Note, seeing as Ford will only offer the turbocharged 2.3-liter four-cylinder in the U.S., we’re comparing it only to the V6 engines it will likely compete against. Finally, variations on numbers are due to configuration differences consisting of cab and bed type, as well as two- vs. four-wheel drive. Without further ado, here’s the chart followed by deeper analysis.
Engines and transmissions
The Ford Ranger is quite unique in the small truck segment in that Ford has only announced one engine so far, and it’s a turbocharged four-cylinder in a class dominated by naturally aspirated V6s, but the numbers are extremely competitive with the bigger V6s. The engine, which is a version of the turbocharged 2.3-liter four-cylinder in the Ford Mustang and the Focus RS, produces 270 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque. In regards to power, that puts it behind the Colorado’s 308-horsepower V6 and the Toyota Tacoma’s 278 horsepower. But when it comes to torque, the Ford is well ahead of every truck in the segment.
The Ranger also has a potential advantage in transmissions. It will have the 10-speed automatic that’s also found in the Ford F-150. We’ve found it to work very well in every vehicle with it, including the GM products that use a version of the co-developed transmission. The wide spread of ratios should also give it the opportunity to put up some solid fuel economy numbers. On that subject, the Colorado will be the one to beat with the best highway numbers, and Toyota just squeaks out the highest city fuel economy. Fans of manual transmissions coupled to top end engines will have to skip both American entries, though. Only the Toyota and Nissan offer a manual with the V6, and you can even have both options with four-wheel drive if you like.
Trucks are made for hauling big and heavy things, so payload is a very important factor. The clear winner in this area is the Ford Ranger. The least capable version can carry 1,500 pounds, which is right at the high end for most of these trucks. Opting for a two-wheel-drive model with the extended cab brings payload all the way up to 1,860 pounds. Second place goes to the Colorado, which will carry a little over 1,500 pounds in all V6 configurations. The Tacoma and Frontier bring up the rear, with maximum payload a little under 1,500 pounds in ideal configurations, and just a little over 1,000 pounds in less capable versions.
Sometimes those big and heavy things don’t fit in the bed, and then it’s time to tow. Once again, the Ranger is the class leader. With the tow package, it can tow 7,500 pounds, just edging out the Colorado’s 7,000-pound towing rating. It is worth noting that springing for the diesel Colorado will handle 7,700 pounds. The Tacoma and Frontier are nearly tied, with the former having a maximum towing rating of 6,700 pounds, and the Frontier reaching 6,710 pounds. Both of these are with configurations favoring towing, and less capable ones have lower capacities, seen in the table above.
Really, each of these trucks has darn near the same bed dimensions with lengths differing by no more than 2.2 inches between short beds, and just 1.3 inches between long beds. But the longest beds do belong to the Chevy Colorado. Second longest long bed goes to Toyota, and second longest short bed goes to Ranger. The Ranger ties the Frontier for widest maximum bed width, and is just a bit wider at the minimum size than Frontier. Chevrolet does not appear to list maximum bed width. Neither Ford nor Chevy gave a bed depth, but Toyota outdoes Nissan here by just over an inch.
One of the reasons for selecting a smaller pickup over a full-size one is because you want something that isn’t so intimidating to maneuver. The Frontier in its shortest configuration is over 5 inches shorter than the shortest version of the next smallest truck, the Ranger. The Frontier is also just a touch narrower than the Ranger. The longest Ranger is shorter than the longest versions of the other trucks, though. So if maneuverability is most important to you, the Frontier is worth a look. Interestingly, though, it’s not the lightest despite its small form. Overall, the lightest of the group is the Toyota Tacoma. Since Ford hasn’t released curb weight for the U.S. Ranger yet, our estimate for the Ranger’s weight comes from the global version with the 2.2-liter diesel four-cylinder, which we imagine will weigh similarly to our 2.3-liter gas-powered version. It’s pretty much in the middle, weighing about the same as the Chevy and Nissan.
The American trucks are the price leaders in this segment by far. The Ranger and Colorado are each just barely over $25,000. The Nissan Frontier is about $800 more at just over $26,000. Breaking the bank is the Toyota Tacoma, which costs over $31,000 when equipped with a V6.