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A red 2021 Ford Ranger XLT is parked in the snow after winning the 2021 Ford Ranger vs 2021 Toyota Tacoma comparison.

Going Head-to-Head: The 2021 Ford Ranger vs 2021 Toyota Tacoma

Mid-size pickup trucks often get overshadowed by the full-size and heavy-duty models out there. However, smaller trucks serve their purpose with active families every single day. Today, we will be looking at two of the most popular models – the 2021 Ford Ranger vs 2021 Toyota Tacoma. Going head-to-head in a battle for supremacy, these two vehicles both put up a good fight. But only one can come out on top.

Body Styles

First, the 2021 Ford Ranger is available in two body styles with different bed lengths. The two-door extended cab model is the SuperCab. It can seat four adults comfortably, and it comes with a 6-foot bed. The other body style features four doors and is known as the SuperCrew. With the ability to carry up to five people, it is fitted with a shorter 5-foot bed.

Similarly, the 2021 Toyota Tacoma is also available in two body styles with different bed lengths. The Access Cab is the two-door extended cabin version. Just like the Ford Ranger, it can also seat four people, and it has a 6-foot bed. The other choice is the Double Cab. This four-door body style can hold five people, and it has a 5-foot bed.

The Takeaway: When it comes to size, the two trucks are on-par with each other.

Powertrains

If you pop the hood of the 2021 Ford Ranger, you will find a robust powertrain that delivers high performance when needed. Equipped with a turbocharged 2.3-liter 4-cylinder motor, it generates 270 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque. This engine is paired with a 10-speed automatic transmission and rear-wheel drive (four-wheel drive is optional), which puts the fuel economy at about 23 MPG combined. It can also tow up to 7,500 lbs, which is perfect for pulling a boat or small camper. This powertrain also comes with a terrain management system that allows you to select the following driving modes: Normal, Grass/Gravel/Snow, Sand, and Mud/Ruts for optimized performance on various road conditions.

On the other hand, the 2021 Toyota Tacoma has two powertrains to choose from, both of which are outclassed by the Ranger’s standard engine. The base is a 2.7-liter 4-cylinder that produces 159 hp and 180 lb-ft of torque. Equipped with a 6-speed automatic transmission, it gets approximately 21 MPG combined. The other option is a 3.5-liter V6 motor that pushes out 278 hp but only 265 lb-ft of torque. Paired with the same 6-speed transmission, this powertrain only gets around 20 MPG. The maximum towing capacity for the Tacoma is capped at just 6,800 lbs.

The Takeaway: When it comes to engines, the Ford Ranger is hands down the better truck – it is not only more powerful and can haul more weight, but it gets better gas mileage to boot.

A black 2021 Toyota Tacoma Nightshade Edition is shown from behind driving down a bridge at night.

Safety Systems

Advanced safety features are a must-have these days. Keeping families safe has become a top priority for most automakers. So, we expect to see great features on both trucks. Let’s take a look.

Every 2021 Ford Ranger model will come standard with a rearview camera, electronic traction/stability control, a tire pressure monitoring system, and forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking. The safety feature we are most excited about is the last one. Forward collision warning uses sensors and cameras to monitor the road ahead for any oncoming traffic. If another vehicle or obstacle is determined to be in your way, the system will alert you to take evasive action. If you do not attempt to stop the truck, the system will activate the automatic emergency braking system to stop the vehicle. As for additional options, you will also be able to get blindspot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and adaptive cruise control on higher trim levels.

Meanwhile, the 2021 Toyota Tacoma also comes with forward collision warning with emergency braking. Lane-departure warning and adaptive cruise are also standard on every trim level, which is unexpected. This is mainly due to the Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 suite that comes on every new vehicle the company produces. However, despite this advanced technology, the Tacoma still comes standard with less effective rear drum brakes instead of the four-wheel disc brakes found on all other modern trucks. Drum brakes are known for failing under sustained braking or in wet conditions.

The Takeaway: Both vehicles come with advanced safety systems, and both also earned solid ratings in crash tests.

Infotainment Systems

Now, let’s slip behind the wheel of each truck to see what kind of infotainment features to expect. First, the 2021 Ford Ranger XL comes standard with some advanced standard features. These include a 4G LTE Wifi hotspot to connect up to 10 devices, a USB port, and FordPass Connect. On higher trim levels, you will also find the upgraded SYNC 3 infotainment system with a large 8-inch touchscreen. This system includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration as well as satellite radio. If you want a navigation system or a premium Bang & Olufsen 10-speaker sound system, then you’ll need to opt for the top-tier trim.

Switching gears, the 2021 Toyota Tacoma is lacking in the infotainment department. Smartphone integration is available on the base SR trim, but there is no onboard Wifi hotspot. The touchscreen interfaces are 7 or 8 inches depending on the trim level, and USB ports have also been installed to charge your mobile devices. A 6-speaker sound system is standard, but the best stereo in the lineup only has 8 speakers.

The Takeaway: The 2021 Ford Ranger has better standard and optional infotainment features.

A white 2021 Ford Ranger Lariat is driving up a dirt hill with mountain bikes mounted over the bed.

Pricing

With an estimated starting price of around $26,000, the 2021 Ford Ranger XL is a solid base model at an affordable price. Even the top-tier Lariat model will likely cost under $35,000. These prices are especially good when you remember that the Ranger’s most powerful engine is also its standard engine, so you won’t have to pay more to get those headline power figures.

On the other hand, the 2021 Toyota Tacoma SR base model starts at $26,150 with the underpowered four-cylinder engine. The price difference gets even worse the further up the trims you climb, with the top-of-the-line TRD Pro cashing in at about $44,775. Given the lesser capabilities of the Tacoma, it is difficult to see what justifies the much higher price.

The Takeaway: The 2021 Ford Ranger is not only the more affordable of these two trucks, but it is also hands down the better bang for your buck.

Wrapping Up

To summarize, the battle between the 2021 Ford Ranger vs 2021 Toyota Tacoma is not a particularly close one. Both trucks are the same size with the same body styles, seating capacities, and bed lengths. Both offer similar advanced safety systems to keep you and your loved ones out of harm’s way. However, the differences can really be seen when you look at the engine performances, the infotainment features, and the overall price points.

The 2021 Ford Ranger offers much more capability for your hard-earned dollars. You will get the same efficient and extremely powerful turbocharged engine on every trim level, including the base. Even when the 2021 Toyota Tacoma is equipped with its more powerful V6 (at an added cost, of course), its towing capacity is still 700 lbs behind the Ranger when it comes to towing capacity. The Ranger also gets considerably better gas mileage, which equates to even more savings down the road. At the end of the day, the 2021 Ford Ranger takes the title for being the best mid-size truck in this contest. Get in touch with your local Ford dealership to learn more about this new ride!

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