Once upon a time, the customer base for midsize pickup trucks consisted mainly of folks who drove them for work. Whether working as a contractor or a landscaper, the midsize pickup gave the working man and woman a vehicle that could haul a decent load in the bed and tow a small trailer, while not costing that much to buy or keep fueled. In a word, it was a solid, dependable vehicle for taking care of business. However, most pickup truck makers put their main emphasis on full-size trucks, viewing the midsize pickup as a bit of a niche market. Over time, other drivers came to see the benefits of a midsize truck. They gave you the versatility of a pickup truck but were easier to handle than their full-size siblings, and much simpler to park when you needed to take it to the mall. In addition, automakers began to pick up on the fact that more and more off-road enthusiasts were turning to midsize trucks for their sporting fun. As a result, the market for midsize trucks has grown exponentially to the point where greater emphasis is being placed on the line of midsize pickups. Two of the most dependable and versatile ones on the market are the 2020 Ford Ranger and 2020 Toyota Tacoma.
Each truck seats up to five passengers and comes in two different cab configurations, a standard model with two full doors and two half doors, and a larger cab with four full doors. Toyota refers to the former as an Access Cab and the latter as a Double Cab, while Ford calls the first one a SuperCab and the second one a SuperCrew. Whatever you call them, they provide plenty of space for you and your passengers. Also, both the Ranger and the Tacoma are 4X2 standard with 4X4 available as an additional option. Despite these similarities, there are some clear differences between the two trucks when we compare the 2020 Ford Ranger vs 2020 Toyota Tacoma.
Pricing and Trim Levels
Right off the bat, there are some key differences between the Ford Ranger and the Toyota Tacoma when it comes to pricing and trims. The Ford Ranger is offered in three different trim levels. The base model is the Ranger XL, and it has an MSRP of $24,410. The middle-priced model is the Ranger XLT with an MSRP of $28,460, and the top-of-the-line model is the Ranger Lariat with an MSRP of $32,500.
In contrast, the 2020 Toyota Tacoma is offered in six different trim levels. The base model is the SR with an MSRP of $26,050, followed by the SR5 with an MSRP of $27,825, the TRD Sport with an MSRP of $32,745, the TRD Off-Road with an MSRP of $34,000, the Limited with an MSRP of $38,790, and the TRD Pro with an MSRP of $43,690. This means that the Tacoma offers buyers more options when deciding on a trim level. However, the pricing is steeper on the Tacoma than on the Ranger. Also, the buyer will have to come up with $43,690 to get a fully-loaded Tacoma TRD Pro, a significant amount of money when compared to the $32,500 for a top-of-the-line Ford Ranger Lariat.
Looking solely at pricing, the cost of the Ranger Lariat is comparable with the middle trim level Tacoma TRD Sport, so it appears like you will get more truck for your money if you choose to buy a Ford.
Engine and performance
There is only one engine option on the 2020 Ford Ranger, a 2.3-liter EcoBoost Ti-VCT I-4 gas engine with automatic start/stop technology. If you have never driven a truck with this feature, it automatically shuts off the engine when you step on the brakes at a red light, and then automatically restarts the engine when you release the brake pedal, thus saving gas and reducing the truck’s emissions. The Ranger’s engine is paired with a 10-speed automatic transmission and can produce up to 270 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque.
The 2020 Toyota Tacoma offers two engines with three different transmissions. The base engine is a 2.7-liter DOHC 4-cylinder gas engine with VVT-i (for variable valve timing with intelligence). This engine can produce up to 159 horsepower and 180 lb-ft of torque. The second available engine on the Tacoma is a larger 3.5-liter DOHC 24-valve V6 direct-injection Atkinson-cycle gas engine with VVT-i, rated to produce up to 278 horsepower and 265 lb-ft of torque. Buyers can choose between a standard 6-speed automatic transmission, a 6-speed manual transmission (available on certain trims), and a 6-speed electronically-controlled automatic transmission (available on some of the higher trim levels).
When it comes to overall performance, the Ford Ranger gets the nod. Its four-cylinder engine is surprisingly strong and gives the truck above-average acceleration. This is not the case with the Toyota Tacoma when equipped with the standard 2.7-liter engine. The Tacoma feels sluggish and underpowered. In order to get a similar performance from the Tacoma, you will need to spring for the 3.5-liter V6, but this will hurt you with fuel economy. Moreover, both engines on the Tacoma suffer from an overall lack of torque, which can hurt when towing a trailer or hauling a heavy payload.
The 2020 Ford Ranger has very solid fuel economy ratings of up to 21 MPG in the city and 26 MPG on the highway. These numbers dip slightly when equipped with four-wheel drive; these models have EPA-estimated ratings of 20 MPG in the city and 24 MPG on the highway. Still, these are exceptional numbers. Surprisingly, not only are the 2020 Toyota Tacoma engines underpowered, but they are also not as fuel-efficient as the Ranger’s engine.
When equipped with the 2.7-liter engine and two-wheel drive, the Tacoma can be expected to produce 20 MPG in the city and 23 MPG on the highway. These numbers drop to 19 MPG in the city and 22 MPG in highway driving when the Tacoma has four-wheel drive. The numbers for the 3.5-liter engine are even worse, only 19 MPG in the city and 24 MPG on the highway for two-wheel drive models, and 18 MPG in the city and 22 MPG on the highway for four-wheel drive models. Outcome: Advantage 2020 Ford Ranger.
One reason to buy a midsize pickup is that you need a truck to haul cargo and other loads. That bed and trailer hook are not just there for show. They have a purpose, and that is to help you get the job done. When comparing these two vehicles, there is a clear difference between the 2020 Ford Ranger and the 2020 Toyota Tacoma in this regard.
The 2020 Ford Ranger gives you the power to haul up to 1,860 pounds of cargo in its bed, and to tow up to 7,500 pounds. These are serious numbers for a midsize truck. The Tacoma’s numbers are not bad, but they are just not comparable. The maximum payload on the Tacoma is 1,620 pounds. In addition, the Tacoma can tow up to 6,800 pounds, but this requires that you purchase the Tacoma with the 3.5-liter V6 engine, as the smaller engine can only tow up to 3,500 pounds. Clearly, if you need to move stuff, you are better off with a Ford Ranger.