The Ford Ranger is one of the most anticipated and celebrated pickup returns to date, but in its absence, the Toyota Tacoma has become something of an institution. While Ford pulled the Ranger off the North American market in 2011 due to what they saw as a lack of interest, the Tacoma remained in production, eagerly eating up Ford’s market share. The 2020 Tacoma is the culmination of twenty-four years of continuous production and development, meanwhile, the 2019 Ranger is coming back after an eight-year hiatus.
Like the Tacoma, the Ranger has grown from a compact to a midsize pickup, hoping to take advantage of increased interest in midsize trucks. The Tacoma and Ranger are natural adversaries, and they’re fairly evenly matched in many ways, though there are several key areas where one shows an advantage over the other.
Tacoma vs Ranger: Exterior
The Ranger and Tacoma may actually be the most similar in terms of appearance out of all the midsize pickup trucks. Both trucks have focused on creating a look that is at once both rugged and worldly. It’s the kind of pickup that you can easily see off-roading in almost any terrain on any continent while still looking completely at home. They even have similar faces: A black honeycomb hexagonal grille flanked by narrow headlights. In the upper trim levels of the Ranger the black grille gets some silver accents, but for the most part, it’s stunning how similar the two vehicles look from the outside. They’re even aggressively similar in terms of dimensions, coming within inches of each other in every measurement.
Ranger vs Tacoma: Dimensions
||SuperCab and SuperCrew
||AccessCab and DoubleCab
|Short Bed Length
|Long Bed Length
Though the Tacoma comes in more colors, there’s significantly less range. Sure, there are three different shades of gray, but not a whole lot other than Voodoo Blue for people who want a little pop of color in their trucks. They also decided to bring back that truly hideous shade of taupe that ruined every commuter sedan from the ‘90s, only this time they named it Quicksand, which is much more honest than Champagne.
- Cavalry Blue
- Super White
- Silver Sky
- Magnetic Gray
- Midnight Black
- Barcelona Red
- Voodoo Blue
Ford Ranger Colors
On the other hand, the Ford lineup is fairly bare but still managed to get three fairly bright shades. It’s hard not to love the bright orange Saber, which is good because that’s certainly the color Ford is using in almost all of their Ranger promotional materials, though we’re willing to bet on Lightning Blue coming out on top in terms of popularity with customers.
- Lightning Blue
- Hot Pepper Red
- Absolute Black
- Ingot Silver
- White Platinum
- Oxford White
Tacoma vs Ranger: Interior
Left: Tacoma, Right: Ranger
If you frequently have backseat passengers in your pickup truck, then you’ll want to invest in the Ranger’s SuperCrew. Compared to the Tacoma’s DoubleCab, it’s significantly more spacious and offers more legroom for passengers.
The Ranger’s interior, in general, has a higher quality feel, which is interesting given the price difference between the two. You would expect for the Tacoma to offer a more luxe driver experience, but the Tacoma’s interior seems more rugged and focused on off-roading. While this may be some drivers ideal, it does make it hard to see the Tacoma as a realistic daily driver, while as the Ranger tries to set itself up to be a success akin to the crossovers, a vehicle that can play on the weekend but can take you to the office the other days of the week.
The Ranger offers more adjustable driver height, trying to accommodate the needs of the daily driver in addition to the desires of the passionate off-roader. The Tacoma offers more in terms of storage but doesn’t anticipate the areas of flexibility that the average driver expects. The 2020 Tacoma is being updated to include a ten-way adjustable driver’s seat, finally.
Left: Ranger, Right: Tacoma
For the 2020 year, the Tacoma adds Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, both of which also come on the Ranger. The Ranger’s touchscreen is newer, but it’s less intuitive. In order to upgrade to SYNC3, you need to upgrade the Ranger to the XLT package.
Perhaps the most significant addition to the Tacoma for the 2020 year though is the safety suite, which now comes standard. This includes features like adaptive cruise control and lane departure warning. It’s a safety suite that is typically a grand or more on other vehicles, and we can’t help but hope that more automakers follow Toyota’s example on this front and make safety features standard. These features are all available on the Ranger as well, but they’re part of the safety package that will cost a grand to add on.
Tacoma vs Ranger: Performance
Midsize pickups aren’t particularly well-known for their performance offerings, and neither the Tacoma or the Ranger do anything to dissuade that reputation. Both trucks come standard with an inline-four cylinder engine, but while the Tacoma offers an additional engine option, the Ranger only comes with the same inline-four across all trim levels and packages.
The Tacoma’s upgraded engine is a V6, and it’s such a popular upgrade that the four-cylinder is very infrequently ordered and not even available on some options. If you compare the Ranger’s EcoBoost to the Tacoma’s V6 though, the Ranger’s EcoBoost wins, hands down. More horsepower, more torque, and better fuel economy, which of course are the three things the EcoBoost is known for.
In terms of drivetrains, the Tacoma once again is capable of offering more choice. You can pair either engine to a six-speed manual or automatic transmission. The Ranger only comes with a ten speed automatic. Though the ten speed is a fantastic transmission, many people who are more comfortable driving manual were upset that there wasn’t even a manual option.
If you’re primarily looking for a pickup truck for towing, the Ranger is the undisputed winner. Offering a potential 7,500 pounds of towing on every model, the Ranger has differentiated itself as the best in class in this department. Though the Tacoma TRD Off-Road can tow 6,400 pounds, the Tacoma SR package can only tow 3,500 pounds, less than half of what the Ranger’s base model can do.
Fuel efficiency also favors the Ford Ranger, not a huge surprise given the EcoBoost engine. The Ranger boasts 21 mpg city, 26 highway, and 23 combined in its rear-wheel drive format, and even adding four-wheel drive doesn’t drop it down significantly. The 4WD model sees 20 mpg city, 24 mpg highway, and 22 combined.
On the other hand, The Tacoma’s six-cylinder gets better mileage than it’s four-cylinder. In the V6 form, the Tacoma gets 19 mpg city, 24 mpg highway and 21 combined. In the four-wheel drive version, that drops to 18 mpg city, 23 mpg highway, and 20 combined.
Performance Specs: Ranger vs Tacoma
||2019 Ranger 2.3L EcoBoost
||2020 Tacoma 2.7L Inline 4
||2020 Tacoma 3.5L V6
Tacoma vs Ranger: Off-Roading
While many will use these trucks as daily drivers, and few will use them to their full capacities, both come with available off-roading capabilities. In this category, it’s much harder to pick a winner.
The Ranger has an optional FX4 Off-Road package. This package adds off-road monotube shocks, off-terrain tires, an electronic locking rear differential. You also get an exposed steel front bash plate and a heavy duty front skid plate.
Ford also includes a Terrain Management system with the four-wheel-drive package which allows you to select from preset modes designed to get you through any terrain from thick snow drifts to loose gravel. The available modes are Normal, grass, gravel/snow, mud, or sand. Ford also offers Trail control which is designed to manage throttle and braking at each individual wheel.
While you can add Ford’s off-road package to any Ranger model that is also equipped with four-wheel drive in order to get the Tacoma’s ultimate off-road capabilities you’ll need to select the TRD Off-Road or TRD Pro trim levels.
Toyota’s Crawl Control is almost identical to Ford’s Trail Control, likewise, the Multi-terrain select is basically the same as Ford’s Terrain management system, although the knobs are roof mounted, which is either a brilliant idea or a very bad one depending on your driving style. The 2020 Tacoma offers one new feature that’s remarkably cool. You can add an optional Multi-Terrain Monitor, which will show you what’s underneath the truck
If 2019’s prices are indicative of the 2020 prices, the TRD Off-Road starts at $36,465, meanwhile, a Ford Ranger XL with four-wheel-drive and the off-road package will end up being $33,080, a significant savings.
Tacoma vs Ranger: Off-Road
||2019 Ranger 2WD
||2019 Ranger 4WD
||2020 Tacoma SR
||2020 Tacoma TRD Off-Road
|Angle of Approach
|Angle of Departure
|Ramp Breakover Angle
Tacoma vs Ranger: Summary
Ultimately, the off-road capabilities are pretty even between the Tacoma and Ranger, depending on your package selections, and the exterior differences are going to largely come to a matter of personal taste. Where the Ranger comes out absolutely ahead are in terms of fuel efficiency, towing capacity, upfront cost, and driver comfort. The Tacoma offers more options, and for many, the freedom of choice will weigh in heavily as they calculate which midsize pickup is right for them.
Sources: Car and Driver | Ford | Toyota | C-Net | AutoTrader Image Credit: Toyota | Ford | Car and Driver | Truth About Cars |