Published on Friday 28 August 2020 in Van News
Pickup trucks are often driven as a user's personal & commercial vehicle because they blend the practicality of a van with the comfort of a modern SUV. The Nissan Navara & Ford Ranger are perfect examples of this which is why Vanarama has asked resident Van Expert Tom Roberts to put them head-to-head in his latest comparison article.
Let's start with a simple fact: Ford & Nissan understand how to make good personal & commercial vehicles. Ford's van & car ranges are extensive & sell very well, Nissan has a similarly extensive range of vehicles & is a clear market leader at the electric end of the market. The Ford Ranger & Nissan Navara, therefore, are 2 pickup trucks that come from good stock & before I started writing this article I rated them both equally high on my list of favourite pickups trucks.
Today, I think that pickups all look the same - they may have different badges & headlight styling, but there's not a lot to choose from when it comes to looks. The same can be said of their loading bays - they're all 1.5m wide by 1.5m long boxes in double cab pickup trucks & capable of carrying loads just over 1,000kg in weight. Capabilities are so similar across the market that you must be more selective to ensure you get what you need from a pickup.
This is why putting these 2 vehicles head-to-head must be done on harsher terms & why I feel that pickup trucks in general need to be rated more strongly on their cabins & engines above anything else. So, that's what I've done.
Under The Bonnet
Things get interesting straight away - engines are the first place these 2 behemoths of the pickup truck world are noticeably different.
Nissan continues to use the excellent 2.3-litre four-cylinder dCi turbodiesel engines in the Navara available in 163hp (despite Nissan often calling the "160hp version") & 190hp power outputs. These are brilliant engines giving customers a simple choice between 'powerful' & 'more powerful'. They offer up excellent real-world running costs & Nissan's incredible five-year (100,000-mile) warranty with long servicing intervals is the icing on the cake.
Meanwhile, Ford has replaced the Ranger's 2.2-litre engines of old with 3 new 2.0-litre EcoBlue four-cylinder turbodiesels available in 130hp single turbo, 170hp single turbo & 213hp bi-turbo power outputs. These are also brilliant engines, but against the Navara I always question the inclusion of the lower-power 130hp engine. Personally, I think that it's an addition that only makes sense from a budget point of view, which is a shame because the 170hp & 213hp engines are so good I hate the idea that people might miss out on them.
Tom's Winner: The Nissan Navara wins for me on the simplicity of the engines available & the no-nonsense confidence boost that the 5-year warranty offers customers. Ford's engines are excellent & reliable, but I admire Nissan's confidence in their offering.
On The Outside
The current generation of Ford Rangers & Nissan Navaras are mid-cycle updates or facelifts. Essentially, they're built on the same reliable platforms as before but have been made to look a bit nicer (although that's down to personal taste).
You will find the Navara available in 2 styles: King Cab (featuring short back doors & seats/bench with a longer loading bay) & Double Cab with 4 full doors, proper rear seats & a short loading bay. Double Cabs sell better & you have many more trim options available if you choose one.
As for the Ranger, it's available in Regular Cab, Super Cab & Double Cab styles. The first two are basically single cab versions with shorter back doors, smaller seats & longer loading bays, the latter is the more recognisable 4-door version with shorter loading bays. However, trim levels are more evenly distributed across Ford's range - which might just give Ford the edge in this category.
Overall, the Ford Ranger is big & tough with a new design at the front end which splits the solid cross bar of old into 2. The Nissan Navara meanwhile looks pretty much the same but with nicer wheel arches & great new alloys. There's not a lot else to say here.
Tom's Winner: Joint winners. Like I said at the start of this article - while looks do play a part in which pickup truck you look at first, it's not what you're going to base your choice on. Both the Ranger & Navara look good.
In The Cabin
This category is another one where things get interesting - I'm looking for the best SUV-like interior. It's a hotly contested area that manufacturers are competing hard on to get right for every conceivable driver/passenger.
Let's start with the Ford Ranger. It's packed with storage, including a really useful 8.5-litre bin in the centre console. Visibility is excellent thanks to the combination of a sweeping & wide windscreen - the large door mirrors also help a lot in this area. You get tonnes of options too, including parking sensors, reversing cameras, automatic park assist & more. Ford's excellent Sync 3 8.0-inch infotainment display screen comes as standard on Limited & top-spec Wildtrak models, but can be added as an optional extra on lower trim levels.
The Ranger is also very smart with Android Auto & Apple CarPlay connectivity packed in alongside the FordPass Connect system that offers a 4G mobile hotspot for up to 10 devices. That same system even lets you connect to the vehicle remotely on your phone via an app - you can lock the vehicle, check its tyre pressure, mileage & even find out where it is if you lose it in a busy car park. The seats are also incredibly comfortable & spacious - exactly what you'd expect from a manufacturer with so much driver/passenger comfort experience.
Now, onto the Nissan Navara which definitely features a car-like cabin taking all sorts of cues from Nissan's range of SUVs. But, the Navara's interior is not quite as exciting as the Ford Ranger's - everything is where it should be, it works, it's ergonomic, it's just not at the same level of driver/passenger experience. Storage is fine & functional, there's plenty of space (pun intended, because apparently NASA helped design the seats), but there's little wow factor - but then not every user is looking for that.
The driving position seems a little low in the Navara - even more so because of its high bonnet - but the 360-degree camera set up available as an option is excellent & reduces this issue to a minor consideration. Infotainment is provided by Nissan's system which, apart from a clunky interface, packs all the same features you'd expect in a modern system. Seat comfort is good, but feels slightly more spongy than the Ranger.
Tom's Winner: It's got to be the Ford Ranger - across the models it feels like Ford has thought of everything & everyone. The Nissan Navara is not bad, however, just less refined overall. Which one you choose will depend on what you want from your pickup truck - if it's all-round commercial & personal comfort either one will work.
In The Loading Bay
Here we are, the final category & the one where both the Nissan Navara & Ford Ranger are more similar than ever. Both can carry payloads of over 1,000kg (they have to be able to do this so they can be classed as commercial vehicles) & in the Double Cab body types their loading bays are simple 1.56m wide by 1.56m long boxes & they can both be fitted with a variety of canopies, roller shutters & pop-top covers.
Towing is also an area they match up on. Ford Rangers are capable of towing between 2,500kg to 3,500kg in weight using braked trailers & 750kg unbraked across the range. The Nissan Navaras, meanwhile, achieve exactly the same maximum braked towage of 3,500kg too. There's really not a whole lot to choose between them.
Tom's Winner: Joint winners. They do exactly what modern pickup trucks are expected to do. They're equally capable of carrying & towing heavy weights. Simple as.
Nissan Navara Vs Ford Ranger: Tom's Takeaways
Comparing these 2 pickup trucks has actually been quite fun. I've been forced to properly look at them & weigh up their attributes - they no longer occupy the same spot in my head as "favourite pickup trucks". But don't let that sway you either way.
I rate the Ford Ranger highly on cabin quality & overall experience, which is more down to personal taste than anything else. Equally, I rate the Nissan Navara's looks & engines highly. But in my opinion, a pickup truck has to be more than just good-looking & efficient - the vast majority of pickup drivers use them as work & family vehicles. They have to be just as comfortable as they are practical. Now, they're my favourite pickup trucks for different reasons & I'd never recommend one over the other until I understood what a user actually wanted to do with it.
My advice? Do your research & work out which pickup truck gives you the best blend of efficient engines, passenger practicality & driver comfort for how you intend to use it. External looks are nice, but most pickups look the same, it's the engines & cabins that really make the difference. Happy hunting.
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