“You call that a skid plate?”
“What can you possibly throw in that bed?”
Getting Ford and Chevrolet trucks together in the same place means participating in one of the nastiest grudge matches in automotive history. This time, instead of a battle between the brands’ half-ton offerings, we have their slightly smaller trucks.
The Ford Ranger and Chevrolet Colorado are natural rivals that continue the mudslinging going on between the bigger trucks. The Ford product boasts its workability, while the Chevrolet is about versatility.
While the Ranger we have here is a fully loaded Lariat model with the FX4 Off-Road package and more, the only model Chevrolet had for us to test was the off-road-focussed Colorado ZR2. While some may see them as misaligned adversaries, the base vehicles are still important to consider, and these top models show the creativity of each brand. The task now is to determine which one is worth buying.
Two brightly painted trucks enter the garage, and there’s only one you can pinpoint from a distance. That’s the Colorado ZR2. If you asked a pre-teen to imagine a cool pickup truck, the ZR2 is likely what they’d envision: Big wheels, a rugged skid plate, a way-too-high lift and a spare tire mounted in the bed. Who cares if it’s not practical – it’s cool! What’s unusual here is the design direction that Chevrolet has taken has yet to appear on the Silverado 1500, which looks generic and bland in any trim. If anything, the designers at the bowtie brand saw the sentiment that Ford received with the F-150 Raptor and applied it to the smaller Colorado.
The Ranger, on the other hand, is what happens when you take a sensible person and ask them to imagine a small truck. Trim proportions, a generic front end, and an approachable height combine to make the Ford perfectly tolerable, but just a bit forgettable next to the ZR2. International markets have access to a Ranger Raptor, but even that looks a little strait-laced compared to the Colorado ZR2.
Chevrolet Colorado Exterior: 8.5/10
Ford Ranger Exterior: 6.5/10
But as attractive as the Colorado is to look at, its interior is a dud. It’s a throwback with a completely dated cabin. It still uses a traditional key to fire up the ignition! The interior is also loaded with hard plastics and no special badges or graphics to say this is a distinctive trim. While I would cringe at some kind of tribal pattern in the headrest, it wouldn’t hurt to fill the ZR2 with some flair. Fortunately, it’s decently furnished with dual-zone climate control, heated seats, wireless phone charger (maybe it isn’t so ancient after all), and an 8-inch touchscreen.
The Ranger doesn’t dazzle with its interior either, thanks to a largely plastic cabin with little-to-no frills. That’s fine if the truck is meant to be a pared-down experience, but our test vehicle costs more than $50,000. The Ranger has the same feature set as the Colorado, except it doesn’t offer a heated steering wheel or wireless phone charging. The cabin of the Ranger feels a bit tighter than the Colorado. The biggest upside to the Ranger is its Sync 3 infotainment system, but it’s evenly matched by the Chevrolet MyLink system and both have Android Auto and Apple CarPlay support.
Chevrolet Colorado Interior: 6/10
Ford Ranger Interior: 6/10
Perhaps all the development time that was supposed to be applied to the interior of these trucks was spent elsewhere, like under the hood. The 3.6L V6 in the Colorado is certainly stout, making 308 hp and 275 lb-ft of torque. Buyers can also opt for a diesel four-cylinder setup if they’re looking for more torque, but our tester was quite good. Matched to an eight-speed automatic that never skimped out when trying to give us gear ratios, we had a pleasant time driving the ZR2 around. It features a selectable 4x4 system, providing high and low gear ranges when powering all four wheels.
The Ranger uses a turbocharged four-cylinder engine, as Ford emphasizes that it can do more with less. Under the hood is a 2.3L motor that makes 270 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque. Does it feel less powerful or less refined than the six in the Colorado? Rest easy, Ford fans, as this is a delightful mill, feeling more civilized than many of the other engines in this segment. This might have to do with the 10-speed automatic transmission. Anytime you call for more acceleration or less, it swaps ratios seamlessly. Like the Colorado, it can operate in two- or four-wheel drive, the latter featuring high and low ranges.
Chevrolet Colorado Powertrain: 7.5/10
Ford Ranger Powertrain: 7.5/10
With a spare tire mounted in its bed, the Colorado doesn’t resemble a practical truck. However, it is somewhat easily removed – given you’re handy with a set of tools. Doing so will free up that box for use, along with 1,170 L of volume. But the ZR2 is limiting in other ways, like towing and hauling. The off-road-ready truck is outfitted with some heavy-duty hardware, and while that’s helpful on the trails, it adds weight, which impacts total towing and hauling figures. As it stands here, you’ll be ready to tow 5,000 lb with the ZR2 and pack just 1,100 lb in the bed. Non-ZR2 Colorados have slightly higher limits.
The Ranger, on the other hand, seems pared down and is relatively lightweight, which helps it tow and haul more. The Ranger can handle up to 7,500 lb when towing and a payload of 1,860 lb, although that depends on the configuration. The bed is more practical too. There’s a maximum of 1,226 L in our model, which isn’t a huge difference but paired with the other aspects of the Ranger, help it score an extra point over the Chevy.
Chevrolet Colorado Utility: 7/10
Ford Ranger Utility: 8/10
The Colorado shines most when it’s being driven. On-road, the Chevy is feels more refined than almost any truck I’ve piloted. That’s thanks to the special suspension developed by Ontario-based Multimatic. Normally, this firm specializes in race-car tech, but the ZR2 represents its first attempt at tackling an off-road truck. It aces the test with the Dynamic Suspension Spool Valve (DSSV) dampers. By replacing the pistons and shims in conventional dampers with spool valves, the ZR2 can ride comfortably with exceptional responsiveness on the road, while also being excellent off-road. It’s designed to tackle bumps and off-roading without influencing the ride while commuting. While smooth on-road, the ZR2 is more than capable off-road, with 226 millimetres of ground clearance to go with 30-degree approach, 23.5-degree departure, and 23.5-degree breakover angles. Finally, it has locking front and rear differentials for when the going gets tough.
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The Ranger is not bad to drive, it’s just not as refined-feeling as the Colorado ZR2. The steering is responsive, making the Ranger feel agile for a truck. It’s what small-truck buyers are probably looking for, drive-wise. I find the ride can be a bit bouncy, hinting at the Ranger’s promise to be a capable hauler, as this would settle down with a bit of weight in the back or attached to a hitch. While the Ranger isn’t as hardcore as the ZR2, it offers the FX4 off-road package, adding several notable features like an electronic locking rear differential, extra protection for the underbody, different shocks, and a terrain management system. This last item is activated through a dial, and the truck adjusts the traction and stability controls to improve its capability on different surfaces. Curiously, the Ranger isn’t too far off the Colorado in terms of capability, with a 28.7-degree approach angle, an impressive 25.4-degree departure angle, and an average 21.5-degree breakover angle. It has 226 millimetres of ground clearance just like the Colorado.
Chevrolet Colorado Driving: 9/10
Ford Ranger Driving: 7/10
Small trucks are supposed to be efficient. It’s all about doing as much as possible in a smaller package than a half-ton. The Colorado V6 makes more horsepower than the V6-powered Silverado 1500, and it should be lighter too, making this a solid choice for those who want a truck without spending a pile at the fuel pumps. Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) tells buyers that they can expect 15.0 L/100 km in the city, 13.0 L/100 km on the highway, and 14.1 L/100 km combined. Our experience on a quick rural test drive was considerably better than the expectations, as the trip computer indicated 12.6 L/100 km.
The Ranger uses a smaller engine with a turbocharger, so if you’re not calling on the boost, it should be even more fuel-efficient. Additionally, it features engine stop-start technology, contributing to its NRCan ratings of 11.8 L/100 km in the city, 9.8 L/100 km on the highway, and 10.9 L/100 km combined. In our test, the Ranger earned exactly 10.9 L/100 km, making it far more efficient than the Colorado.
Chevrolet Colorado Fuel Economy: 6.5/10
Ford Ranger Fuel Economy: 8/10
The Colorado and Ranger have very different approaches to safety. In the Colorado, safety is achieved by being the most unmissable thing on the road. That’s to say, there are no additional safety systems – no lane-keeping system, adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring, or fancy cameras this side of the rearview. However, the Colorado ZR2 does offer GM’s OnStar telematics system that can help you in the case of a collision, set limits for a teen driver, and even act as a concierge when needed.
The Ranger doesn’t have that kind of telematics system, but it does have a wider collection of safety highlights and driver’s assistance systems. A forward-collision warning system is found here, with automatic braking alongside a blind spot monitoring system, trailer sway control, and adaptive cruise control. Suffice it to say, the Ranger has the technology to make driving it feel easier and less stressful.
Chevrolet Colorado Safety: 6/10
Ford Ranger Safety: 7.5/10
Neither of these trucks is exceptional value, as both are priced over $50,000. The ZR2 is full of personality, and that counts for a lot, but it suffers in terms of safety tech and interior appointments. It’s not as practical as the Ranger either, which are all important factors when deciding to spend $56,465 on one of these two trucks.
The Ranger is less special-feeling, but it has a larger bed and can tow more. It also comes with a few safety and driver’s assistance systems, and earns much better fuel economy than the Colorado. Unfortunately, it looks cheap and doesn’t have the most memorable driving experience. With a price tag of $51,859, it’s hard to call the Ranger a good value.
Chevrolet Colorado Value: 6/10
Ford Ranger Value: 6/10
The scorecards paint a very close and interesting picture. Each truck dominates in a few fields but are merely average in others. The Colorado has excellent driving dynamics and looks great, but everything else is just okay. The Ranger has a nice motor, good fuel economy and some modern safety gear, but suffers everywhere else, especially in terms of design. The very sensible scorecard says the two are evenly matched, but any time we had a choice, we jumped at the chance to drive the ZR2 again. When a truck drives this well and looks this cool, why not?
Chevrolet Colorado ZR2: 56.5/80
Ford Ranger: 56.5/80
||2019 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2||2019 Ford Ranger Lariat|
|Peak horsepower||306 hp @ 6, 800 rpm||270 hp @ 5,500 rpm|
|Peak torque||275 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm||310 lb-ft @ 3,000 rpm|
|Fuel economy||15.0/13.0/14.1 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb||11.8/9.8/10.9 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb|
|Cargo space||1,169 L||1,226 L|
|Price as Tested||$56,465||$51,859|