Home / Tech / The Ford Ranger and the Chevy Colorado battle it out in a contest of mid-size pickup trucks (F, GM)

The Ford Ranger and the Chevy Colorado battle it out in a contest of mid-size pickup trucks (F, GM)

Ford Ranger

  • The Ford Ranger and Chevy Colorado are the two biggest competitors from the major pickup-truck makers in the US.
  • I’ve tested three Colorado trucks in different trims, and one all-new Ford Ranger.
  • The Colorado truck eked out a win this time over the Ranger, but the truth is that both pickups are outstanding.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The Ford-Chevy rivalry is a familiar one to pickup-truck customers. In the full-size segment, the mighty F-150 has been the bestselling vehicle in the US since Ronald Reagan was president, while the Chevy Silverado has usually been No. 2.

Decades ago, there was robust competition in the compact-pickup segment as well. But more recently, the Detroit automakers have all but abandoned the market in the US.

That all changed when Chevy rolled out the Colorado in 2014. Suddenly, the old compact segment became a midsize battleground. (The trucks were larger than the entry-level, stripped-down pickups I drove when I was in college.) Toyota was well established, but with the Colorado and its GMC sibling, the Canyon, General Motors offered more plush, high-tech, yet still versatile and robust small pickups.

Honda revamped its Ridgeline to be more pickup-like, and just like that, Ford looked as if it had fallen behind the curve in its bread-and-butter realm.

2019 Chevy Colorado Z71

Not to worry, however, as the Ranger midsize was on sale outside the US, so all the Blue Oval had to do was bring the vehicle back to America. In the first three months of 2019, Ford sold almost 9,500 Rangers, a respectable debut. Colorado sales tallied about 33,500 for the same period.

I love midsize pickups. They’re the ideal vehicles for suburban weekend home-improvement duty, and if you’re an outdoorsy person who doesn’t need to tow a large boat or horse trailer, they’re great for getting out into nature (as long as you go for the 4×4 versions). When equipped for off-roading, they can be comfort-challenged, but you can also opt for a cheaper, rear-wheel-drive base model that will provide easier driving dynamics.

Having driven several Colorados in the past four years — coming away impressed with them all — I recently enjoyed the new Ranger. So, naturally, it was time to compare pickups. Read on to find out how they matched up.

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First up is the newcomer. The 2019 Lariat SuperCrew four-wheel-drive Ranger was nicely equipped and stickered at almost $45,000. The base-price pickup is a little more than $24,000.

Read the review »

The SuperCrew configuration sports a 5-foot bed, but the Ranger can be had with a two-door cab and a 6-foot bed. The Ranger is a handsome pickup, especially in “lightning blue.”

You could call the Ranger’s front end “snouty,” but it’s also pretty truck-like for a midsize.

The 2.3-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder engine is a turbocharged power plant that cranks out 275 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque. Towing capacity is 7,500 pounds — enough to tow just about anything owners of the Ranger would want to.

Ford’s EcoBoost engine tech uses turbocharging to retain power with good fuel economy. In this case, the truck gets 20 mpg city/24 highway/22 combined. The 0-60 mph run is achieved is about 6.5 seconds.

A 10-speed transmission handles the shifting duties.

I didn’t get to go all down-and-dirty with the FX4 setup, an extensive 4×4 rig that even offers off-road cruise control.

Our tester came with stout off-road rubber. Most pickups we test are lifted 4x4s.

I put the Ranger to a more serious hauling test than the Colorado, making a run to Costco and loading up some furniture. The bed is big enough to handle these typical suburban tasks, and it could also easily handle mountain bikes and outdoor gear.

The interior of our tester was a no-nonsense “ebony,” but the upholstery was leather. The front seats are heated.

The rear bench seats, as one might expect with a smaller pickup, were snug.

The leather-wrapped steering wheel felt premium, and you’ll notice that the cluster presents a speedometer — no traditional tachometer, and that’s fine. Old-school tachs aren’t very useful on pickups.

Ford’s Sync 3 infotainment system runs on an 8-inch touchscreen. Sync 3 is one of the best in the industry, providing superb navigation, easy Bluetooth connectivity, and AUX and USB device-connection options.

The 10-speaker Bang & Olufsen audio system in the Ranger I tested is a terrific extra. It sounds too good for a truck this small! Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are also available.

On to the Chevy Colorado. I’ve sampled the truck in three trims. Here we see a $43,475 ZR2 that was well equipped and ready for off-road action. But I’ve tested a closer-to-base version ($21,300) and an aggressive Z71 version.

Read the ZR2 review here and the ZR1 review here »

The 2018 ZR2 came with a fetching “Cajun red tintcoat” paint job. The truck had a crew cab and a “short box” bed. Some folks don’t much like short boxes, but I think for most owners it’s ideal.

The ZR2 has a moderately more aggressive front end than the Ranger, and that gold bow-tie badge really pops against the blacked-out grille.

On paper, the 308-horsepower 3.6-liter V6 could be construed as underpowered. But in my hands, it was anything but. This pickup has nice pop.

Fuel economy is 17 mpg city/24 highway/19 combined — not great, but also not bad given the oomph provided by the V6.

The Colorado ZR2 can tow up to 5,000 pounds. That’s not massive for a pickup, but the nonperformance Colorado and ZR2 aren’t really intended for customers who will be hauling horse trailers. More likely, they’ll attach a small trailer to pull an ATV, some JetSkis, or a modest camper.

The ZR2’s 0-60 mph run has been clocked at a respectable six seconds, while the Z71 can haul 7,000 pounds.

A smaller, four-cylinder power plant is also available for the Colorado.

The eight-speed automatic handles the Colorado’s power without straining. Shifts are smooth.

The 4×4 capabilities aren’t advertised by the Colorado’s stickers. But a sturdy 4×4 it is.

With the Colorado ZR2, you have electronic-locking differentials, front and rear, so it’s ready for serious off-roading. The front underbelly and rear transfer case are also shielded, so rock-busting won’t cripple your pickup.

As far as the bed goes, there isn’t much difference between the Colorado and the Ranger. Both trucks should satisfy the hauling needs of midsize buyers.

The Chevy’s “jet black” interior is on par with the Ford’s. It’s a nice environment, nearly premium without being luxurious. That’s by design. This isn’t a truck meant to be babied, so the interior has to be able to endure some punishment.

The driver gets a pretty typical Chevy setup as far as the steering-wheel controls and gauges are concerned. There’s a small info screen between the speedometer and the tachometer.

Beyond heated seats, cruise control, and a nicely appointed leather-wrapped steering wheel, you don’t get a lot of driver-assist features with the Colorado.

The 8-inch touchscreen runs Chevy’s Intellilink infotainment system.

Bluetooth device pairing is a snap, and there are USB and AUX options for plugging in gadgets. Like all GM vehicles, the Colorado has 4G LTE WiFi connectivity.

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are available.

And the winner (for now) is the Chevy Colorado!

To be completely honest, I had the Ranger as my winner when I started this comparison. I drove the Ford more recently than the Colorado and was extremely impressed. I also tend to think that Ford knows trucks and knows them well, so I give the Blue Oval the benefit of the doubt.

However, with three Colorado trims in my backstory — and yet another coming soon, the ZR2 Bison — I’ve simply spent too much quality seat time in the Chevy. The ZR2, in fact, is one of the best pickups I’ve ever tested, period.

That said, this contest was TIGHT. In the end, I think I favored the ZR2/Z71 V6 engine and the Chevy infotainment system over the Ranger’s four-banger and Sync 3. But not by much.

In truth, the consumer is officially spoiled for choice in the once forlorn midsize-pickup market, with excellent offerings from not just Ford and Chevy but stalwart Toyota with the robust Tacoma, niche-y Honda and the Ridgeline, Chevy’s sibling GMC and the Canyon, and even Nissan and the aging Frontier.

When it comes down to Colorado versus Ranger, you can’t lose. And I’m assuming Ford will offer a more performance-oriented Ranger Raptor to US buyers, as it does in other global markets, so the Ranger will better match up with the Colorado line, which has been on sale in the US longer.

If you’re an off-roader, the ZR2 is worth a close look. But what about the Z71 package? It does add thousands to the price tag, and when all is said and done, the $42,000 Z71 I sampled isn’t much cheaper than the top-of-the-line, $43,500 ZR2. If you have plans for your Colorado that might be more on the brash side, and if you don’t mind the menacing appearance, the Z71 trim is at least worth a gander.

The Lariat SuperCrew Ranger I tested was a few thousand bucks more expensive than even the ZR2, but I’d say it was ever so slightly better appointed and thus worth the extra cost. The Ranger has also been on sale outside the US for a while, so it’s not as if this is an unproven truck.

There has to be a winner in these comparisons (well, most of the time — I could have declared it a tie). For me, and for now, that’s the Colorado. But the Ranger is already close to being neck and neck, so in addition to a good old-fashioned pickup-truck war between Detroit rivals Ford and Chevy in the full-size segment, we now have a compelling undercard bout with midsize pickups.

I think that’s great — and if you’re a buyer, so should you.