Back in the day, the argument was always Ford vs Chevy. When the Japanese import market started to boom in the 80s, things changed. Today, Toyota has made the top-selling car in the US for many years. While Ford holds the title with full-sized trucks, mid-sized/compact trucks are back in style, and with heavy competition.
For some time, there really was no other option but the Tacoma. It’s durable, reliable, and backed by a very well known and trusted brand. Well, Ford has brought back its compact truck to the US: the Ford Ranger. It’s going right after the Tacoma market. How do the two trucks compare?
* Options not available on all models
** Up to, with applicable packages/options
Trims, Sizes, and Prices
The Tacoma offers six trim levels (SR, SR5, TRD Sport, TRD Off-Road, Limited, and TRD Pro) compared to the Ford Ranger’s three (XL, XLT, and Lariat). In all cases though, the Ranger offers a lower base price. Options cause both trucks to increase in price, and while the Tacoma does offer a bit more in terms of options, the cost is still a bit more.
Some of the options include bed and cab size. While both offer a version of a single cab with four seats or a double cab with four seats, Ford falls short on bed options. Depending on the trim, Tacoma allows you more bed options, while Ford keeps the same overall length of the truck with each cab option: bigger cab means smaller bed. The weight of each truck is basically the same at around 4,400 at the heaviest.
The Tacoma offers two proven engines, both with respectable power and torque. Ford only offers one. While the Ranger is new to the US market, the 2.7L EcoBoost engine is also well proven being found in almost all of Ford’s vehicles. It offers more power and substantially more torque. While doing that, it does offer better gas mileage as well. That is in part to Ford’s 10 speed automatic transmission. However, that is your only option. Tacoma offers a 6 speed manual or automatic, though that does depend on the trim level. Both have the option of two or four-wheel drive depending on trim and packages.
Towing and Off-Road
Both trucks offer the same respectable base towing capacity: 3,500 pounds. Both also offer upgraded towing packages. This brings the Tacoma up to 6,800 lbs and Ranger up to 7,500 lbs. Payload capacity with both is also respectable, but the Tacoma can handle a little less compared to the Ranger.
Off-roading is where the Tacoma tends to win. Ford does offer a very impressive off-road package which includes a better suspension, tires, rear differential, and off-roading electronics. A unique feature would be the addition of skid plates. Those are mostly similar to what Toyota offers, but Tacoma is known for off-roading and overlanding. They sell entire trim levels dedicated to off-roading.
The amount of aftermarket for the Tacoma is legendary. Granted, it has been around for much longer compared to the Ranger (compared to the US market at least), but that is what the Tacoma is known for, and it will take the aftermarket some time to catch up for Ranger parts.
Colors and Interior
Exterior color choices are pretty similar between the two. Interior wise, it’s been reported that the Ranger seems to have more of a luxury feel, while the Tacoma feels more rugged. That could be since the Tacoma is more gear to the off-road market. The 2020 Tacoma will be offering more entertainment and driver adjustability features that are on the Ranger as well. Also in 2020, the Tacoma will come out with more safety features such as a lane departure warning system.
All in all, Ford really came out swinging with the Ford Ranger. In overall performance, it does seem to come out ahead of the Toyota Tacoma. This is typical of new models. While the Ranger is not technically new (as it has been offered outside of the US market), Ford has had time to see what other manufacturers were doing, and it acted accordingly when bringing the Ranger to the US in 2019. Tacoma is, for lack of better words, old. However, Toyota is realizing what needs to be done, and it is taking the proper steps.
As for options both factory and aftermarket, the Tacoma wins. Ford doesn’t offer as many options, but the ones you can get work well. I guess it goes back to what Henry Ford said about the Model T: “Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black.”
Toyota has the proven reliability of the platform. While the Ranger is “new,” the drivetrain is proven from other vehicles.
Honestly, it comes down to personal preference, needs, and brand loyalty. Both are fantastic options, but I am curious to see what this battle holds for the future.
2020 Tacoma 1 - Courtesy of CNET
2020 Tacoma 2 - Courtesy of AutoBlog
2020 Ranger 1 - Courtesy of Motor1
2020 Ranger 2 - Courtesy of Ford