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Toyota HiLux vs Ford Ranger

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

For the last five consecutive years the Ford Ranger perpetually ranks as the best-selling ute with New Zealand’s car-buying public. Just behind the Ford Ranger sits the Toyota HiLux, the best selling ute of all time. Let’s compare the two popular utes.

Toyota HiLux

The Toyota HiLux was launched globally in 1968 and came to New Zealand in 1976. It has a reputation as an ultra-tough, rugged and stout pick-up and Toyota plays this up with outlandish adverts, like this one:

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.

Ford Ranger

The Ford Ranger isn’t as old as the HiLux, having been launched by Ford NZ in late 2011. From then on it made headway until overtaking HiLux in 2014 as New Zealand’s top selling vehicle. The Ranger has consistently been the winner for five consecutive years, and it looks like it will take the top spot again in 2020.

Ford Ranger vs Toyota HiLux

Using our 4×4 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 $41,990.
  • 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 6.7 litres of fuel per 100km. The larger 3.2 in 2WD guise burns 8.2 litres per 100km and up to 8.4 for 4×4 manual models. A new for 2020 2.0-litre, bi-turbo engine delivers more power and fuel efficiency. This engine makes 157kW and 500Nm, while only using a combined 7.4L/100km. The Raptor model also has a ten-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).
  • 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.
  • 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 offers complimentary roadside assistance for the first three years but for a new Ranger you’re looking at a cost of at least $500 per service. On older models, servicing prices are even higher. The first service on an early 2019 3.2-litre 4×4 standard cab costs $520, with the following year priced at $685 and the year after that $620 (including GST). Each HiLux service is capped for the first four years at $330 or until reaching 60,000km.
  • Intuitive infotainment system. Unlike the Hilux, with its unwieldy infotainment system, journos said the Ford SYNC system in the Ranger is intuitive and a doddle to use.
  • 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 Mako, but it isn’t as highly received as the blue oval’s premium ute.

Toyota HiLux

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

  • Cheaper entry point. Prices start from $28,990. That’s a good $13,000 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 150Nm to make a total of 500Nm. Peak torque is delivered across a very useable 1,600-2,800RPM. By comparison, the new Ford 2.0-litre bi-turbo diesel produces more power at 157kW and more torque as well as 500Nm, albeit over a slightly narrower and higher band of 1,750-2,000rpm.
  • 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 4×4 transmission have similar electronic systems and conventional RWD high, 4WD high and 4WD low. Both the HiLux and 4×4 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 $330 for the first four years or 60,000km of ownership. A basic Ranger service for a 4WD Double Cab will set you back an estimated $500 for each dealer service, and on older versions, it’s around a $150 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.

Ford Ranger and Toyota HiLux comparison

Ford RangerFinder Score: 81.25%
Best off-roader in its classOne of the more expensive dual-cabs
Greater wading depthLacks 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-roadLess wading depth
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

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 not surprising because it seems New Zealand buyers also prefer the Ranger given the choice, despite its higher servicing costs.

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.

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