Ford and Toyota have been duking it out with two strong utes. But which is best?
Looking at monthly car sales figures, you’ll see that the Toyota HiLux perpetually ranks as the best-selling ute with Australia’s car-buying public. Behind the HiLux sits the Ford Ranger, but the gap is closing every month. Let’s compare the two popular trucks.
The Toyota HiLux was launched in 1968 and came to Australia shortly afterwards. It’s the only ute to have ever travelled to both world poles. HiLux utes have also taken part in the Dakar Rally. Staggeringly, after 50 years in production, more than 17.7 million HiLux have been sold across the globe, and Oceania lays claim to 5.7% of those sales.
It has a reputation as an ultra-tough, rugged and stout ute. Toyota plays this up with outlandish adverts like this one shown in New Zealand.
Nowadays, Toyota’s ute is consistently the most popular vehicle overall for new car sales in Australia. It has held the crown as the commercial vehicle highest in demand for 20 consecutive years.
The Ranger isn’t as old as the HiLux, having lived a life as a badge-engineered Mazda for many years. The ute was known as the Ford Courier until 2006 when Ford dropped the Courier name in favour of the Ranger moniker. While the Ranger hasn’t shifted as many units as the HiLux, it is an award-winning vehicle. It’s taken a handful of international one-tonner trophies and even knocked its Japanese sparring partner from its perch as the top-selling 4x4 last year. Unlike the HiLux, since 2011, the Ranger platform has been developed in Australia.
Ford Ranger vs Toyota HiLux
Using our 4x4 comparison reviews, let’s see how the Ranger and HiLux differ and which is best.
- Entry model Rangers are more expensive. Prices start from $31,449.
- The Ranger engine line-up is more efficient and powerful. The Ford Ranger is available with a choice of a frugal 2.2-litre four pot Duratorq diesel or a larger, throaty 3.2-litre inline five Duratorq oil burner. RWD models with the smaller engine use just 6.6 litres of fuel per 100km. The larger 3.2 in 2WD guise burns 8.1 litres per 100km and up to 8.4 for 4x4 manual models.
- One of the best handling utes on the market. Handling wise, motoring journalists said the Ranger was one of the best available. Testers said it feels solid and planted, even when lugging loads around.
- A Ranger will hold its own off the pavement. Off-road, it’s a bit of a machine too. The HiLux will falter when water levels reach 700mm, while a Ranger can keep going in 800mm deep rivers. It is evident that the Australian development and engineering program has made this thing wholeheartedly able to go off the tarmac.
- The Ranger is well-appointed. The interior of the Ranger varies depending on the spec you opt for. Base models are intended for use as workhorses and have harder wearing interiors. Even pick-up entry grade utes get reverse cameras, Bluetooth, cruise control and keyless entry. Higher end trimmings bring brighter headlamps, upgraded infotainment systems and speakers, built-in sat nav and a 230v inverter that lets you charge tools using a standard plug. Courtesy lighting in the load-bed is a thoughtful, yet useful, inclusion.
- The Ranger’s styling is more appealing. We are partial to the styling of the Ranger. It’s square and chunky design portrays a robust and faithful work truck. The HiLux is a bit softer around the edges and just doesn’t have the same kerb appeal.
- The Ranger is well-built. Toyota’s have a reputation for being unbreakable, but motoring writers discovered the Ranger is also exceptionally well put together.
- Expensive. Reviewers were in general consensus that the Ranger is quite pricey both for servicing costs and the initial purchasing price.
- Intuitive infotainment system. Unlike the Hilux with its unwieldy infotainment system, journos said the Ford SYNC 3 system in the Ranger is intuitive and a doddle to use. Ford’s ute also boasts smartphone connectivity for Android and iOS devices where the Hilux doesn’t.
How does the Toyota HiLux shape-up next to the Ranger?
- Cheaper entry point. Prices start from $26,400.
- Option of a petrol engine. Unlike the Ranger, you can still buy a petrol-powered HiLux. By modern standards, journalists felt this engine was underpowered and lacked performance, but it does come at a heavily discounted price.
- Torquey, refined diesels. Toyota also manufactures a 2.4-litre diesel that outputs waves of torque and power, but reviewers preferred the 2.8-litre diesel. One thing critics picked up on was that the engine doesn’t output as much power compared to rivals like the Ranger. Per litre, the larger oiler generates 14Nm of torque per litre more than the biggest Ranger diesel. Also, the HiLux engines spew forth peak force across a slightly wider rev range. However, this slightly improved mechanical grip comes at the cost of a lower kW output of 130 versus the Ranger’s 147kW.
- Poor fuel economy. The best of Toyota’s 2.8-equipped models only manages 8.1L/100km on paper, making it less efficient than the Ranger on the whole.
- Mixed bag comfort. Testers found the HiLux less comfortable on longer journeys, with a firm ride that translates juddering into the cabin.
- HiLux impressive off-road. Off-road, the HiLux is good, with superior ground clearance and approach angles. However, the Ranger can wade 100mm deeper into wet stuff and has a slightly steeper departure angle. Both utes with a 4x4 transmission have similar electronic systems with conventional RWD high, 4WD high and 4WD low. Also, the HiLux trumps the 4x4 Rangers with a locking rear diff as standard, whereas blue oval ute buyers must choose this as an option. Hill descent control is standard on the Ranger, where you have to purchase a slightly more expensive HiLux to get that included.
- HiLux is cheaper to service and run. The HiLux also edges out the Ranger on servicing intervals, which are double the Ranger’s one-year period. A HiLux service is fixed at $240 for the first 36 months or 60,000km of ownership. A basic Ranger service will set you back $400 for the first year.
- HiLux doesn’t look as good. The styling of the HiLux is more polarising than the conventionally styled, tough-looking Ranger.
- Well built. You cannot deny the HiLux is well constructed. In fact, some reviewers likened the interior plastics to having the quality of a fine oak.
- Adjustable steering column. The Ranger doesn’t benefit from steering column reach adjustment, which the HiLux has. As a driver, you may find you are more able to tailor the driving position to suit you in the Toyota ute.
Ford Ranger and Toyota HiLux comparison
|Ford Ranger||Finder Score: 81.25%|
|Best off-roader in its class||One of the more expensive dual-cabs|
|Australian designed and developed||Lacks steering wheel column adjustment|
|Handling both laden and unladen||Active safety features are optional extras|
|Infotainment and equipment||Plasticky cabin|
|Purposeful styling||Running and servicing costs|
|Toyota HiLux||Finder Score: 73.33%|
|Built tough||Harsh ride|
|Very good off-road||No Apple CarPlay/Android Auto|
|Huge model range||Less fuel efficient than rivals|
|Refined diesel engine||Less powerful engine line-up|
|Strong drive trains||Paying a premium for the HiLux badge?|
|Handles loads reasonably well||Clunky infotainment system|
Verdict: Which is best, the Ford Ranger or the Toyota HiLux?
Comparing the specs and reviews for both the Ford Ranger ute and Toyota HiLux pick-up, the Ranger just manages to edge it out. Which is surprising because it seems Australian buyers still prefer the HiLux given the choice.
The HiLux has a tough as old boots image associated with it, plus generally favourable reports on reliability. It is arguably slightly more sure-footed off-road. But it isn’t as fuel efficient, it isn’t as powerful and Rangers come with somewhat better interior features and gadgets.
A HiLux is a bit like the Great White Shark, legendary at what it does and pretty much the de facto king of the marine food chain (or ute sales charts). But the Ranger is like a Killer Whale, known to hunt Great Whites, and it is now closing in on a slightly floundering rival.
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