Toyota HiLux vs Ford Ranger

Ford and Toyota have been duking it out with two strong utes. But which is best?

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Looking at monthly car sales figures, you'll see that the Toyota HiLux is almost always the best-selling ute. Behind the HiLux sits the Ford Ranger, but the gap is closing every month. Let's compare the two popular utes.

Summary: Which is better? The Ford Ranger narrowly outdoes the Toyota HiLux.

The background

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 models 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 pick-up. Toyota plays this up with outlandish adverts like this one shown in New Zealand.

Top Gear famously tried to destroy a 305,000km HiLux by leaving it in the sea, dropping things on it, hitting it with an industrial-sized wrecking ball and setting fire to it. Finally, they sat the pick-up atop a building marked for demolition. Even after the huge ensuing explosion and a 70m drop, it still worked. It's fair to say the HiLux has a hard-fought reputation for being tough as nails.

Nowadays, Toyota's ute is consistently the most popular vehicle overall for new car sales in Australia. It has held the crown as the highest in-demand commercial vehicle 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. Until 2006, the ute was known as the Courier when Ford dropped the postal service sounding 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 in 2017.

Unlike the HiLux, since 2011, the Ranger platform has been developed in Australia. The Aussie-engineered T6 platform, as it is known, went on to be the base for international spec Rangers. Ford's Everest and Ranger Raptor also share the same mechanical underpinnings, as does the twin-under-the-skin Mazda BT50.

Ford Ranger vs Toyota HiLux

Using our 4x4 comparison reviews, let's see how the Ranger and HiLux differ and which is best.

Ford Ranger

  • Entry model Rangers are more expensive. Prices start from $34,579.
  • 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. A newer 2019 2.0-litre, bi-turbo engine delivers more power and fuel efficiency. This engine makes 157kW and 500Nm, while only using a combined 6.7L/100km. This model also has a 10-speed automatic. Toyota hasn't got an answer for this transmission and engine combo.
  • 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 (850mm for the Raptor). 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 so, entry grade pick-up utes get reverse cameras (and parking sensors), Bluetooth, cruise control and active safety assists. 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 blocky styling of the Ranger. Its square and chunky design portrays a robust and faithful work truck. The HiLux still looks great, but the design is a little more fussy. Ultimately, we think one of the toughest looking utes at the moment is the cheaper Mitsubishi Triton.
  • The Ranger is well-built. Toyota vehicles have a reputation for being unbreakable, but motoring writers discovered the Ranger is also exceptionally well put together.
  • Ranger is pricey. Reviewers were in consensus that the Ranger is quite pricey, both for servicing costs and the initial purchasing price. Ford promises to limit maintenance costs to $299 on 2019 Ranger models for 4 years (or until 60,000kms). On older models though, servicing prices are higher. The first service on an early 2019 2.0-litre 4x4 crew cab costs $365, with the following years priced at $590 and $475 (including GST). Each HiLux service is capped at $240 for the first six services over 3 years or until reaching 60,000km.
  • 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, whereas the HiLux doesn't.
  • Performance version available. Ford builds a performance version of their ute, the Ranger Raptor. This super ute boasts flared arches, heavy-duty shocks, aggressive tyres and it's the product of a gruelling off-road testing program. Toyota has followed suit, with their Rugged X, but it isn't as highly received as the blue oval's premium ute.

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Toyota HiLux

How does the Toyota HiLux shape-up next to the Ranger?

  • Cheaper entry point. Prices start from $27,929. That's a good $6,650 cheaper than the lowest priced Ranger, although the Ranger will have a meaty diesel engine while the HiLux has a slightly asthmatic petrol power source.
  • 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.
  • HiLux diesels generally have less power and torque. 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 2.8-litre HiLux diesel produces 160Nm to make a total of 450Nm. Peak torque is delivered across a very useable 1,600-2,400RPM. By comparison, the new Ford 2.0-litre bi-turbo diesel produces more power at 157kW and more torque as well as 500Nm (250Nm per litre of displacement), albeit over a slightly narrower and higher band of 1,750-2,000rpm.
  • Poor fuel economy. The best of Toyota's HiLux models only manages 7.2L/100km on paper, while the equivalent body style Ranger with a 2.0-litre diesel uses half a litre per kilometre less at only 6.7L/100km combined.
  • Mixed bag comfort. Testers found the HiLux less comfortable on longer journeys, with a firm ride that translates juddering into the cabin.
  • Both seem well matched off-road. Off-road, the HiLux is good, with superior ground clearance (minimum of 277mm against 229mm) and an improved 30° (31° on some models) approach angle versus Ford's best of 28°. However, the Ranger can wade 100mm (800mm total) deeper into water and has a slightly steeper departure angle of 28°, meaning the HiLux is more likely to ground out leaving slopes. Both utes with a 4x4 transmission have similar electronic systems and conventional RWD high, 4WD high and 4WD low. Both the HiLux and 4x4 Rangers come with a locking rear diff as standard, although lower-end WorkMate HiLux models don't get this feature. Hill descent control is standard on the Ranger, where you have to purchase a slightly more expensive HiLux to get that included by default.
  • HiLux is cheaper to service and run. The HiLux also edges out the Ranger on servicing costs. 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 $299 for each dealer service, and on older versions, it's even more!
  • 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 better able to tailor the driving position to suit you in the Toyota ute.
  • Top spec luxury HiLux is more money. The Toyota HiLux Rogue's drive-away cost is $68,030 for postcode 2000, while the Ranger Wildtrak is $1,810 cheaper at $66,220. The Ranger Wildtrak has more powerful, more torquey engines to choose from and the option of a 10-speed automatic, plus it boasts additional smart safety tech and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto. Ford also claims a higher 3.5-tonne towing capacity against the Rogue's 3.2 tonnes.

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Ford Ranger and Toyota HiLux comparison

Ford RangerFinder Score: 81.25%
Best off-roader in its classOne of the more expensive dual-cabs
Australian designed and developedLacks steering wheel column adjustment
Handling both laden and unladenActive safety features are optional extras
Infotainment and equipmentPlasticky cabin
Purposeful stylingRunning and servicing costs
Toyota HiLuxFinder Score: 73.33%
Built toughHarsh ride
Very good off-roadNo Apple CarPlay/Android Auto
Huge model rangeLess fuel-efficient than rivals
Refined diesel engineLess powerful engine line-up
Strong drive trainsPaying a premium for the HiLux badge?
Handles loads reasonably wellClunky infotainment system

Ford Ranger vs Toyota HiLux tug of war

It seems this the question of "Which is better, the Ford Ranger or Toyota HiLux?" is a global one. Here, two teams in Northern Ireland put their utes against each other.

Verdict: Which is best, the Ford Ranger or the Toyota HiLux?

Comparing the specs and reviews for both the Ford Ranger ute and the Toyota HiLux pick-up, the Ranger just manages to edge it out. Which is surprising because it seems Australian buyers still prefer the HiLux when 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 less of an all-rounder. 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 and kill Great Whites. The Ranger senses a flailing rival...

Disagree? Prove me wrong in the comments.

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