2021 Ford Ranger vs. Toyota Tacoma Comparison

Jul 04, 2021

Midsize trucks like the Ford Ranger and Toyota Tacoma are all about compromise. They aren't as powerful as large trucks. They can't tow as much. They aren't as comfortable on long drives. On the other hand, medium-size pickups don't cost as much as full-size trucks, and their more modest dimensions give them a better shot at squeezing through tight turns on two-track trails or into your garage. And they still offer plenty of cargo space.

The Tacoma is far and away the best-seller in this class. It leads in resale value and has above-average safety scores, but its driving dynamics and tow ratings lag behind rivals. The current Ranger is a fresh take on an old nameplate, and it has earned acclaim for its capabilities on- and off-road as well as its high-quality interior. Here's a 2021 Ford Ranger vs. 2021 Toyota Tacoma comparison to help you decide if either midsize truck is right for you.

Price and Value

Consumers will find pricing on the 2021 Ford Ranger ranges from $25,070 to $33,160, not including a $1,195 destination charge. The basic trim levels are XL, XLT, and Lariat, but Ford subdivides the trims into STX, FX2, FX4, Tremor, and various appearance packages.

You have a choice between two-wheel drive (2WD) and four-wheel drive (4WD) on all of the basic trims; some packages require one or the other. The price of the 4WD option varies slightly among the trim levels.

Ford's midsize pickup comes in two cab-and-bed styles: an extended cab (which Ford calls the SuperCab) with a 73-inch cargo bed and a crew cab (known as the SuperCrew) with a 61-inch cargo bed. There is no long-bed version of the crew cab.

Although the Ranger SuperCab has a pair of forward-facing jump seats with three-point seatbelts, this space is best left to grocery bags and other gear you prefer to carry inside the cab. If you plan to transport people in the back, the Ford Ranger SuperCrew is a must. Its conventional, forward-hinged rear doors and rear bench seat will save your sanity should you ever need to install a car seat.

All 2021 Ford Rangers have a limited menu of connected services that are accessible through the FordPass app. You can lock your truck from your phone, schedule remote engine starting, and check the fuel level. In addition, most Rangers have automatic collision notification if you enable 911 Assist through the Sync interface. The Ranger's Wi-Fi hotspot includes an introductory, 3-month trial subscription that lets you use 3 gigabytes of data.

Ford does not offer complimentary scheduled maintenance, though you can earn points in the FordPass app and apply those toward service visits.

Consumers will find that the 2021 Toyota Tacoma ranges from $26,400 to $44,325, not including a $1,175 destination charge. Trim levels are SR, SR5, TRD Sport, TRD Off-Road, Limited, and TRD Pro. All trims give you the choice of 2WD or 4WD, except the TRD Pro, which is 4WD only. Pricing varies for 4WD.

Toyota's midsize pickup comes in two cab styles: extended cab (which Toyota calls the Access Cab) and crew cab (called the Double Cab). The Tacoma Access Cab has a 74-inch cargo bed. Double Cabs can be equipped with either a 60-inch or 74-inch bed.

If you have rear passengers, get the Tacoma Double Cab. Most people prefer it with the shorter cargo box. The long-bed Double Cab gives you more cargo space, but it's a foot longer overall than other Toyota Tacomas, so extra attention is required when maneuvering in tight spaces.

Every 2021 Toyota Tacoma includes a 1-year trial subscription to Toyota's connected services, including automatic collision notification, rapid access to roadside help, concierge services, and remote engine start and unlocking. You also get a 3-month trial subscription for the truck's Wi-Fi hotspot (2GB data limit).

Scheduled maintenance is on the house for the first two years or 25,000 miles that you own a Tacoma.

The Toyota Tacoma ranked first among midsize pickup trucks in the J.D. Power 2020 Resale Value Awards.

JDPA 2021 Ford Ranger Tremor Lariat Red Front Quarter View

Reliability and Quality

Since it debuted for the 2019 model year, the current Ford Ranger was not included in the J.D. Power 2021 Vehicle Dependability Study, which focuses on 3-year-old vehicles. It ranked first in its segment in the J.D. Power 2020 Initial Quality Study. The 2021 Ford Ranger comes with the following warranty and roadside assistance coverage:

  • Standard warranty: 3 years or 36,000 miles
  • Powertrain warranty: 5 years or 60,000 miles
  • Roadside assistance: 5 years or 60,000 miles

The Toyota Tacoma did not rank in either the 2021 Vehicle Dependability Study or the 2020 Initial Quality Study. The 2021 Toyota Tacoma comes with the following warranty and roadside assistance coverage:

  • Standard warranty: 3 years or 36,000 miles
  • Powertrain warranty: 5 years or 60,000 miles
  • Roadside assistance: 3 years and unlimited mileage

Advantage: Ford Ranger

 

Performance and Efficiency

Deciding on a powertrain for the 2021 Ford Ranger is easy: Ford offers only one. Every new Ford Ranger comes with a turbocharged, 2.3-liter 4-cylinder that makes 270 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque. A 10-speed automatic transmission is standard.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), fuel economy in combined city and highway driving rates 23 mpg on 2WD trucks and 22 mpg with 4WD. That is unless you choose the Tremor off-road package for your Ranger XLT or Lariat. The Tremor has all-terrain tires and a specialized suspension that elevates its ride height over other Ford Rangers. It's competent in the dirt, but these modifications drop its EPA combined rating to 19 mpg.

Configuring a 2021 Toyota Tacoma takes a little more thought. Toyota offers two engines. The base 2.7-liter 4-cylinder makes 159 hp and 180 pound-feet of torque, and the 3.5-liter V6 generates 278 hp and 265 pound-feet of torque. The 4-cylinder comes only with a 6-speed automatic transmission. With the V6, you can have either a 6-speed automatic or 6-speed manual transmission.

The V6 offers vastly better performance. Moreover, there's no fuel economy advantage to getting the 4-cylinder. Two-wheel-drive Tacomas rate 21 mpg in combined driving, regardless of engine. Four-wheel-drive trucks rate 20 mpg across the board as long as your V6 Tacoma has the automatic transmission.

With the manual transmission, the V6-equipped Tacoma rates just 18 mpg combined. You'll be fortunate to do even that well on the TRD Pro, which is the most capable off-road model in the Tacoma lineup (more so than the TRD Off-Road trim). Like the Ranger Tremor, its modified suspension and knobby tires drag down real-world fuel economy.

Advantage: Ford Ranger

JDPA 2021 Toyota Tacoma Nightshade Black Rear Quarter View

Tow Ratings and Trailering Equipment

When equipped with the Trailer Tow option package, any 2021 Ford Ranger has a tow rating of 7,500 pounds. This includes trucks equipped with the Tremor package.

Ford does not offer an integrated trailer brake controller as a factory option, but you can buy one as an accessory from your dealership. The truck's reversing camera has a hitch assist camera angle with dynamic guidelines to ease the process of hooking up a trailer. Further, the Ranger's available blind-spot warning system can detect that you're towing a trailer and warn you if another vehicle is next to your trailer.

Get the V6 engine if you plan to tow with a 2021 Toyota Tacoma. When properly equipped, the V6 Tacoma Double Cab with the short bed has a tow rating of 6,700 pounds (6,400 pounds with 4WD).

Toyota does not offer an integrated trailer brake controller as an option or accessory for the Tacoma, so you'll need to buy one on the aftermarket. Most versions of the Tacoma are available with a surround-view monitor (some trims have the Multi-Terrain Monitor, others have the more deluxe Panoramic View Monitor). There are no guidelines for hooking up a trailer, but the ability to see what's in front of, the sides of, and behind your truck is always helpful.

You'll also want to look at payload ratings if you're planning to go on adventures with a midsize truck. Payload refers to the weight of people, pets, and gear you can safely carry in your truck. The V6 4WD Tacoma Double Cab has a payload rating of 1,155 pounds, for example, while a 4WD Ranger SuperCrew tops out at 1,560 pounds (1,430 with the Tremor package).

Advantage: Ford Ranger

JDPA 2021 Toyota Tacoma Nightshade Interior Dashboard

 

Safety and Driving Assistance

If you're looking for advanced driving assistance aids (ADAS) in a midsize pickup, the 2021 Ford Ranger has the basics covered. All 2021 Rangers come with a forward-collision warning (FCW) system with pedestrian detection and automatic emergency braking (AEB).

Optional on the XL and standard on other trims is an upgraded Ford Co-Pilot 360 package with lane-departure warnings (LDW), lane-keeping assist, a blind-spot warning system with rear cross-traffic warnings and trailer assist, and automatic high-beam headlight control. Adaptive cruise control is optional on the XLT and Lariat.

In National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) testing, the 2021 Ranger earned four out of five stars for overall crash protection. Ford's midsize truck rates just three stars for rollover resistance.

In testing by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), the 2021 Ranger crew cab mainly earned Good ratings. It received an Acceptable rating (second highest) for front-passenger protection in the Institute's small-overlap frontal-offset crash test.

All 2021 Toyota Tacomas come standard with Toyota Safety Sense, which includes FCW with pedestrian detection, AEB, LDW, adaptive cruise control, and automatic high-beam headlights. Most trims are eligible for a blind-spot warning system with rear cross-traffic warnings.

The 2021 Tacoma earned a 4-star rating for overall crash protection from the NHTSA. Toyota's midsize pickup has a 4-star rollover resistance rating.

In IIHS testing, the Tacoma Double Cab performed well. It received Good ratings in most crash-test categories and an Acceptable rating for front-passenger protection in small-overlap front-offset crashes.

Advantage: Toyota Tacoma

 

Infotainment and Technology

Most buyers will want to upgrade from the standard setup in the 2021 Ford Ranger XL, which comes with only an AM/FM stereo with Bluetooth.

Ford gives you the choice of getting a basic Sync package with a 4.2-inch display and a USB port or a more deluxe Sync 3 package with an 8-inch touchscreen interface, two USB ports, and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone integration. The Sync 3 interface is standard on higher trims. You can also get a pair of rear USB ports and a factory navigation system with voice control.

The base SR version of the 2021 Toyota Tacoma comes standard with a 7-inch touchscreen infotainment interface with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The Tacoma SR5 upgrades to an 8-inch touchscreen interface. Higher trims offer factory navigation with voice control.

Toyota offers three USB ports up front but no rear-seat USB ports. A wireless charging pad is available starting on the TRD Sport trim.

J.D. Power's independent vehicle testing experts have evaluated the 8-inch interface with factory navigation in both the Ranger and Tacoma. Both setups offer user-friendly operation, but testing experts observed longer load times and less sophisticated voice recognition with the Ford's Sync 3 interface.

Advantage: Toyota Tacoma

 JDPA 2021 Ford Ranger Tremor Lariat Interior Dashboard

Comfort and Utility

If a high-quality interior is essential to you, the 2021 Ford Ranger will earn your approval. When equipped with the 8-inch infotainment interface, the cab looks modern, and its furnishings are richer than what you'll find in most other midsize trucks. The front seats are supportive and comfortable, but drivers over 6 feet tall might find the knee room tight.

The Ford Ranger has one of the most spacious back seats in the midsize truck class. If you need to fit adults or car seats daily, it's an easy pick over the Tacoma. Ford offers a spray-in bedliner as a factory option, but most other add-ons for the cargo bed are sold as accessories by dealers.

There's nothing remarkable about the 2021 Toyota Tacoma's cab design, but there's an old-school appeal to it, and its large buttons, dials, and knobs are highly functional. Adults might find the headroom tight up front, but older children will likely enjoy the Double Cab's backseat. The high-mounted rear bench provides a good view, while the available power-sliding rear window makes it easy to let in the fresh air on mild days.

All 2021 Tacomas come standard with four fixed cargo tie-downs in the bed and four adjustable cleats on a rail system. If you want more functionality, Toyota offers a Trail Special Edition package with a lockable storage compartment and a 120-volt outlet.

Advantage: Neither

Test drive both trucks in your desired configuration before you decide.

(source: jdpower.com)