Words & Images Andrew Middleton
Hilux vs Ranger, the Blues vs the Reds – a veritable war on home turf that (if sales are to be believed) the Hilux is winning. Both Toyota and Ford have extremely brand-loyal customers that won’t admit defeat – but surely one must be better than the other.
Both released this year in SA, the new Ford and Hilux have received massive interior updates which include new touchscreens, new dashboards, new interfaces and improved materials all round.
Of course, under the skin, the Ford isn’t all new − it’s ‘just’ a facelift of the model launched in 2011, but that hasn’t stopped it from producing a truly classleading
product. In the Ford, everything falls to hand without thought, as simple, intuitive design works its magic.
The dash layout is well designed with a large 8-inch touch screen sitting proud and centre. A partially digital instrument cluster with a comprehensive trip computer is also a modern touch and falls in line with the many other Ford passenger cars. One glaring omission: a light to illuminate the keyhole – fitting the key is not so easy in the dark. As for space inside, rear legroom for a six footer, sitting behind another six footer, is acceptable without complaint.
As for the Hilux, the step taken over its predecessor is a giant leap, though that may be more of an indication of how outdated the predecessor was. Though perceived build-quality remains good, the design, though ergonomic enough, did not find universal appeal in our test panel.
The centre 7-inch screen seems somewhat an afterthought, stuck to the fascia with its edges protruding as if someone had glued an iPad to the dash. In the rear, the Hilux can’t quite match the Ranger’s legroom, and in general feels a bit more cramped, and has a more basic analogue instrument cluster. For 2016, the Hilux gets an
electronic rotary control for its 4×4 system to match its rivals.
With fake ‘Raptor’ kits now the tow-truck drivers’ favourite accessory, it’s good to see that Ford has brought the Ranger more in line with its American cousin – the
F150. When the new Ranger was released in 2011, it was considered to be the most handsome of all the new bakkies, and (in my humble, judgemental opinion) it again takes the crown in 2016. Although the new Hilux looks absolutely brilliant with a quality aftermarket bull bar, the standard under-bite and squinty eyes may not be to everyone’s taste. Also notable is that the Ranger comes standard with a rubber tray protector, whereas the Toyota does not.
Omitted from the Ranger, the shiny chrome ‘sports bar’ on the back of the Hilux may look like a roll bar, but is only connected to the body, so has no structural
significance or safety benefit… It does look cool, though, depending on your taste.
It’s here in the rough that subjective criticism dies − well, on the spec sheet, at least. With a far superior approach and departure angle, a 30cm narrower body and winning axle articulation (411 on our RTI ramp compared to 363 for the Ranger), the Hilux kicks the Ranger in the teeth when technical off-roading is the order of the day.
For 2016, the Hilux has received added underbody protection which is claimed to be three times more resistant to deformation than its predecessor. Not only does the Hilux win on the spec sheet, but in feel, too. The tractable engine (accessible in three drive modes) and new 4WD controller make life very easy, where the Ford can seem just a tad cumbersome and ‘American’.