In the past, new truck shoppers were more concerned with power, cargo capacity and off-road ability than fuel economy. Now that gas prices are hitting all-time highs, however, fuel-efficiency has become an important issue for buyers, even those who need a vehicle capable of hauling more than just a bag of groceries. With this in mind, we've compiled a list of the top 10 most fuel-efficient pickups and SUVs sold in the U.S. today, based on the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) miles-per-gallon ratings for city and highway travel. The only hybrid vehicle to make the list is the new Ford Escape, which offers stellar economy for such a versatile vehicle. Later in 2005, a hybrid version of Toyota's Highlander will also arrive — likely as a 2006 model. Our hierarchy is based on the EPA's formula for combined fuel economy: 55 percent of city mpg rating plus 45 percent of highway mpg rating. The rating for each vehicle below is expressed in mpg as a city/highway ratio. With exceptions for the Dodge Magnum, Ford Escape Hybrid, Honda CR-V, Jeep Liberty Diesel, Subaru Baja and Toyota Highlander, all ratings apply to base models equipped with a manual transmission — and for pickups, a regular cab/standard bed configuration. Likewise, all ratings apply to 2WD models, with the exceptions being all the Subarus and the Jeep Liberty Diesel. You'll notice that some decidedly carlike vehicles made the list this year, such as Chrysler's PT Cruiser and the Dodge Magnum, and that's because the EPA classifies them as SUVs — even though they're basically station wagons.
1. Ford Escape Hybrid — 36/31