2021 Honda Ridgeline vs 2021 Ford Ranger: Compare Trucks

The redesigned Honda Ridgeline squares off against an old foe in the 2021 Ford Ranger. The challenge in deciding between these two mid-size trucks might be all the other new trucks coming to market, ranging from the small 2022 Ford Maverick hybrid to the electric 2022 Rivian R1T. 

The difference between the Ridgeline and Ranger seems simple: If you want a truck that feels like a truck and acts like a truck, then it’s the Ford Ranger. If you want a utility vehicle with the functionality of a truck but the ride quality of a crossover, then it’s the Ridgeline. But there are truck things the Honda does better, such as its versatile bed, and some on-road things the Ranger does better, such as its turbo-4 power and fuel economy. 

Honda redesigned the 2021 Ridgeline to better look the part of a truck, and to separate it from the related Honda Pilot three-row SUV. The blunt nose sports a broader grille with a bulged hood, and in back twin exhaust pipes add some growl to all that black cladding around the truck. New for 2021 is an appearance package from Honda Performance Development that adds huge fender flares and 18-inch bronze wheels. Opinions over here are split on the cosmetic package.

2021 Ford Ranger Tremor, left, and 2021 Honda Ridgeline HPD, right

2021 Ford Ranger Tremor, left, and 2021 Honda Ridgeline HPD, right

2021 Ford Ranger Tremor, left, and 2021 Honda Ridgeline HPD, right

2021 Ford Ranger Tremor, left, and 2021 Honda Ridgeline HPD, right

2021 Ford Ranger Tremor, left, and 2021 Honda Ridgeline HPD, right

2021 Ford Ranger Tremor, left, and 2021 Honda Ridgeline HPD, right

2021 Ford Ranger Tremor, left, and 2021 Honda Ridgeline HPD, right

2021 Ford Ranger Tremor, left, and 2021 Honda Ridgeline HPD, right

Ford migrated the Tremor off-road package from the Super Duty all the way down to the Ranger, adding skid plates, 17-inch wheels with all-terrain tires, an off-road suspension with Fox shocks, and nearly an inch of lift. Though old, the 2021 Ranger has all the hallmarks of a Ford truck, with rounded wheel arches, boxy ends, and prominent body stamping and badging.

Dimensionally, the trucks are similarly sized, but the Ranger has a longer wheelbase and can be had with an extended cab or crew cab. Both trucks come with a 5-foot bed, but Ranger shoppers can get a 6-foot bed with the extended cab. It’s pretty cramped behind those rear-hinged rear doors with only 30.4 inches of rear leg room. The Ranger crew cab only extends to 34.5 inches of rear leg room, similar to many small crossovers. 

The Ridgeline has 36.7 inches back there, for a roomier, comfier, and quieter place to be overall. The dash layout and ride quality could easily be mistaken for a Honda Pilot, and its unibody construction feels calmer than the bounciness of the Ranger’s body-on-frame build. The Ridgeline’s bed has an advantage, however, with a two-way tailgate that can swing out as well as down, and an in-bed trunk with water-tight storage that can be used as a cooler. We like trucks with tricks. 

2021 Ford Ranger Tremor, left, and 2021 Honda Ridgeline HPD, right

2021 Ford Ranger Tremor, left, and 2021 Honda Ridgeline HPD, right

2021 Ford Ranger Tremor, left, and 2021 Honda Ridgeline HPD, right

2021 Ford Ranger Tremor, left, and 2021 Honda Ridgeline HPD, right

2021 Ford Ranger Tremor, left, and 2021 Honda Ridgeline HPD, right

2021 Ford Ranger Tremor, left, and 2021 Honda Ridgeline HPD, right

2021 Ford Ranger Tremor, left, and 2021 Honda Ridgeline HPD, right

2021 Ford Ranger Tremor, left, and 2021 Honda Ridgeline HPD, right

Though the Ridgeline’s cabin is a more relaxing place to work, the Ranger handles truck duty better and, surprisingly, more efficiently. Ford’s plucky 2.3-liter turbo-4 spins out 270 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque to the rear wheels, and has some guts off the line and when needing to pass. The quick-acting 10-speed automatic doesn’t even bother with first gear until it’s towing anything up to its 7,500-lb capacity, or hauling around 1,860 lbs in the bed and cab. The independent front suspension and solid rear axle prove their worth better off-road, with four-wheel drive standard on either an FX4 package that has an electronic locking rear differential, or the Tremor package and its more robust Fox shocks.

The Ridgeline comes standard with all-wheel drive that can handle jaunts down modest trails, but it’s meant more for on-road traction. The 3.5-liter V-6 is overshadowed by Ford’s turbo-4 with an output of 280 hp and 262 lb-ft. It can tow up to 5,000 lb, and has a payload of about 1,500 lb, depending on how it’s equipped. Power comes on later in the rev range, but the 9-speed automatic doesn’t keep the engine there too often. 

2021 Honda Ridgeline HPD

2021 Honda Ridgeline HPD

2021 Honda Ridgeline HPD

2021 Honda Ridgeline HPD

2021 Honda Ridgeline HPD

2021 Honda Ridgeline HPD

2021 Honda Ridgeline HPD

2021 Honda Ridgeline HPD

Despite being more trucky, the Ranger’s turbo-4 excels at efficiency with an EPA rating of 20 mpg city, 24 highway, 22 combined with four-wheel drive; rear-drive versions gain 1 mpg combined. The Ridgeline and its AWD system gets 18/24/21 mpg combined.  

The Ranger costs less, too, but it’s a bare-bones throwback most shoppers will leap over; we recommend the XLT crew cab with four-wheel drive, which is similarly priced to the $38,000 Ridgeline Sport. 

The base Sport comes well equipped with standard automatic emergency braking, active lane control, adaptive cruise control, and a five-star crash-test rating. The Ranger XLT comes with the same safety gear and blind-spot monitors, but it has only a four-star crash rating.

2021 Ford Ranger Tremor

2021 Ford Ranger Tremor

2021 Ford Ranger Tremor

2021 Ford Ranger Tremor

2021 Ford Ranger Tremor

2021 Ford Ranger Tremor

2021 Ford Ranger Tremor

2021 Ford Ranger Tremor

Standard features favor the Ridgeline as well, with LED headlights, keyless start, cloth upholstery, power features, and an 8.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. The Ranger XLT has similar upgrades over its poorly equipped base model.

Our TCC Rating scale favors the total package, which is why the Ridgeline’s comfort, roominess, and standard features earn it a 7.0 out of 10 compared to the Ranger’s rough-riding 5.2. But if you want a truck that feels like a truck, there’s no denying the Ranger.

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