considered the Nissan Frontier to be a midsize truck for the purposes of the assessment. It was also the Best Social Performance winner for the category.