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General Motors diesel pickups get EPA approval, 31 mpg highway ratings

GMC Canyon

GMC Canyon  (GMC)

Diesel may be a dirty word these days, but General Motors is looking to clean up on the sales charts with its new oil-burning pickups.

The automaker announced on Monday that it has received EPA certification for its new Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon diesel-powered midsize trucks, the first vehicles to be approved under the agency’s more robust testing procedures that were instituted in the wake of the recent Volkswagen emissions test cheating scandal.

Along with meeting all current emissions standards, the trucks received fuel economy ratings of 22 mpg city/31 mpg highway for two-wheel-drive models, and 20 mpg city/29 highway for trucks equipped with four-wheel-drive. That makes them the most fuel efficient pickups you can buy, besting the 2WD and 4WD full-size Ram 1500 EcoDiesels by 3 mpg and 2 mpg, respectively.

Both feature a 2.8-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that delivers 181 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque, and come with a standard six-speed automatic transmission. Their tow ratings are tops in the midsize pickup segment at 7,700 pounds for 2WD models, and 7,600 pounds for the 4WD versions.

On a recent test drive of the Canyon diesel, I found the engine to be very lively and refined. Quick and quiet best describes it, and its big rig-style exhaust brake worked well on steep downhill grades, which should be a boon for heavy haulers.

For now, the diesel is only offered in crew cab models for prices starting at $33,420 for the Colorado and $34,775 for the Canyon, each $3,730 more than the V6 gasoline versions. They are expected to start showing up at dealers soon.

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Gary Gastelu is FoxNews.com's Automotive Editor.