It’s time for another Ford vs. Chevy shootout.
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But for this go-around, rather than comparing half-ton pickups as before when we pitted the new Silverado 1500 against a similarly equipped F-150, we’re looking at each brand’s midsize offering, comparable versions of the Ranger and Colorado.
Spoiler alert, the Ford ultimately won that truck battle thanks to its powerful, efficient drivetrain and comfortable interior. But I suspect things will be much closer in this showdown, so let’s see if Chevy can pull out a win over its arch nemesis from Dearborn.
Meet the Contenders
Representing the bow-tie brand is an inky-black Colorado fitted with a crew-cab body and five-foot cargo box. (If you’re curious, it’s actually 62 inches [1,575 mm] long.) This Chevrolet came to us in off-road-ready Z71 Midnight Edition trim. This setup includes a range of extras like unique suspension tuning, an automatically locking rear differential, underbody shielding for extra protection, 17-inch (432 mm) wheels with all-terrain tires and a spray-in bedliner.
Matching the Chevy nearly blow-for-blow, Ford sent us a Lariat-trim Ranger also fitted with a crew-cab body and five-foot bed (1,524). It’s equipped with the FX4 options group, which gets you things like exposed front tow hooks, a front bash plate and underbody skid plates, monotube shock absorbers, an electronically locking differential and more.
These trucks are about as similarly equipped as we could ever hope to get, meaning this should be a more-than-fair fight.
Checkin’ the Specs
But beyond those basics, here’s a closer look what makes each of these rigs tick. Starting under the hood, there are some surprising differences.
The Chevy is fitted with a naturally aspirated 3.6-liter V6, though GM also offers a base four-cylinder unit and even an efficient turbodiesel. In comparison, Ford offers no choice. You get a 2.3-liter turbocharged EcoBoost engine or you walk.
As for output, the Colorado offers more horsepower, 308 to the Ranger’s 270. But the tables turn when it comes to torque. The Ford has 310 pound-feet, the Chevy 275.
The Colorado tested here came with an efficient eight-speed automatic transmission and 3.42 gears while the Ranger brandished 10 forward ratios and a 3.73 axle.
On the fuel-consumption front, Ford has a slight edge, at least according to Uncle Sam’s EPA. The Ranger stickered at 20 miles per gallon city (11.8 l/100 km), 24 highway (9.8 l/100 km) and 22 mpg (10.9 l/100 km) combined. On paper, the Chevy is slightly behind at 17 , 24 and 19, respectively (15.0. 13.0, 14.1 l/100 km), though we also evaluated both trucks on a predetermined, 100-mile drive route to see how they performed in the real world, so keep reading to find out the results of that testing.
Regarding fuel, the Colorado’s tank clocks in at 21 gallons (79.5 liters), the Ranger’s only 18 (68 liters), meaning the Chevy should have longer legs on the highway, assuming your bladder is up to snuff. Saving money at each fill-up, both trucks will happily run on regular-grade, 87-octane gasoline.
From wheelbase to overall length, the Chevy is about two inches larger than the Ford, measuring 128.3 inches (3,259 mm) from hub to hub and 212.7 (5,403 mm) from bumper to bumper. The curb weights of these two trucks are also nearly identical, though the Ranger is about 40 pounds (18 kg) lighter, tipping the scales at a claimed 4,441 pounds (2,014 kg).
Inside, it’s much the same story. The Colorado offers an inch or two more room both front and rear, though you don’t really notice much of a difference.
Ford has a slight edge in capability. The Ranger evaluated here was rated to haul up to 1,560 pounds (708 kg) compared to 1,487 (674 kg) for the Colorado. Ford can tow more, too, being able to drag up to 7,500 pounds (3,402 kg), 500 (227 kg) more than the Chevy. It also has a 0.7 inches (18 mm) more ground clearance, clocking in at 8.9 (226 mm).
One significant advantage for the Ranger is available technology, a BIG selling point these days. It can be fitted with things like lane-keeping assist, blind-spot monitoring with trailer coverage and rear cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, automatic high beams, rain-sensing wipers and push-button start.
Finally, let’s talk pricing. A bare-bones Colorado starts are about $22,395, a good bit less than the most basic Ranger, which kicks off around $25,495. Of the two pickups tested here, the Chevy still had an advantage, checking out at $41,565 (CAN $46,935), including $995 in delivery fees. The Ford went for $44,785 (CAN $50,814) also including delivery charges, which were $1,195.
To add more value to this comparison, we conducted a bit of real-world testing, measuring things like fuel economy as well as acceleration both empty and laden. Here’s a brief explanation of what we did and how these evaluations were conducted.
We measured zero-to-60 acceleration, starting with each truck empty, then we loaded them down with about 1,000 pounds of ballast in the form of five cast-iron engine blocks clocking in at roughly 190 pounds apiece. Two people on board pushed things well past the half-ton mark. Each truck was tested on the same section of road within minutes of each other. The stated zero-to-60 times are the average of several runs.
Both trucks were also taken on a 100-mile (161 km) fuel-economy drive route, a mix of country two-lane, highway and urban roads. Before heading out, each fuel tank was topped off and both odometers reset. After the drive, we filled ‘em up again to see exactly how much gasoline was consumed. The goal here was NOT to hypermile these pickups, rather to see how efficient they were in normal, everyday use.
The Drive: Chevrolet Colorado
Behind the wheel, Chevy’s Colorado is nimble and responsive. It drives like a small truck should, with a firm ride and predictable handling.
Not surprisingly, it gets up to speed with little drama. In our testing, it hit 60 miles an hour in an average of 7.8 seconds. Loaded with ballast that time grew to roughly 9.4, an increase of 1.6 seconds.
Overall, this Chevy’s performance is very good, though its 3.6-liter V6 feels gritty. Surprisingly, the Ranger’s four-banger is more refined, seeming to produce far fewer vibrations, or perhaps it’s just better at keeping them out of the passenger compartment.
The Colorado’s brakes are nice and firm, with a reassuring feel. It’s just a shame the pedal itself is so high relative to the accelerator. You have to strain your ankle annoyingly to transition from one to the other, which get annoying on long drives or especially in stop-and-go traffic.
Neither of these pickup trucks’ interiors are mind-blowing, but the Chevy’s is slightly nicer. It looks a bit more upscale, plus its backseat is a hair more comfortable. Like the larger Silverado, its front buckets are flat and far too hard, at least for this auto scribe.
Detracting from the overall cabin are a few minor flaws. For instance, the ignition switch housing looks weird, like a complete afterthought. There’s also an odd cubby on the center stack. I have no idea what you’d put in there, plus the wireless charging pad is too small for larger iPhones. What gives?
As for efficiency, the Colorado rolled 107.3 miles (173 km)on our fuel-economy run, consuming 5.058 gallons (19.1 liters) of gas in the process. That equates to 21.2 miles per gallon when worked out on paper, EXACTLY THE SAME as the on-board computer said. That’s a good bit better than its combined rating of 19.
The Drive: Ford Ranger
Swapping trucks, I fell in love with the Ranger’s front bucket seats. They proved to be far plusher and more supportive than the Chevy’s. Ford has been doing a great job in this area for a number of years and their efforts are appreciated.
Another thing that’s soft about this pickup are its brakes. The Ranger’s pedal is so mushy it’s what I imagine stepping into a bowl of pudding feels like. This is NOT a desirable trait, especially with a full load of cargo or while towing anywhere near the limit.
Matching its binders, the Ranger’s ride is similarly spongy, with the body pitching and rolling large amounts while in motion. During fuel-economy testing, our video producer Ben even said he thought people might get carsick in this pickup it moves around so much. With a half-ton of iron onboard the Ranger verged on nautical, with sloppy, even more exaggerated body motions.
At least this rig’s EcoBoost engine is smooth and torquey. It makes the Ranger noticeably though not significantly quicker than the Colorado. Empty, it hit mile-a-minute velocity in around 7.6 seconds. With about 1,000 pounds onboard that average time grew to 8.7, an increase of 1.1 seconds.
As for efficiency, the Ranger rolled an even 108 miles (174 km), consuming 5.556 gallons (21.0 liters) of fuel in the process. Doing the math, that works out to a disappointing 19.4 mpg, far off the truck’s estimated combined score of 22. But more troubling than that, its trip computer said it returned nearly 23.9 miles per gallon on our drive route! That means the Ranger’s estimated economy was off by nearly 20 percent, which seems highly unlikely, especially since the F-150 in our last truck comparison was nearly dead accurate. I wonder if something was acting up with the fuel pump at the gas station.
After several days in the saddle I’m a bit disappointed to report I don’t love either of these trucks. Yes, they’re capable, yes, they’re useful, but no, I really wouldn’t want to make monthly payments on either one. Both Chevy and Ford’s full-size, half-ton offerings are more interesting and compelling.
As for each pickup’s plusses, the Colorado offers reasonable driving dynamics, a decent interior and a well-controlled ride. The Ranger counters with impressive performance, excellent front seats and far more available technology.
Downsides to these rigs are as follows. The Colorado’s gritty engine, awkward brake pedal and various odd interior elements detract from the overall experience. Ford’s offering is undermined by its sloppy handling, pulpy brakes, small climate controls and ponderous feel. Also, what was up with the fuel economy?
Given a choice between these two midsize pickups, I think I’d rather have the Chevy. But if you could meld the Ranger’s seats, powertrain and technology with the Colorado’s cabin, driving finesse and exterior styling you’d have a real winner in the midsize truck segment.
Chevrolet Colorado Z71 Crew Cab Short Box
Engine: 3.6-liter V6
Output: 308 horsepower, 275 pound-feet of torque
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
U.S. Fuel Economy (MPG): 17 city, 24 highway, 19 combined
CAN Fuel Economy (L/100 km): 15.0 city, 13.0 highway, 14.1 combined
U.S. As-Tested Price: $41,565, including $995 for delivery
CAN Estimated Price: $46,935
Ford Ranger Lariat FX4 Super Crew
Engine: 2.3-liter EcoBoost turbocharged four-cylinder
Output: 270 horsepower, 310 pound-feet of torque
Transmission: 10-speed automatic
U.S. Fuel Economy (MPG): 20 city, 24 highway, 22 combined
CAN Fuel Economy (L/100 km): 11.8 city, 9.8 highway, 10.9 combined
U.S. As-Tested Price: $44,785, including $1,195 for delivery
CAN Estimated Price: $50,814