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2019 Ford Ranger vs. 2019 Toyota Tacoma: Which Is Better?

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by James Riswick December 2018

• The new Ford Ranger is more comfortable and refined.

• The Ranger's turbocharged engine outperforms the Tacoma's V6.

• The Toyota Tacoma is the more rugged, characterful choice for better and for worse.

The 2019 Ford Ranger represents the long-awaited return of one of the longest-selling small pickups on the market. However, it's a far different truck than the Ranger you might remember -- for starters, it's now a midsize truck rather than a compact -- and enters a diverse segment that caters to different types of buyers by focusing on different capabilities.

So what does the new Ranger add to that diversity? To get a better idea, let's see how it compares to the 2019 Toyota Tacoma, one of the more rugged and sporty midsize pickups.

2019 Ford Ranger

2019 Ford Ranger

The Ranger is new to the North American market for 2019, but it isn't "all-new." The body and interior are largely the same as the Ranger that has been sold in other markets for several years now, albeit with a few minor styling and feature tweaks. Under the skin, however, the Ranger gets a new fully boxed frame, a turbocharged engine specially selected for this market, the Ford F-150's 10-speed automatic and other mechanical enhancements.

2019 Toyota Tacoma

2019 Toyota Tacoma

The Tacoma was redesigned three years ago, but remained consistent in terms of size and overall purpose with its predecessor. Changes for 2019 include an extra set of USB ports and an upgraded TRD Pro trim that includes a new aluminum skid plate, an upgraded exhaust and the option of a snorkel-like Desert Air Intake.

2019 Ford Ranger vs. 2019 Toyota Tacoma performance and capability

Performance and Capability

Every 2019 Ranger comes with the same powertrain combination: a 2.3-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine (a robust 270 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque) paired to a 10-speed automatic transmission. Rear-wheel drive is standard, while a proper 4-wheel-drive system with 4Hi and 4Lo settings is optional. An electronic locking differential can be added to either.

Maximum towing for the Ranger, regardless of drivetrain (4x2 vs 4x4) or cab type is 7,500 pounds. Payload ranges from 1,560 pounds to 1,860 pounds depending on cab and drivetrain.

The 2019 Tacoma offers greater choice. The standard engine is a 2.7-liter 4-cylinder good for only 159 hp and 180 lb-ft of torque, but we will focus on the more competitive and popular 3.5-liter V6 that produces 278 hp and 265 lb-ft of torque. Either engine can be paired to a 6-speed manual or a 6-speed automatic transmission. It too comes standard with RWD, while a 4WD system featuring high and low gearing is optional.

The V6 Tacoma's towing capacity is between 6,400 pounds and 6,800 pounds depending on cab and drivertrain. Payload is between 1,120 pounds and 1,620 pounds depending on cab, drivetrain and bed length.

2019 Ford Ranger vs. 2019 Toyota Tacoma fuel economy

Fuel Economy

The Ranger is more efficient. With RWD, it's estimated to achieve 21 miles per gallon in the city, 26 mpg on the highway and 23 mpg in combined driving. The Ranger 4WD drops to 20 mpg city/24 mpg hwy/22 mpg combined.

The 4-cylinder Tacoma is only capable of 19 mpg city/23 mpg hwy/21 mpg combined with an automatic and RWD, and drops even further with 4WD and/or the manual transmission. As such, we do not recommend it. The V6 is basically better with estimates of 19 mpg city/24 mpg hwy/21 mpg combined (RWD) and 18 mpg city/23 mpg hwy/20 mpg combined (4WD). These do drop slightly with the more off-road oriented TRD Off-Road and TRD Pro trim levels.

2019 Ford Ranger vs. 2019 Toyota Tacoma reliability

Reliability

The Ranger is too new to fairly comment about its reliability. The Tacoma has received significant complaints about the performance of its transmission and, to a lesser extent, the engine. These complaints largely involve the smoothness of operation as opposed to outright failures. As a result, overall reliability ratings for the current-generation Tacoma have been much lower than the previous generation.

2019 Ford Ranger vs. 2019 Toyota Tacoma safety

Safety

Both the Ranger and the Tacoma come with a surprising amount of standard safety equipment for a midsize pickup truck. Besides their antilock brakes, airbags and backup camera, both include forward-collision warning and automatic emergency braking. Lane-keeping assist is standard on the Tacoma, but is added on the Ranger XLT and above along with blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic warning systems. Those are optional on some Tacoma trim levels.

The Ranger has yet to be crash tested by a third party in the U.S. The government gave the Tacoma Double Cab a 4-star overall crash rating along with 4-star frontal, 5-star side and 4-star rollover ratings. The Access Cab was not tested, but the nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave both cab styles the best possible rating of Good in all crash tests.

2019 Ford Ranger vs. 2019 Toyota Tacoma interior

Body Styles

The Ranger offers only two body variations: the extended SuperCab with a long bed (72.8 inches) and the SuperCrew cab with a short bed (61 inches). Their overall lengths and wheelbases are the same.

The Tacoma offers the extended Access Cab and crew-type Double Cab. A short bed (60.5 inches) is standard with the Double Cab, but a long bed (73.7 inches) is optional with the Double Cab and standard with the Access Cab. The overall length and wheelbase are lengthened when you opt for the Double Cab/long bed combination.

Interior Space and Design

The Ranger SuperCrew has a far more spacious and comfortable back seat than the Tacoma Double Cab. A big reason for that is the Ranger's higher-mounted seats. Along those lines, the Tacoma doesn't provide any driver seat height adjustment and limited steering wheel telescoping, making it difficult to find a comfortable driving position. The Ranger is much better in this regard -- with or without its available 8-way power driver's seat.

The Ranger features higher-quality materials, but the Tacoma boasts a more functional center console with extra cup holders and more functional storage bins. Migrating the various off-road system controls to the ceiling certainly helps in this regard. In terms of design, it largely comes down to preference. The Tacoma is very rugged in appearance, with simple controls dominated by large, easily accessible knobs. The Ranger is softer and more crossover-like in its appearance -- look around and you might think you're in a Ford Edge.

Technology

Every Tacoma comes standard with a touchscreen, be it a 6-in unit or the 7-in upgrade. Both are pretty easy to use, but don't offer Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. Three USB ports and Bluetooth are standard. Wireless charging is available.

The Ranger comes standard with a fairly clunky interface of buttons and a color display. You actually have to pay extra in the base trim for a USB port and Bluetooth. They are at least included in the XLT trim level, which you can enhance with Ford's Sync3 8-in touchscreen interface that brings with it Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and two extra USB ports. Wireless charging is not available.

Value

The base Tacoma SR Access Cab ($25,550) is a bit more expensive than the base Ranger XL SuperCab ($24,300). It does come with more standard equipment, but then it also comes with a vastly inferior engine. Stepping up the V6 in the base Tacoma brings the price to $27,660. That's roughly the same price as the better-equipped Ranger XLT.

As such, for most truck buyers, we think the Ranger represents the better value given its superior powertrain, bigger interior, better comfort and overall greater refinement.

Autotrader's Advice

As we noted in the above Value section, the Ranger should make more sense for a wider group of potential customers. In the diverse midsize pickup segment, it offers the most well-rounded set of elements. The Tacoma's rugged appearance and overall capability still offers plenty of appeal -- especially the very-cool TRD Pro model -- but it's compromised in several key areas that make it less versatile and livable on a daily basis.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2019 Ford Ranger vs. 2019 Toyota Tacoma: Which Is Better? - Autotrader