The Ford Ranger is a true American classic. While it went away for a few years, the Ford Ranger debuted in the early 1980s as a light-duty pickup. Slotted to offer truck buyers a smaller option than the F-series lineup of pickups, the Ranger took over for the even smaller Ford Courier. With its reintroduction to the United States, it has quickly jumped back to the head of the pack with other smaller pickups pecking at its heels. One such truck is the Toyota Tacoma. Outside of Australia and other pockets around the world, the truck is more of an American icon than anything else, so many foreign manufacturers have had to adjust to fit American truck-buying needs. It’s also why many foreign trucks often come to the U.S. with undersized frames and underpowered engines. Is the same true? Or can this Toyota compete? The best way to figure this out is to dive deeper into the 2020 Ford Ranger vs 2020 Toyota Tacoma.
The manufacturer’s suggested retail price is the first piece of the puzzle. It is possible to make up for a slightly more expensive price point when there are additional features offered, but if a truck costs more and under-performs, it is more than fair to ask why someone should pay more for less.
The basic XL Ford Ranger starts with an initial MSRP of $24,410. On the flip side, the base 2020 Toyota Tacoma, which is the SR Access Cab (the back two-doors are suicide doors with a small back seat), starts at $26,050. At the top-of-the-line trim? For the 2020 Ford Ranger, that is the Lariat 4WD SuperCrew, which has an initial MSRP of $38,675. And the Toyota Tacoma’s top-tier trim? That would be the TRD Pro, which has a starting MSRP of $43,960.
At first glance, the Toyota Tacoma is more expensive than the Ford across the board. The top-tier trim costs more than the Ford by over $5,000. That’s a rather large price point difference when comparing a light-duty pickup truck. The Toyota will need some additional features to be able to justify this kind of price difference.
Let’s get right down to it. To compete with American pickups such as the Ford Ranger, foreign-based trucks need to have larger engines. Japanese manufacturers such as Toyota and Nissan have picked up the pace as of late, but is it enough to be in the same ballpark?
The base Ford Ranger is the XL 2WD SuperCab Pickup. As is the case with several later generation Ford, the base Ranger uses a 2.3L I4 Intercooled Turbo engine. This engine produces 270 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque. The base 2020 Toyota Tacoma Uses a 2.7L I4 as well, but it is not a turbo engine. Due to this, it provides a lackluster 159 horsepower and 180 lb-ft of torque.
So the base engine of the Toyota Tacoma can’t hold a candle to the Ford. Currently, this is the only engine available on the Ranger. There have been some rumblings about a Ranger Raptor coming to the U.S. (the Ranger Raptor is available in other markets, so this likely will happen at some point). And there’s a good chance some form of a diesel engine will make its way to the Ford Ranger in the United States as well. The Toyota Tacoma though, does come with a second engine option. This is a 3.6L V6. Can the larger V6 compete with Ford I4 turbo? This 3.5L V6 on the Toyota Tacoma can produce 278 horsepower and 265 lb-ft of torque. So, in short, no, it can’t. While the horsepower is nearly identical, the Ford engine still produces 45 lb-ft of torque more. Additionally, you can spend around $47,000 on a top-tier Tacoma and still not have an engine that can compete with a base ford that costs half as much.
Towing and Payload
The 2020 Ford Ranger leads the way in towing. Not just against the Toyota Tacoma but for all pickups in its category. All of the pickups, regardless of trim, will top off at 3,500 pounds of max towing. However, when you upgrade to include the towing package and spring for some additional features, you can push the total towing for the Ford Ranger up to 7,500 pounds.
As for the Toyota Tacoma, the I4 engine will allow your truck to tow the base 3,500 pounds. If you spring for the V6, this does push the potential towing up to 6,400 pounds. Again though, you are forced to go with the more expensive Tacoma, and even then, you come up 700 pounds short in towing.
The max payload is the amount of weight you can toss into the truck bed. Maybe you are heading out to pick up some firewood and really want to load it up. Or perhaps someone across the state is selling a sweet piano, and you want to be able to load it up in the back of your truck without shredding through the suspension. Well, depending on trim, the 2020 Ford Ranger has a max payload that starts at 1,560 and can go up to 1,860 pounds. That’s a rather solid max payload number for this segment. In fact, it is the best-in-class maximum payload. The 2020 Toyota Tacoma? The I4 engine maxes out at 1,120 pounds, and the max payload for the V6 is 1,620 pounds.
Alright, so engine performance and towing aren’t the Toyota’s forte. Perhaps it can at least give you some quality entertainment features? It already costs more and under delivers with what’s under the hood and what you pull behind the truck, so for the cost, it has to come with some solid entertainment features, right? Let’s hope so.
The 2020 Ford Ranger base XL comes with an AM/FM stereo, MP3 compatibility, an AUX input, optional device integration via Bluetooth, and a standard WiFi hotspot. In fact, with the WiFi hotspot, you can download the FordPass Connect app and turn on your truck using your phone.
As for the base 2020 Toyota Tacoma, it comes with AM/FM stereo, AUX input, MP3 compatibility, smart device integration via Bluetooth comes standard, as does a WiFi hotspot and satellite radio. It doesn’t have the same kind of vehicle control as the FordPass feature offers, but it does come with standard satellite radio. So at least it has that.
For the top-tier Ford Ranger Lariat, it features the same standard features as the XL, plus satellite radio, smart device integration, and optional HD radio, premium sound system, and navigation system. The top-tier Tacoma comes with the same standard features, plus a premium sound system, and a navigation system as standard. So there you go. You’ll drop $8,000 more for it, have an inferior engine, inferior towing numbers, inferior payload, but you get a standard navigation system.
Make The Only Sensible Choice
There are times when a battle between vehicles goes back and forth. One vehicle offers a better engine while the other is a bit less expensive. One might come with a superior interior while the other might have specialty features not found on the other vehicle. In those instances, it makes sense why someone might go one way or the other. This is not the case. We honestly have no idea why someone would buy a Tacoma over the Ford Ranger. It just doesn’t do anything better than the Ford, and yet it costs more. So to us, we don’t think there’s any decision at all. The Ford is downright better.