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.
The Toyota Hilux versus its equally formidable foe, the Ford Ranger. The question we have here isn’t which pickup is more powerful, because really, they’re both very capable and tough on their own. We think the more appropriate question here is which pickup has better features besides the muscle.
The rivalry between the Hilux and Ranger is as fierce as they come. With monthly sales figures running into the thousands, these two bakkies are considered to be the most popular Light Commercial Vehicles (LCV) on sale in South Africa.
The last time we put the Hilux and Ranger together for a comparative test was way back in 2016 and at the time, they were both really closely matched in almost every way, including price. Now, however, things have changed, and there’s more to separate these classic rivals. The Hilux range received a significant update in 2018, and the facelifted Ranger was recently introduced with a pair of 2.0-litre turbo-diesel engine options as well as a new 10-speed transmission. It is, therefore, the perfect time to bring these two bakkie giants together for another showdown.
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 pickup. 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 pickup 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 4×4 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.
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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 4×4 manual models. A new for 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 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). 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 pickup 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 portray a robust and faithful work truck. The HiLux still looks great, but the design is a little fussier. 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 four years (or until 60,000kms). On older models, though, servicing prices are higher. The first service on an early 2019 2.0-litre 4×4 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 three 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 where 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.
The Ford Ranger Wildtrak X is up to the task when it comes to hard work, but it’s more comfortable showing off at the worksite than actually getting the job done. We all know someone like that.
And that’s no bad thing – if you’re after a competent and impressively specified (if a little expensive) dual-cab ute, you could do a lot worse than the Wildtrak X.
The Ford Ranger Wildtrak has been a runaway success for the brand. Plenty of people have bought them, modified them, taken them off-road and put them to task in the PX generation of Ranger.
Now, to see out the 2019 model range, Ford has added a new version above the standard Wildtrak. It’s the Ford Ranger Wildtrak X, and the ‘X’ stands for ‘extra’ because you get a bit more Gear for a touch more money.
We’ll get to all the detail soon, and for this test, we didn’t head off the beaten track – our aim here was to see how the Wildtrak X copes in daily driving, as well as how it handles hard work.
Like every dual-cab Ranger, the Wildtrak X is a good size inside. There’s enough space to fit three adults across the back and, therefore, five adults in the cabin—no rear air vents, though, which can result in a stuffy back seat on hot days.
You get cup holders upfront and in the rear, and bottle holders in all four doors. You can raise the seat base for extra storage space if there’s not enough room in the tub.
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Upfront, there’s the right amount of space and storage, and the media system is simple to use. And while we haven’t raised this in the past, the number of warning gongs and danger dings might annoy you. Like, I know the door is open, I just opened it.
Now, the tub. It’s 1549mm long, 1560mm wide and 1139mm between the wheel arches, which means it’s too narrow for an Aussie pallet to fit (1165mm minimum). The depth of the tub is 511mm, but not in the Wildtrak models because of the roller cover housing at the far end of the tub just about halves that, eating into usable space.
It’s great that you get the hardtop roller cover and that there’s a tub liner, too: however, the four tie-down hooks in the corners of the tub make it difficult to strap down a load.
The Ford Ranger Wildtrak X starts at $65,290 plus on-road costs for the 3.2-litre turbo-diesel five-cylinder model we drove, while the more powerful and more refined 2.0-litre Bi-turbo four-cylinder engine is $1500 more ($66,790).
That makes it a $2000 jump over the standard Wildtrak, but according to Ford, you’re getting $6000 worth of extra value.
The Wildtrak X’s additional styling gear builds upon the already impressive list of included equipment on the regular Wildtrak.
Included on this grade are 18-inch alloy wheels, LED daytime running lights, HID headlights, an LED light bar as well as all the Wildtrak X body additions (see the Design section for more detail), an integrated tow bar and wiring harness, a tub liner, a 12-volt outlet in the tub, hard roller top and the model-specific interior with part-leather trim and a dark headlining.
There’s also an 8.0-inch touchscreen media system with sat-nav, DAB digital radio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player. There are two USB ports, a 12-volt charger in the back seat and a 230-volt PowerPoint, too.
The front seats are heated, and the driver’s seat has an electric adjustment, there are digital displays in front of the driver showing navigation and driving data (including a digital speedometer, which many utes still miss out on).
The big, bad Wildtrak variant has the most jaw-dropping specs: biggest engine and exterior dimensions, highest-rated fording depth of 800mm, and largest towing and pickup-bed payload capacities. It also has the most in terms of electronic safety aids such as blind-spot monitoring, forward-collision avoidance, lane-departure warning, ABS-EBD, and traction and stability controls. The only thing that isn’t top-notch is ground clearance at 237mm, which is 42mm less than the corresponding figure for the Hilux.
Off-road, the Ranger is truly the king of the hill in a growing, booming marketplace. It is the most capable truck out of the box in harsh and difficult terrain. It is almost impossible to get it stuck in practically the most extreme surfaces. I intentionally stuck one tire in a hole almost a meter deep and roughly just as wide; the pickup simply activated its electronics and pulled itself out, with the driver-side rear wheel hanging up in the air like an incontinent dog going number one.
The engine is a monstrous 3.2-litre five-cylinder turbo-diesel originating from the Volvo XC90. It produces 197hp and 470Nm. If you do a lot of Overlanding, towing and hauling, the Ranger’s powertrain and off-road abilities make it unbeatable. The aforementioned hole rendered the Hilux completely motionless and useless. I strapped my recovery gear onto the Hilux, attached it to the Ranger, and left the Ford in Drive. It pulled out the Toyota effortlessly and with no drama.
But the Ranger isn’t without foibles. The suspension is good for off-road use, but it’s too soft on the highway, given the truck’s weight, power and torque. The steering feels like a gaming console’s control stick–accurate and responsive, but lacking in feel and with a very rubbery self-centring action.
These shortcomings make this pickup somewhat difficult to use on the winding tarmac at night in treacherous weather. Driving home from Tagaytay on a foggy evening had me slowing down a lot simply because the brakes don’t inspire confidence, and the headlights don’t provide good visibility. Midday on the highway, it’s a different matter–if you’re not careful, the Ranger will easily kiss just south of 200kph.
Off-road during the day, however, the Ranger is simply all-conquering. Working in the mining industry or doing a lot of rescue/recovery work? This is the truck for you.
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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.
The 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 diesel’s 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.
It 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 the 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 $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. Some reviewers likened the interior plastics to having the quality of 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 ten-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.
Toyota knows its target audience for the HiLux and has provided them with massive cupholders all around the front seats for gigantic bottles, meat pies and sausage rolls (and wallets, and phones)
There are a few extra spaces around, a small trench under the air-conditioning controls, a double glove box set-up on the passenger’s side and a deep centre console box for everything else.
The back seat is decent on space, but not stellar. My 182cm frame can fit behind my driving position with only a little airspace for my knees. A very welcome addition for the Australian summer at the SR5 grade is the presence of air vents on the back of the centre console stack.
The rear seat bases are on a 60/40 split and can be swung up to turn the rear portion of the cab into a more practical storage area.
The SR5’s tray won’t fit a standard Australian pallet, although few utes do. The dimensions come in at 1550mm long and 1520mm wide (although these crops down to 1110mm between the wheel arches).
Toyota notes that the steel sports bar is not to be used for securing loads, leaving that task to four tie-down points around the edges of the tub. Those wanting to use the tray for more than recreational purposes will probably be saying goodbye to the sports bar before long.
In high-riding 4×4 trim, the HiLux has a payload of 955kg and a towing capacity of 750kg unbraked and 3200kg braked.
Those are just the figures stated by Toyota on paper, for a more in-depth look at the HiLux’s capacities.
The HiLux continues with its well-regarded 2.8-litre turbo-diesel engine in the SR5. Outputs are nominal for the segment, at 130kW/450Nm.
There’s nothing flashy about it. Not like the Ranger’s engines (which will get you more power from either an extra cylinder, or an extra turbo), or the Navara (extra turbo), or the D-Max (it’s literally a truck engine).
But the HiLux’s engine seems to pull it along at a fair pace for recreational duties. In terms of towing, a recent tow comparison had the HiLux falling behind the Ranger in terms of available torque, although ahead of the Mercedes-Benz X-Class, which shares its powertrain with the Nissan Navara.
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The six-speed auto was super compliant on my freeway and unsealed road tests and has performed the same way on previous comparison tests. The SR5 has a low-range transfer case with a rear differential lock as part of its drivetrain arsenal.
This truck’s ‘unbreakable’ visage was shaken lately with recent diesel particulate filter (DPF) issues; however, Toyota claims those days are behind it with the introduction of a manual burn-off switch.
We recently pitched the Hilux against the Nissan Navara and the Mitsubishi Strada, and it narrowly edged out the Navara thanks to its superior ground clearance. Coming into this match, we all thought it was in for an easy win. Boy, were we wrong: The Hilux’s super-stiff ride was like a sucker punch to the kidneys, and in the extreme off-roading environment, it was extra-brutal!
While Toyota has great ground clearance, axle articulation is poor versus the Ford. And while it has a locking rear differential, the lack of A-Trac, similar off-road-oriented aids, or a locking front differential means it will get stuck much more easily. It is embarrassing that the Ranger had to drag its competitor’s ass out of major trouble literally.
The Hilux is also heavier to deal with. The controls are heavier, matching the suspension’s firmness, but the brakes are somewhat soft. The steering, in particular, seems to require a lot more effort compared to other Hilux units I’ve driven, and compared to the Fortuner and the Innova, with which it shares the same IMV platform. Cabin space is perfect and an improvement over the old Hilux, but it just falls a bit short versus the Ranger. When it comes to rear accommodations, however, the Hilux has a slight edge in space thanks to well-sculpted seatbacks and a high seating position that allows you to slide your feet underneath the front seats.
The Hilux’s interior has an upmarket appearance, and its build quality is excellent. However, the touchscreen infotainment system is rudimentary and while it does offer navigation and Bluetooth, it isn’t Android Auto or Apple CarPlay compatible (which is an ongoing gripe with the Toyota range).
The 2.8 GD-6 Raider 4×4 comes with cloth upholstery as standard (leather is optional; speccing it will cost an additional R12 500) and other interior features worth mentioning include a rake/reach adjustable steering wheel with mounted controls, height-adjustable driver’s seat (manual), cruise control, single-zone climate control, a USB port, electric windows/side mirrors and a reverse-view camera.
While the Hilux Raider 2.8-GD-6 4×4 should ideally be compared with the Ranger 2.0 Bi-Turbo 4×4 Wildtrak – not the 2.0 4×4 XLT – the reality is that the former and latter’s powerplants and abilities are well matched. However, the well-specced Ford offers better value for money than the Toyota.
To illustrate this: if you opt for the Hilux 2.8 GD-6 Raider 4×4 Automatic (R637 500) and specify leather seats and a tow bar, its total price will total R657 500, some R87 300 more than the Ranger XLT 4×4 Automatic. In this comparative review, the Ranger outshone the Hilux in terms of performance, refinement, fuel efficiency, ride and handling and standard specification. It’s also worth noting that Ford has a more extended warranty.
Is the prestige of the Toyota badge enough of a reason to buy the Raider (at a premium) instead of the XLT, though? Remember that Toyota is not a top seller without reason. Since the inception of the Cars.co.za Consumer Awards – powered by WesBank (and its crowning Brand of the Year category), the Japanese marque has won the title twice in 4 years, while Ford is yet to make the podium on any occasion. Brand of the Year means the marque in question excels at its sales processes, ownership satisfaction with its products, after-sales service, and achieve good resale values.
Therefore, in terms of sheer value-for-money, the Ranger 2.0 4×4 XLT wins this comparative test, but, based on feedback we’ve received from thousands of South African vehicle owners, the Hilux 2.8 GD-6 Raider 4×4 remains the better long-term ownership proposition.