By on September 21, 2006

b-series_front_3-4_beauty.jpgI'm good with names. Meet me at a party. Five hours and seven beers later, I'll cruise up and say, "Hey Benjamin, how goes it?" That’s assuming A) your name is Benjamin and B) you’re interesting. If a person is as dull as Tuesday afternoon C-Span, then the part of my brain that puts faces to names shuts down. I mention this because I had to click over to to figure out if I’m driving the B4000 or B4400.  Turns out it’s the former. Who knew?

Design-wise, Mazda usually does one of two things: nail it (Miata, Mazda3) or overcook it (RX-8, Speed6). The designers of the B-Series truck didn't even try. It’s a pastiche of truck clichés that shouts “cheap!” like a 3,915 pound canary. The B4000’s pinched front end and teeny grill are not only two-decades behind the truck-times, but they’re pug ugly. Three-spoke wheels have never and will never look good on any vehicle. On the B4000 they look fat, too. DCX may have copied the B4000’s chunky wheel arches for their new S-Class, but at least they had the good sense to round them out. A squared off half-circle says "accident survivor" to me.

b-series_cockpit.jpg Like Toyota 4Runners of yore, you enter the B4000 by climbing into a high-floored cabin– that forces you to sit with your legs sticking nearly straight out. In terms of quality, style and livability, the B4000’s interior is lower-rent than a Chernobyl apartment building. I'm not calling the Mazda’s seats the worst I've ever sat in, but that’s only because I’ve given Old Sparky a miss. More specifically, the chairs are less supportive than Hugo Chavez on America’s Iraq policy. While the rear “seats” are small and cramped enough to render the word useless useless, the quarter-sized doors are easy to open in tight quarters. The resulting space behind the front seat is perfect for lugging a bag of groceries or three.

Fake carbon fiber surrounds the B4000’s radio. Why would Mazda go for faux race car chic in a truck that’s less sporty than NBC’s smallest loser? The scalloped vents along the top of the dash are… bizarre. On the positive side, the B4000’s column-shifter frees-up the center console for more storage-nooks and holding-crannies than the Honda Ridgeline.

b-series_rear_action.jpg The B4000 is the best handling small truck on the road– if you transport yourself back to its 1994 debut. Twelve-years later, the truck is showing its age with less grace than Kathleen Turner. Rough roads make turning the wheel an impromptu low rider bounce clinic. Smooth pavement highlights the chassis’s other shortcomings. On the positive side, um, above 70mph you get a free hand massage from the vibrating steering wheel. And some might find the squeak in the steering column soothing.

For those of you with points on your license, getting Mazda’s truck to crest 80mph on anything other than an Olympic ski jump is very, very difficult. The 4.0-liter 12-valve V6 powerplant kicks out 207hp @ 5,250rpm and stumps up 238lbs. feet of torque @ 3,000rpm– well behind the power Toyota’s same-sized mill produces in the much newer Tacoma. The B4000’s speed sensitive rack and pinion power steering makes it easy to exploit whatever speed you generate. The ABS brakes shed it just as easily. And if you baby the B, it’ll travel 16 mpg in the city, 20 in the highway.  If you drive it, you won’t.

b-series_rear_3-4_beauty.jpg Unlike the modern behemoths so bewildering to Japanese engineers everywhere, the B4000 has a low load in height. Case in point: I helped a friend haul a VW Karmann Ghia 1500 engine back from a machine shop. We were able to lift the two-hundred pound lump of magnesium and pig-iron out of the Mazda’s bed, no problem. While an F-150 can haul more in terms of weight, the B4000 comes standard with a 72-inch bed, to the F-150's 66-incher. For most people most of the time, the 4000 (and its clone, the Ford Ranger) makes a lot more sense than the full-sized trucks used by some of the people all of the time.

In fact, it’s too bad Mazda let the B4000 die on the vine. Gas prices may have dipped in the past few weeks, but the country’s automotive gestalt has shifted. Enormous and irresponsible is out; moderate and slightly less irresponsible is in. It’s the perfect time to release a small, efficient truck that’s about 80% as useful as the full-sized giants so many people are currently unloading (so to speak). But no, at a time when Honda’s Ridgeline has (almost) reignited and (just about) re-invented the light-truck market, FoMoCo is content to let another market segment fall entirely into the hands of Honda, Toyota and Nissan. While the B4000 has its supporters, it will eventually be remembered as a forgettable experience.

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62 Comments on “Mazda B4000 Review...”

  • avatar

    Yep, this thing is a heaping pile of 1994 (when I had a Ranger STX, almost Exactly the same vehicle).

    Jonny, if you seriously believe the the ridgeline has “reignited” or even “just about reinvented” the light truck market, you sir are living in a parallel universe. I live in truck-centric northern midwest and cant remember the last time I saw a ridgeline in the last month….or even two (thats not a joke).

  • avatar

    This is one of those “Ford inflicted on Mazda” products, like the Tribute. I don’t think Mazda has all that much to do with the basic design and the refulsal for more resources.

    There is a reason nobody buys those things.

    • 0 avatar
      Calvin Grimalkin

      I realize that this Post is about 10 years down the road from the others, I’d just like to add my 2 cents worth.

      This is now 2016, and I have 2000 B4000 extended cab that was built in 1999. So it is basically 17 years old, with 130,000 miles. Pretty much the only expenses have been gas, oil, tires, and normal wear and tear on brakes. Oh, and ball joints at 100,000 miles.

      I live in the sunny south, so no problem with rust at all. Paint job has held up remarkably well.

      The thing is, since it is basically a Ford Ranger, and built on pretty much the same chassis as the Explorer for close to 20 years, there is an endless supply of spare parts in the local junk yards. While I haven’t really “needed” any parts because they had worn out, I have upgraded the interior a couple of times with some higher end Ford Explorer power seats.

      Just from a physical appearance, it has not shown its age. While it doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of newer models, it still runs as good as when it was new, and the best part, I have not had a car payment on it for the last 12 years.

      Just Sayin’

  • avatar
    Martin Albright

    Hmmm…well, while I agree with some of what Johnny says I wouldn’t have so negative a take on it. I owned a 99 Ranger from 99 to 03 and was generally satisfied with it. The ride was perfectly fine for a 2wd truck and while the seat was less than perfect (way too soft) I took several long trips in the truck and it was actually more comfortable than my current Subaru.

    Mine had the 3.0l FF V6 engine (at a time when E85 was actually more expensive than regular unleaded) that was absolutely anemic – 150hp – but which was sufficient to propel the truck to freeway speeds, where I was happy to stay. One big advantage of the 3.0 and the 5-speed manual tranny was that I routinely clocked over 20mpg on the highway – one time I got as high as 26, but that was something of a fluke. Nevertheless, 23-24 was normal highway MPG and even in the city I could usually hit 20. I was on several Ranger message boards at the time and the abysmal MPG of the 4.0 (especially in the 4wd version) was a frequent topic of conversation.

    For me the truck was fine (except for the lack of 4wd, which was a PITA.) I deliberately chose one without any fancy easy-to-break components and the truck ran without a hiccup for 93,000 miles until I traded it in.

    When talking about trucks, I think it’s important to remember that a truck is not a car, and people who buy trucks buy them because they want a truck, not a car. In many ways, the only way to buy a “basic” vehicle without a lot of bells and whistles is to get a truck: Two speaker stereos, manual-crank windows and other simple features being harder and harder to find on cars.

    As for appearance, obviously it’s subjective. I like the Ranger/B-series looks, especially when you compare them to the competition: The ghastly, anime-inspired angularity of the Chevy, Dodge, Toyota and Nissan small trucks makes them look like oversized toys to me. The Ranger/B Series may not win any awards but at least it doesn’t look like something you’d find on one of those Japanese seizure-inducing cartoons.

    Honestly, I wish it was as easy to find the kind of basic simplicity in cars that you can in modern trucks. Not everybody needs rack and pinion steering, power windows and locks, 6-way-adjustable electric seats or heated windshield wipers. For a lot of people, four wheels, five speeds and a motor are plenty.

  • avatar
    Jeff in Canada

    Funny thing, the two least desirable products in the Mazda line-up are Ford products. Not to knock Ford, (I own both a Mazda and a Ford.) but they did really leave these products out in the pasture. While all the other brands went Supersized with their “compact” line-ups, Ford has left this and the Ranger alone.
    Were they to release a new, revitalized, truly compact Pick-up, I think it would be a smash hit! With The Tacoma’s and Frontier’s barely getting 20mpg, a good 4 cyl-6cyl Compact truck would have the market all to itself.
    There is still such a huge market for economical compact trucks, the powers that be at Ford/Mazda don’t seem to see it.

  • avatar

    13 years is quite the model run. Is there a new Ranger/B-series in the works?

  • avatar

    I had a 1990 B2200 that I bought new and kept for 10 years. This was a great small truck that I had no trouble with – the original tires lasted 50,000 miles! 25mpg! Of course this was made in Japan. Starting in 94 (I think) Mazda B trucks were re-badged Rangers, and it’s been all downhill since then.
    I will say that there is a market for a well-made small (1/4 ton) truck that gets good mileage. Lots of fleets need these: municipalities, messengers, etc. A diesel would be nice, too.

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    They’re made in Minnesota for now.

    Soon, 1800+ plus Americans will be sans-job when FoMoCo shutters the factory.

    And socsndaisy — give it time — you’ll catch up.

  • avatar

    Interestingly enough, I just posted about this truck in the ford deathwatch thread.

    although the truck could use some updating, I don’t know how much I’d actually change. fuel economy is most important by far, and I’d probably work on the ride. (where’s my F150 style suspension?)

    Interestingly enough, the only things that have failed on my girlfriend’s ’94 are the automatic locking hubs (now, not so automatic Warn hubs) and the (Mazda) 5-speed manual transmission.

    I blame the transmission on poor maintinance by the previous owner.

    But it hauls dirt, and furniture, and camping supplies like nobody’s business, and even tows pretty well.

    Update the safety features, suspension, and engine, add a little youth oriented marketing (and a couple fleet versions) and you’ve got yourself a winner!

  • avatar


    yeah same here. I am out in pickup land here in Omaha and I think I’ve only ever seen about 4 ridgelines. I see way more boxsters than ridgelines here, not to mention f-150s and sierras. In fact in the last few months I have seen more NSX’s on the roads than ridgelines, now that’s pretty rare in Nebraska. From here, I still can’t see why the media declared the ridgeline a pickup revolution.

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    Tixer: I agree with you — small trucks are great and a modern one would be welcome and probably do very well.

    This dinosaur should be and will be extinct very soon.

    Maxo: Again — like (almost) all Honda products, the Ridgeline will show up where you live. They are excpetionally well engineered.

    I would suggest going down to the dealer and climbing all over then driving one. A remarkable truck (with the odd exception of the stupidly high bed-walls).

  • avatar

    You lost me at the 3rd sarcastic remark…if I wanted something this bitter, I’d drink some limeade. I’ll try to reread this after a few beers and see if it’s worth suffering through. Cheers.

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    What kind of beer?

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    Jonny –

    I’m a huge Honda fan, but I have to agree with the hatin’ on the Ridgeline. Well built? Yes. Engineered? Superbly. Serves it’s purpose? Resolutely. Too bad it’s so hideous looking. I expect the next version to be toned down.

    Too bad Ford gave up on the Ranger/Mazda. Small is good again.

    Their lack of foresight continues to amaze me.

  • avatar

    Mordant wit and potent metaphors. Loved the writing on this one JL.

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    KingElvis: May God love and keep you.

    Dave M: It is only half-hideous looking. And, compared to the pig that is the Avalanche, the Ridgeline is… a baby pig.

  • avatar

    Comparing the Avalanche to a pig is insulting …to the pig!

    The stuff that comes out of the hind end of the fly, after it has eaten the stuff that came out of the hind end of the pig, is about the territory that defines the essence of the Avalanche.

  • avatar
    Tiger Commanche

    Wait a minute. Some chick helped you lift her Karmann Ghia engine out of the back of your truck? She must be really strong.

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    Some Chick?

    My buddy Scott.

  • avatar

    i like to think i have a pretty good knowledge of the automotive industry as a whole

    but i honestly thought they stopped making the Mazda B-series a year or two ago

    I mean, holy cow, they still make these? Why would you get one of these when you could get the Ford with probably a 50% rebate?

    That’s why they still make these trucks… they rebate the hell out of them, THEN people buy them.

  • avatar

    Johnny, I can appreciate your fondness for the Ridgeline but IMO Honda has a few obstacles to overcome before they can take on the Big 2.5 in the middle and rural America pick-up market.

    First off, Ford and Chevy have dealerships everywhere out there. There is almost always a Ford or Chevy dealer closer than most any other. Second, the majority of the time a truck is bought to do work. It might be a really nice truck with an upgraded interior and four doors and such, but it still often does work. The aftermarket accessory industry is huge for them, and you can get almost whatever you want to add on. Caps, campers, dump bed kits, bedliners, stake sides (usually home-built), etc etc. Much of this stuff is available for Toyota trucks as well.

    Honda Ridgeline, on the other hand, is kind of like the black sheep of the pickup industry. The bed is integral to the rest of the body, so that rules out dump beds, utility beds, or whatever else. No one makes a slide-in camper or 5th wheel attachment for it. The only lift kit I can find for it is a 2″ job, so it’s capability to be modified for off-roading is limited. You can’t put stake sides on it. It only comes in the crew cab model, which is the least purchased form of pickup out there. Then there’s the often-mentioned (and overhyped IMO) holy grail of cargo capacity called the 4×8 sheet of plywood that doesn’t fit in the Ridgeline’s bed with the tailgate closed.

    To Honda’s credit, they’ve got the Ridgeline pointed very nicely at the segment of the truck market that like pickups with four doors and short beds. But until they build a truck as versatile as Ford, GM, and Toyota do they’ll be a niche player there.

    As for the Mazda, this seems the only case where Ford’s neglect of a product line has actually been a good thing. The truck hasn’t been bulked up into the mid-size market.

  • avatar
    MG Kelly

    I think Honda basically thought.. “well, lets not clone the F150 or the Titan, lets do something different and do it well”.

    I hate the very idea of “vehicle class” I view it as marketing bullshit. This truck has the best payload in it’s class. or This truck has the largest bed in it’s class.

    Just buy the best truck for your needs folks!

    As far as the B4000, I’d like to go to a Mazda dealership, find the poor sap who is about to purchase this truck and slap the taste out of his mouth. What kind of person finds mediocrity acceptable? This truck has “good enough” written all over it. What? You can’t afford a full size Silverado? Buy a used one. Don’t compromise.

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    I don’t want to imply that I think the Ridgeline will be cutting into F-150 sales (though probably a little — listen to today’s podcast — 20% of truck owners are going for Priusis or however you conjugate it).

    BUT, as Ford totally abandons the small truck market niche, something is going to fill it, and as the Ridgeline is much better (for most small truck type of folks) than the Chevy, the Nissan or the Toyota, my money is on Honda.

    Safe bet if you ask me.

  • avatar

    My first vehicle was an 87 5-speed Ranger. It had 360k on it after a rough stint as a professional work vehicle when. I drove it another 30k or so and sold to have some cash flow at school. Sold it for the same amount I paid for it in the first place (not much). It wasn’t comfortible, fast or cool, but it couldn’t be stopped.

    Later I bought another (a 94 auto) with 240k on it. Again, completely bullet-proof. Again, sold it for the same amount I bought it for.

    I don’t miss either of them one bit, but if I needed a weekend hauler that is exactly what I would go for. Again.

  • avatar
    Sajeev Mehta

    The only thing that B-series/Ranger has going for it is a somewhat loyal following, a torquey 4.0L that runs on low octane gas and actual compact truck proportions. And of course, that won’t cut it.

    Jonny: since a large chunk of small truck sales come from fleet buyers looking for utility beds/bulletproof leaf springs/single cabs/you name it, you really think the Ridgeline is more than an ugly (but appealing) alternative for middle income surburbanites? Because its got nothing a fleet buyer wants, or those dyed-in-the-wool truck lovers you assure me will see the light one of these days. Sorry, I had to go there again. :-)

    Seriously though, my money isn’t on Honda, its on the Tacoma. Looks like Toyota’s got another best seller on their hands, all they had to do was phone it in this time.

  • avatar

    Plural of Prius = Prii?:-P

    Anyway, I’m shocked at all the “Wow Ridgelines are so rare out here…” comments.

    I suppose its cuz I live in a different country than many of you (CA Bay Area), but they really are everywhere. I see literally a few a day.

    Anyway, yeah this truck is hideous, way outdated. Who’s the moron who’s letting things like the Ranger and CV platforms just die without a redesign-hell, not even a REFRESH-in sight? Stupid, stupid, stupid…

    And please, CF trim on this thing. Oh boy….

  • avatar

    If Hyundai builds a small pickup on it’s SUV platform and slaps a 100k 10 year warranty on it I’m buying it. That would be a real pain in the rear to the big 2.5

  • avatar
    Tiger Commanche

    Ooohhh, it is a male who owns the Karmann Ghia. Sorry, I never even thought about that.

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman


    So — Kharmann Ghias are gay, is that what you are saying? And besides that, this is not the Kharmann Ghia you’re thinking of — it’s this one.

    And I actually lifted the engine by myself. Not into the Mazda, but to move it around for some pictures. Not very heavy.

  • avatar

    For a small truck it d`ont sound bad. I agree with the folks saying,We need stripped down basic truck. My buddy calls,heat,and four black feet. They do what a truck is supposed do.Haul your **** around. Now about ugly I will concede the AVALANCHE aint good looking, and I and others dont believe its a true truck.But for world class ugly you can`t beat a HONDA RIDGELINE.

  • avatar
    Terry Parkhurst

    “JJDaddyo” makes an interesting point that covers not only Mazda but also Isuzu. As he said, the truck Mazda made for itself was, in many way, more sturdy and a better truck than the machine now made, which is a last generation Ranger, rebadged.
    Isuzu made a sturdy, inexpensive and really straightforward little truck from about 1900 through ’94. Sturdy as an old mule, economical with a four cylinder backed by a five-speed manual and plenty of space to carry things with a long box.
    Then, they decided to take the Chevrolet S-10, reshape its body panels ever so slightly and offer only the smallest four-cylinder engine. Well of course, there was likely more to it than that. More accurately, Chevrolet sold them its trucks for reasons I have never heard tell. For Chevrolet, it meant a few more trucks sold. For Isuzu, it was another nail in their coffin.
    We’ll know that Ford is giving up the ghost when they let someone rebadge the F-150.

  • avatar
    Terry Parkhurst

    Corrections to last post: The Isuzu was made from 1990 through ’94 – not 1900 to then. And I meant to write “in many ways….”

  • avatar

    Ridgeline sales as of Sept 1 were 36k sold YTD 2006 versus 76K for F150 in August 06 ALONE. I havent even brought up the other 1.5 yet. The ridgeline’s 56% increase in sales is directly atttributable to the fact that the vehicle wasnt actually ON sale for the full 2005 year.

    Sajeev is on the right track here. Im directly responsible for fleet procurement (both light and heavy trucks) for a large service organization up here in the real world (read not the Bay Area). You may see alot of these rolling around, but if so, then you best understand that this anecdotal evidence even futher makes my case that the vehicle simply isnt represented in other parts of the country much less the upfit market (this would be R&D monies wasted on a tiny fractional market). Regardless, the math doesn’t lie. There simply are not alot of ridgelines being sold. The ridgeline is many things, but a revolution in light trucks is simply NOT one of them.

    All of this doesnt change the fact that Ford left the ranger to die on the vine. The reason? The F150 just makes more financial, and useful, sense.

  • avatar

    Honda was never looking to sell a million copies of the Ridgeline, and comparisons to F-150 sales are unfair.

    I think Honda was looking for 60K in annual sales from the Ridgeline, about what the MDX (same platform, kind of) does in the U.S. So 36K YTD is below expectations, and you see a lot of dealer incentives as a result.

    Honda has 2 problems with the Ridgeline. 1. They priced a little too high. I’m not saying it’s not a good value, it is, but they may have wanted to offer a DX model at the low end to get people interested, and then sell them the EX-L type model with all the good stuff.

    Secondly, as has often been pointed out, the thing is ugly. The way the top of the bed slopes backwards just doesn’t look right.

    Otherwise, it’s a great truck for suburbanites, although obviously not a true work truck. Despite the looks, I hope I can pick one up used as a third vehicle used for ~$10K in about 5 years.

    I have nothing to say about the B4000 other than to wonder whether the damage to Mazda’s ZoomZoom image is worth the incremental sales it brings.

  • avatar
    Tiger Commanche

    Johnny – Nope, not gay, just historically biased towards the female persuasion from my personal experience. I had a couple of girlfriends years ago that just loved those cars (maybe they’d still be with me if I had one!). Thanks for the link – that was not the KG I was thinking of. Good look with the rebuild!

  • avatar
    Martin Albright

    At the risk of seeming pedantic, I feel I should point out that contrary to what has been said the Ranger/B series is not “unchanged since 1994.” Around 1998 they switched from the old twin-I-beam suspension to an upper and lower A-arm suspension and also added rack and pinion steering. The body remained basically the same except I believe they did stretch it by a few inches (my ’99 was quite comfy and I’m 6’1″)

    But this gets me to the point I really wanted to make which is that on the one hand we have people like Jonny and others saying “This thing is in serious need of some ‘updating!\'” and on the other hand we have people like Mikey and me saying “what the US needs now is a good, basic, affordable, economical small truck.” Those goals are, to some extent, mutually exclusive. Updating every couple of years (the way car lines are done) would significantly add to the price of trucks without truly adding to their utility.

    I think the cultural difference between “car people” and “truck people” is that “car people” are likely to think “why not add an extra feature if it adds performance/convenience/looks?” while “truck people” are more likely to think “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

  • avatar
    Martin Albright

    To add to my last, I would put the Ridgeline in a completely different category from the Ranger. I would classify the Ridgeline and the soon-to-be-late Subaru Baja as “recreational trucks” or “lifestyle trucks” rather than utilitarian trucks. Really they’re just modern versions of the old El Camino and Ranchero: A truck built for “car people.”

    As ugly as the Avalanche is (and I agree it’s homely) I have to admire the ingenuity of the disappearing midgate and fold-flat seats. I only wish Subaru had used the same idea when they came up with the Baja but instead they have the teeny little “switch back” hatch that supposedly allows for longer cargo.

  • avatar

    Regarding the B4000 interior – at least the steering wheel looks nice.

    Regarding the Ridgeline – I’ve seen an increasing number in my neck of the woods (Vancouver) and the look is actually growing on me. Maybe in another year I’ll actually like it. One design issue I find particularly odd is how the top of the tailgate is not even with the sides of the bed. My guess is that they wanted to avoid an excessive reach over the tailgate when lowered. It looks bad, though.

  • avatar
    Sajeev Mehta

    “This thing is in serious need of some ‘updating!’” and on the other hand we have people like Mikey and me saying “what the US needs now is a good, basic, affordable, economical small truck.” Those goals are, to some extent, mutually exclusive.

    Not really, Martin. The Tacoma has all the wholesome trucky engineering most buyers want, but has a fresh (if bizarre) style and technical updates the Ranger lacks. It gives the best of both worlds.

    I’ll admit that living in Houston isn’t the real world either (urban sprawl with no decent mass transportation) but the small fleet truck of choice seems to be the Tacoma regular cab these days. I see a few Ridgelines here and there, but its a lousy value in the truck market compared to the Tacoma, which covers all bases better than the Ranger.

  • avatar

    Check out the price of a new Ranger vs. a Ridgeline, which is basically a Honda Pilot.

    Maybe in this crowd, $10,000 is no big deal, but I’d save the dough and get a real truck that can do some work and will run for years and years.

    Is it just me, or are automobile reviewers getting more and more effeminate anymore? Oooh – the car’s seat doesn’t caress my butt the way it should, and is not heated, nor adjustable 17 ways.

    In essense, the Ridgeline target market – metrosexuals.

  • avatar
    Martin Albright

    Not really, Martin. The Tacoma has all the wholesome trucky engineering most buyers want, but has a fresh (if bizarre) style and technical updates the Ranger lacks. It gives the best of both worlds.


    I’d argue that a Toyota/Ford comparison actually makes my point:

    According to Edmunds:

    Ranger 2wd, extended cab, 4cyl, 5m


    Tacoma 2wd extended cab, 4cyl, 5m


    Which is pretty close in price, although it doesn’t include the fact that Ford is likely to give out hefty discounts while Toyotas often sell at MSRP (or over due to not having many stripped-down models on the showroom.)

    But when you get to the 4wd models (preferred in many parts of the country where people swear by their trucks), the difference is more dramatic: You can get a basic Ranger, 4×4, with the 4.0l v-6 and a 5 speed for $19070 (and, again, at a dealer you could probably expect a discount off that) while the equivilent Toyota will set you back $21355 and at least at my local dealers, your chances of finding a 4×4 Tacoma with a sticker under $25,000 are about zero.

    IOW, in real-world terms, there’s a $3000-$5000 difference in price between the two and while some might argue that Toyota’s superior engineering makes it worth it, it’s a huge obstacle to the typical truck buyer, whether he’s buying for himself or a fleet.

    My (highly informal) observations indicate that the Ranger is a pretty popular platform for small businesses. I certainly see quite a few of them in business livery all over the place. I see very few of the newer Tacomas (although the old, mid-80’s Toyotas are still a fairly common sight as business vehicles.)

    I get the impression that Toyota and Nissan consider their trucks to be “lifestyle” or “recreational” trucks first (especially the 4x4s) and so the dealers tend to order the models with every bell and whistle you can imagine. I glanced at a line of crew-cab 4×4 trucks at my local Toyota dealer and the lowest sticker was around $28k. They had everything: Off-road package, towing package, power package, leather seats, etc. OTOH, the local Ford dealers will typically have quite a few base, or close to base-model Rangers on the lot for under $20k (which is still too expensive, IMO but it’s a start.)

    Like a lot of “truck people”, I don’t mind the tarted-up toys that have everything, I just wish they’d still leave a few of the stripped down versions for those of us on a budget. “Compact” trucks are getting bigger and bigger, and more and more expensive. Sooner or later, some enterprising auto maker is going to realize there’s a huge market out there that is not being served.

  • avatar
    Sajeev Mehta

    That’s a good point, Martin. Rangers are at the bottom of the food chain for trucks, not a bad place to be. Last time I looked at one for a friend (1998) finding one with power windows was impossible at many dealers: just goes to show how cheap they are.

    The Ranger is a strong value proposition, and fleet buyers might object to paying $1k-3k more for a similar Taco. I think that is changing rapidly, however.

    As for the retail buyer, the Tacoma offers more of everything, and that seems to be what moves product. I see plenty of these new Tacos, the freshened (ha-ha) Ranger front end is not a common sight on the road these days.

  • avatar

    Why not taking a REAL Mazda like the 3, and make sure it’s the 5 doors, S model and a 2.3 engine under the hood, I never feel the influence of Ford driving this car every day, just pure joy.

  • avatar

    For those of you with points on your license, getting Mazda’s truck to crest 80mph on anything other than an Olympic ski jump is very, very difficult.

    Oddly, my ’94 Toyota has a mere 130-odd HP 4-cylinder, and can easily get to 90 on the freeway, if I’m not watching how fast I go. 80 is nothing, unless it’s fully loaded and going uphill.

    Perhaps the extra 300-some pounds of the Mazda somehow counteract the extra 70hp and 2 cylinders, so that unlike a 12 year older Toyota it can’t manage to easily hit 80?

    (Or, more accurately, perhaps it can easily exceed 80 mph, and this is more than usual hyperbole from our reviewer?)

    On the Ridgeline, I will never, ever buy one, but that’s mostly because I need a bare minimum 6 foot bed and the ability to take a completely enclosing canopy. I’m already drooling over the idea of Toyota finally making a truck with an 8′ bed and an extended cab, for when I eventually retire my current truck. (Which will happen when it falls to pieces under me, most likely.)

  • avatar
    Lesley Wimbush

    taxman, have you even driven a Ridgeline? There’s nothing, absolutely nothing pretty or feminine about that vehicle.
    The seats are big, flat and plain and would comfortably accomodate Ralph Kramden’s arse. Nothing about the interior is cute or precious, it’s all blunt and functional.
    It’s not a Pilot – it’s a unibody on a fully boxed ladder frame.
    Like it or loathe it, it’s a well built vehicle that does exactly what it claims to.

  • avatar


    3 spoke wheels were long a well-executed design element on Saabs. They climaxed with the 17″ “klingon” wheels that were standard on 2000-2001 9-5 Aeros.

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    Lostpoet: Yuck

    Make that Double Yuck.

    And to the gentleman that called me effeminate and metrosexual… you’re off the mark.

    Regardless — these seats feel like wood covered in egg-foam. In other words, awful. Imagine a bench seat with the middle part chopped out.

    Leslie — I’ve never talked to anyone with a bad thing to say about the Ridgeline after they’ve driven it. Except for the looks.

  • avatar
    Lesley Wimbush

    Yup. I had the nerve to take it to a Dodge Truck meet. After crawling all over and under it, most of them good ole boys admitted it was a nice piece of machinery.
    Mine was the colour of canned peas, inside and out, and I promptly dubbed it “Frankentruck.”

    I second the 3 spoke thing – they just look wrong to me.

  • avatar

    If you’re looking for Ridgelines, come to the east coast. They’re fairly popular in the Richmond area. Here are the Honda (motorcycle) dealership where I work, we call them ‘brokeback pickups’.

    Deranged Few M/C

  • avatar

    I have no doubt the Ridgeline is a good vehicle, but as a truck it seems somewhat without a purpose. Basically, at what point does someone think that a Ridgeline is a more sensible purchase than a Pilot? I can only fathom that the bed is meant to haul small loads of dirt or stones or whatever, but then in that Honda decided that it’d be best to put the spare tire in the “trunk,” shows they don’t anticipate much hauling to be done back there (otherwise, that’s a significant design flaw for a Honda).

    As for the B4000 (and Ranger twin), it seems that they’re not so great as cars, but as basic tools, they’re pretty decent. It’d be nice to know that Ford had something planned, an eventual redesign or something, but at the same time, they’re still competent as trucks.

  • avatar
    Lesley Wimbush

    Yah, the spare tire placement seems senseless, although it does keep it free from mud, rust and crap. I’m sure they do intend the bed to be used, since it was purposely designed (width-wise) to accomodate ATVs (particularly those built by… Honda).
    As for small load capability… at the press launch, they dropped skids of rock from a front end loader into it.
    I don’t want to sound like a Ridgeline afficionado here, in fact I didn’t want to like the thing, it’s so damn fugly. But after spending a week with the thing, I couldn’t help but be impressed with its handling and versatility.
    And, BTW, I’m a die-hard, long time Dodge truck owner.

  • avatar

    The ford ranger also has the absolute best gas mileage of any smaller truck, something like 26/32, but that’s with the gutless 4 cyl. of course and 5 speed tranny.

    I own a 91 Ford Ranger with 181k on it, and I can’t kill the damn thing!

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    This was a 4.0liter 4×4 that stickered for $27,500

  • avatar
    Bubba Gump

    I don’t know where all the ridges are being sold, I assume california. I spend alot of time on the road because of my hobby and I have seen exactly 1 ridgline this year. In fact when it drove by I said to myself that must be one of those little honda trucks their all fussin about.

  • avatar

    A local dealer here was selling the new 06 4 cylinder Mazdas with A/C for $8888.

    Yes $8888 with 5 speed and a/c. Good basic transportation that none of the imports can come close to in value.

    MG Kelly you could probably find a 1995 Silverado for that price down here.

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    $8888 for a new vehicle is an outstanding value.

  • avatar

    Regarding the Ridgeline. Here in Alberta, one of only 2 places in the world (Texas being the other) where most pickups are used as personal transportation, there are lots of Ridgelines on the road.

    It is the most sensible pickup for this day and age. If you actually need a bigger truck for work then buy American, but if you want a truck that does everything well then buy the Ridgeline.

  • avatar
    Sajeev Mehta

    The Mazda dealer’s gotta be taking a bath right there, those trucks must sticker for $11-12k. But sometimes you gotta dig deep to move product and get showroom traffic.

    jmhm2003: Believe it or not, Ridgelines aren’t very common in Texas. Sometimes I go for weeks without seeing one. It must have to do with our bountiful real estate and Honda’s $27k asking price.

  • avatar

    The most frustrating thing is that Ford has a fine replacement for the Ranger/4000 in Thailand with a relatively powerful, efficient powertrain and an evolved design. Yet, they have no plans to import it here. Why? Why? Why?
    Thai ranger

  • avatar

    You know, the first new car I ever purchased was a Mazda B2300, which I sold to a friend a few years later; I actually liked it a lot, squeaky suspension and oft-frozen parking brake aside. It was fun and economical and hauled a lot of furniture during the time I had it.

    Since then I’ve met my future wife, gotten married, moved to a new city, had two kids, and three different jobs — and when I walked into the Mazda dealership a few weeks ago to look at a new car, lo and behold, there was the Mazda B-series. It was like reaching into a pocket of a brand new jacket from a store and pulling out one of my old business cards from the last century.

    And the best part is, I didn’t even buy mine in the first few years of production — I bought it in 1998.

  • avatar

    Yes these trucks, the B-series and Ranger are outdated, but there seems to be a whole lot of them on the roads. They are dated and not as good as a Tacoma it’s true, but the bottom line is price. You can get the basic regular cab 2 wheel drive version for about 12,000 Canadian brand new. My friend has a Tacoma and I have a B4000. What does his do much better than mine when it comes to a truck? I know he pays alot more for his lease each month than I do to buy mine. That’s the bottom line for most people. I still think the B4000 looks good, and it’s great around a city, very easy to park.

  • avatar

    I just bought a used 1994 B4000 with 136,000 miles for $1,800. A $900 repair replaced a leaking head gasket and manual hubs for the 4WD. It has rained liked mad and I have a leak into the cab at the third break light above the rear sliding window. Other than that, I really like this little truck. The criticism above is pretty harsh, but probably accurate. My first MPG check showed 13 mpg, but I was driving pretty hard. It’s a little gutless, but I hope to tinker with it a bit to get some more horsepower. I bought it to haul junk around the farm and get me to the hardware store and back. I’ll post more when I have more time behind the wheel.

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