Why Did Consumer Reports Rank the 2021 Toyota Tacoma Way Higher Than the 2021 Ford Ranger?

The pickup truck segment is always a hotly contested one. I would wager that trucks get compared more than any other type of vehicle for several reasons. Unlike most other vehicles, trucks are both commercial and recreational vehicles. Some folks need to rely on them to make a living, while others spend tens of thousands of dollars to make them better at running through the mud. Both camps are very serious about and proud of their trucks. With that in mind, Consumer Reports gave the 2021 Toyota Tacoma a much better score than the 2021 Ford Ranger, but what is the difference? 

The 2021 Toyota Tacoma nor the 2021 Ford Ranger did well with Consumer Reports

Indeed, trucks rarely do well on Consumer Reports, but these two both did pretty badly. Toyota has been striking out a lot lately for having unrefined and outdated technology. On the other hand, the Ford is updated and fresh but still scored lower than the Tacoma. 

The Toyota Tacoma’s review on CR is riddled with language like “tolerable” on the more positive end and “clumsy”  and “ponderous.” Basically, the Toyota truck and SUV line can easily be summed up as out of date. 

Toyota remains one of the toughest truck and SUV builders in the game, but little has changed since the “refresh” in 2016. It still has the same old 3.5-liter V6, the same old transmission, and the same old driveline. That being said, Toyota is sticking hard to the old adage, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” The problem there is, they keep getting more expensive, and other vehicles are getting more comfortable and well equipped for the same or even less money. 

The 2021 Ford Ranger is more sophisticated and updated, but still scored lower

The Ranger is returning after an eight-year hiatus from the U.S. market. Unlike the Tacoma, the Ranger is making use of the advances in smaller displacement four-cylinder engines with turbochargers. The 2021 Ranger makes use of the turbocharged 2.3-liter four-cylinder paired with a 10-speed automatic. This little package can make a 0-60 mph sprint in 7.4 seconds and gets 20 mpg. Even with this modern powertrain, the new Ranger still got slammed by CR and ultimately got beat by the dinosaur for failing in almost every other driving test.

The 2021 Ford Ranger on the trails
The 2021 Ford Ranger hits the trails. | Ford

The 2021 Ranger’s ride is said to be choppy and bouncy. The handling is stiff and clumsy, and even though it’s on the smaller end of pickups, it still steers and brakes like a big rig. This is the whole point of these smaller, light-duty trucks is that they can still work and haul but don’t feel big and cumbersome around town.

If a light-duty truck can still cost up to nearly $40k but can’t haul like a big truck but doesn’t feel and drive like a small truck, what good is it? I feel like this must be the realization that led to the Ranger getting an overall score of 46 while the Tacoma managed an overall score of 51. 

Which is better for working, the Tacoma or the Ranger?

The top of the towing range for the Ford Ranger is 7,500 pounds to the Tacoma’s 6,800-pound limit. Again on paper, the Ranger seems like the better choice, but that drive feel must be terrible to take second to the old fogie. 

2021 Toyota Tacoma Trail Edition | Toyota

The 2020 Ford Ranger Is the Cheapest New Truck for a Reason

Is the 2021 Ford Ranger reliable

One thing is for sure, Toyota has the reputation of reliability, where Ford lacks in that department. The 2021 Toyota Tacoma may be uncomfortable, crude, simple, plain, outdated, and overall rough, but it will be the same today as it is in 10 years. The same cannot be said for the Ford Ranger.

The good thing about never changing or updating your motor is knowing exactly how to build it to last. These new turbocharged four-cylinders in trucks are great and very economical, but unproven. The Ford received a low predicted reliability rating of two out of five. On the other hand, the Tacoma got a three out of five but only due to some bodywork issues. 

Overall the Tacoma manages to squeak by in enough categories to slowly but surely grow a big lead on the Ranger. It’s not a pretty win, but a W is a W.