2021 Honda Ridgeline vs. Toyota Tacoma Comparison

Erin Riches-Wong | Jul 14, 2021

Honda and Toyota have two different takes on what makes a great midsize pickup truck. The Honda Ridgeline appeals to casual truck users seeking the utility of an open cargo bed without giving up the comforts and conveniences of a crossover SUV. The Toyota Tacoma calls to those consumers who want a rugged vehicle that drives like a truck and imparts a sense of durability, especially during off-road adventures.

Which approach is better? It depends on whom you ask. Based on the J.D. Power 2020 Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study, Honda Ridgeline owners have a strong emotional attachment to their vehicles: The Honda ranked first among midsize trucks. On the other hand, more people buy Toyota Tacomas each year than any other midsize truck.

If you have either pickup on your shortlist, this 2021 Honda Ridgeline vs. 2021 Toyota Tacoma comparison will help you zero in on what matters to you.

Price and Value

2021 Honda Ridgeline Sport AWD Silver Front Quarter View

2021 Honda Ridgeline Sport

Unusual among midsize pickup trucks, the 2021 Honda Ridgeline comes in a single configuration. All Ridgelines are crew cabs with four forward-hinged doors, a spacious rear seat, and a 64-inch-long open cargo bed. There is no long-bed version of the Honda Ridgeline.

Consumers will find that the Ridgeline ranges in price from $36,490 to $43,920, not including a $1,225 destination charge. Honda's midsize truck comes in Sport, RTL, RTL-E, and Black Edition trim levels.

While most midsize pickups give you a choice between 2-wheel drive (2WD) and 4-wheel drive (4WD), the Ridgeline comes exclusively with Honda's Intelligent Variable Torque Management (i-VTM4) all-wheel-drive (AWD) system. Like the Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) offered on Acuras, this system can transfer torque from side to side to improve performance both on- and off-road. It also provides multiple terrain modes. With only 7.6 inches of ground clearance, though, the Ridgeline can't venture too far off the beaten path.

Although Hondalink connected services come with all 2021 Ridgelines, you don't get much functionality other than rapid access to roadside assistance during the basic warranty period. Honda will likely address this issue soon, given that the related Passport and Pilot already offer more connected services.

Honda does not offer complimentary scheduled maintenance.

The 2021 Toyota Tacoma comes in a handful of cab-and-bed configurations. The Tacoma Access Cab, also known as an extended cab, has small, rear-hinged rear doors and a pair of jump seats. This space comes in handy if you need to haul a few bags of groceries when it's raining. Buyers with children will do better with the Tacoma Double Cab (or crew cab) and its conventional rear doors and fully functional rear bench seat.

All Access Cabs come with a 74-inch cargo bed. The Double Cab has a standard 60-inch bed, but the 74-inch bed is available if you need more space and have the extra patience required to park a long-bed Tacoma Double Cab.

Consumers will find that the 2021 Tacoma ranges in price from $26,400 to $44,325, not including a $1,175 destination charge. Toyota's midsize pickup comes in SR, SR5, TRD Sport, TRD Off-Road, Limited, and TRD Pro trim levels.

You can equip most Tacomas with either 2WD or a traditional, part-time 4WD system with a 2-speed transfer case (something the Honda doesn't have). Four-wheel-drive comes standard on the TRD Pro, and both it and 4WD versions of the TRD Off-Road trim come with a locking rear differential. With an automatic transmission installed, these two trims also get Crawl Control (off-road cruise control) and a multi-terrain system. And with 9.4 inches of ground clearance, the Tacoma can take on pretty serious trails.

Every 2021 Toyota Tacoma has a 1-year trial subscription to Toyota's connected services. Features include automatic collision notification, rapid access to roadside help, concierge services, and remote engine start and unlocking. The Tacoma also has a Wi-Fi hotspot, and you'll get a 3-month subscription with a 2-gigabyte data limit.

Toyota offers complimentary scheduled maintenance for the first two years or 25,000 miles that you own a Tacoma.

The Toyota Tacoma ranked first among midsize pickup trucks in the J.D. Power 2020 Resale Value Awards.

Advantage: Toyota Tacoma

Reliability and Quality

2021 Toyota Tacoma TRD Off-Road Green Front Quarter View

2021 Toyota Tacoma TRD

The Honda Ridgeline ranks second among midsize trucks in the J.D. Power 2021 Vehicle Dependability Study and third in the 2020 Initial Quality Study. The 2021 Honda Ridgeline comes with the following warranty and roadside assistance coverage:

  • Standard warranty: 3 years or 36,000 miles
  • Powertrain warranty: 5 years or 60,000 miles
  • Roadside assistance: 3 years or 36,000 miles

The Toyota Tacoma does not rank among the top midsize trucks in either the 2021 Vehicle Dependability Study or the 2020 Initial Quality Study. The 2021 Toyota Tacoma comes with the following warranty and roadside assistance coverage:

  • Standard warranty: 3 years or 36,000 miles
  • Powertrain warranty: 5 years or 60,000 miles
  • Roadside assistance: 3 years and unlimited mileage

Advantage: Honda Ridgeline

Performance and Efficiency

2021 Honda Ridgeline Interior Dashboard

2021 Honda Ridgeline

Every 2021 Honda Ridgeline comes with a 3.5-liter V6 engine that makes 280 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque. It ranks among the most potent and refined 6-cylinder engines in this class. A 9-speed automatic transmission is standard.

The Environmental Protection Agency rates the Ridgeline's fuel economy in combined city and highway driving at 21 mpg.

You have two engines to choose from on the 2021 Toyota Tacoma. The base 2.7-liter 4-cylinder is rated at 159 hp and 180 pound-feet of torque and comes only with a 6-speed automatic transmission. Those are modest numbers for a 4,000-pound truck, so most Tacoma buyers get the available 3.5-liter V6 engine. It makes 278 hp and 265 pound-feet of torque. You can select a 6-speed automatic or 6-speed manual transmission.

Two-wheel-drive Tacomas rate 21 mpg in combined driving, regardless of engine. Four-wheel-drive trucks rate 20 mpg as long as your Tacoma has an automatic transmission.

With the manual transmission, the V6 Tacoma rates just 18 mpg in combined driving. You'll likely see lower mpg on the TRD Pro, as its lifted suspension and all-terrain tires are a drag on fuel economy.

Advantage: Honda Ridgeline

Tow Ratings and Trailering Equipment

Among midsize trucks, the 2021 Honda Ridgeline has a low tow rating. It tops out at 5,000 pounds. And keep in mind that your Ridgeline will only have this rating if you purchase an accessory towing kit from your Honda dealership.

You'll want the V6 engine if you're going to tow a trailer with a 2021 Toyota Tacoma. A properly equipped Tacoma Double Cab with a V6 engine and the short bed has a tow rating of 6,700 pounds (6,400 pounds with 4WD).

Most versions of the Tacoma are available with a surround-view monitor (some trims have the Multi-Terrain Monitor, others have the Panoramic View Monitor). 

Although there are no guidelines specific to hooking up a trailer, you'll be able to see what's in front of, the sides of, and behind your truck.

You'll also want to pay attention to payload ratings when taking adventures with a midsize truck. Every version of the Honda Ridgeline has a payload rating of at least 1,500 pounds, while a V6 4WD Toyota Tacoma Double Cab tops out at 1,155 pounds (1,355 with 2WD).

Advantage: Toyota Tacoma

Safety and Driving Assistance

2021 Toyota Tacoma Trail Edition Interior Profile

2021 Toyota Tacoma Trail Edition

The 2021 Honda Ridgeline comes standard with nearly all the advanced driving assistance aids (ADAS) you're likely to want. The truck's Honda Sensing package bundles a forward-collision warning (FCW) system with automatic emergency braking (AEB), lane-departure warnings (LDW), and adaptive cruise control. Also included are lane-keeping assist (LKA), which Honda calls Road Departure Mitigation, and lane-centering assistance, which the automaker confusingly markets as Lane Keeping Assist.

All Ridgelines except the base Sport have a blind-spot warning (BSW) system and rear cross-traffic warnings. Automatic high-beam headlight control is standard on the RTL-E and Black Edition.

In National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) testing, the 2021 Ridgeline has a 5-star rating for overall crash protection. In testing conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), the Ridgeline earned Good ratings in most categories. It rated Acceptable for front-passenger protection in the small-overlap frontal-offset crashes. In addition, the IIHS gave it a Marginal rating for headlight performance.

Every 2021 Toyota Tacoma comes standard with Toyota Safety Sense, which includes FCW with pedestrian detection, AEB, LDW, adaptive cruise control, and automatic high-beam headlights. Most versions of the Tacoma can be equipped with an optional BSW system with rear cross-traffic warnings.

The 2021 Tacoma earned 4 out of 5 stars for overall crash protection from the NHTSA. In IIHS testing, the Tacoma Double Cab earned Good ratings in most categories and an Acceptable rating for front-passenger protection in the small-overlap frontal-offset crash test. The IIHS gave a Marginal rating to the halogen headlights on lower-trim Tacomas, while the LED headlights on higher trims rate Good.

Advantage: Honda Ridgeline

Infotainment and Technology

2021 Honda Ridgeline Sport Silver Rear Quarter View

2021 Honda Ridgeline Sport

Every 2021 Honda Ridgeline comes with an 8-inch touchscreen infotainment interface with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration. Honda added a much-needed volume knob to this interface for 2021, but no hard buttons surround the screen to fast-track you through the touchscreen's menus.

The RTL-E and Black Edition trims have factory navigation and voice-recognition technology. However, the latter is dated and requires you to phrase your commands carefully and endure long processing times. If you want to use voice controls in your Ridgeline, you're better off doing it via Android Auto or Apple CarPlay.

All Ridgelines have two USB ports up front, and the higher trims have two more in the back seat. The RTL-E and Black Edition also have a wireless phone charging pad.

The base 2021 Toyota Tacoma SR comes standard with a 7-inch touchscreen infotainment interface with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The Tacoma SR5 upgrades to an 8-inch touchscreen interface. Higher trims offer factory navigation with voice control.

Introduced for the 2020 model year, these infotainment interfaces include plenty of shortcut buttons for the various menus, along with both volume and tuning knobs. And the voice-recognition technology is smart enough to understand typical verbal commands.

All Toyota Tacomas have three USB ports up front, but you can't get rear-seat ports. A wireless charging pad is available starting on the TRD Sport trim.

Advantage: Toyota Tacoma

Comfort and Utility

2021 Toyota Tacoma TRD Off-Road Green Rear Quarter View

2021 Toyota Tacoma TRD

If you like convenience, you'll be smitten with the 2021 Honda Ridgeline. Every Ridgeline comes with a dual-action, locking tailgate that can swing open to the side or drop down to ease loading. Also standard is Honda's In-Bed Trunk, a 7.3-cubic-foot lockable storage compartment located in the floor of the cargo bed. It has both a drain plug (in case it's used as a cooler) and grocery bag hooks.

All Honda Ridgelines come with eight tie-down cleats. Higher trims have a 120-volt, 400-watt power outlet in the bed as well as a truck-bed audio system so you can listen to a sporting event while picnicking.

The Ridgeline's front seats ranked second among mass-market trucks and vans in the J.D. Power 2020 U.S. Seat Quality and Satisfaction Study, and J.D. Power's independent vehicle testing experts have given these seats high marks as well. The inboard armrests represent a potential annoyance as they impede buckling the seat belt. Otherwise, the Ridgeline's cabin has an attractive design, and materials quality is high. It also includes triple-zone climate control—a rare amenity in a midsize truck.

In comparison, the 2021 Toyota Tacoma's cab feels almost quaint. It's a modern-day example of what trucks used to look like when people used them for work and adventuring rather than daily commutes. Nevertheless, you'll like the functionality of the Tacoma's large, round vents and oversized control buttons, dials, and knobs.

Getting in and out of a Tacoma can be tricky unless you're tall or exceptionally limber. And even with 10-way power seat adjustments on most trims, it's hard to find a good driving position if you're over 6 feet tall.

Older kids will enjoy the Tacoma Double Cab's back seat. The high-mounted rear bench provides a fine view, while the available power-sliding rear window makes it easy to let in the fresh air. Unfortunately, there are no rear air-conditioning vents, even though most Tacomas are available with dual-zone climate control up front.

All 2021 Toyota Tacomas come standard with four fixed cargo tie-downs in the bed and four adjustable cleats on a rail system. If you want more functionality, Toyota offers a Trail Special Edition package with two lockable storage compartments, one of which can double as a cooler. Most Tacomas come with a 120-volt, 400-watt cargo-bed outlet.

Advantage: Honda Ridgeline

Learn More About the Honda Ridgeline and Toyota Tacoma

If you'd like to learn more about these midsize trucks, be sure to read our expert reviews of the 2021 Honda Ridgeline and 2021 Toyota Tacoma, including the TRD Pro off-road version. To find out how people like you rate vehicles in this segment, be sure to check out our ratings from verified vehicle owners.

Also, please keep in mind that while the information in this article was accurate and valid on July 14, 2021, it may have changed since that date. Always confirm product details and availability with the automaker's website or your local dealership.

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