Ford Ranger review
Tough-as-nails Ford Ranger pick-up has smooth 2.2-litre diesel and lots of load space
The Ford Ranger is a solid pick-up that will cope with some serious off-roading while carrying a tonne of payload in the back. It's quite good looking with brash American styling, has a solid durable interior and a decent engine range. On the road it has an uncomfortable ride like rivals the Mitsubishi L200 and VW Amarok, but it is a decent, hard-working machine that would suit commercial buyers. The flagship Wildtrak version comes with a powerful 3.2-litre five-cylinder diesel engine and there is a choice of a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmissions plus a wide range of bodystyles from single to double cab and a covered or uncovered loading bed.
Our choice: 2.2-litre TDCi Double Cab Limited 4WD
The Ford Ranger has always been a chunky pick-up in the classic style. It's not curvy like a Mitsubishi L200 and sticks to the formula of boxy looks while dwarfing most things on the road. The Ranger has a sturdy dashboard made of strong plastics and simple controls for the air-conditioning and stereo. But the VW Amarok has certainly leapt ahead with its more car-like cabin. Unlike the Toyota Hilux there steering wheel has reach adjustment and higher spec models also get electric seat controls so finding the driving position is very easy. The worst part of the cabin is the handbrake which sticks out of the dashboard – and gets in the way of your left leg. Most buyers will go for more spacious double-cab versions and these get remote central locking, all-round electric windows and a CD stereo while 'Limited' models get rear parking sensors, Bluetooth and a USB port too.
If you think the Ford Ranger will be like a tougher Land Rover Discovery to drive – think again. Like all pick-ups, the ride is very bouncy as the bed at the back has very stiff suspension to support heavy loads. However, the steering is light enough and direct, even if it does require many turns of lock when manoeuvring at low speeds, and the Ranger is reasonably agile on a country road. On the motorway, its brick-like aerodynamics mean there's quite a lot of wind noise, but the Ranger is sharper than the Mitsubishi L200 and Nissan Navara to drive. The best engine is the 148bhp 2.2-litre, four-cylinder diesel which isn't as powerful as that of the Nissan Navara, but is quite punchy and smooth with lots of low-end shove for towing. Off-road, the Ranger is a strong performer with switchable four-wheel drive, locking differentials and a low-range mode for climbing or descending steep hills and the 800mm wading depth is the best in class.
If you're driving a big, sturdy pick-up, you'll instantly feel safe and the Ranger comes with load of safety equipment as standard. There are seven airbags, ISOFIX mounting points for child seats and rear parking sensors for negotiating tight parking spots. The Ranger is the first pick-up truck ever to be awarded the maximum five stars from Euro NCAP. Traction control is also included and Limited models get cruise control as well. Its relative exclusivity means the Ranger doesn't feature in our Driver Power Survey, but it has been designed for hard working use and with its robust mechanicals there shouldn't be any major issues.
The best thing about the Ranger is its load carrying, not passenger carrying, abilities. There isn't much space inside, even with Double Cab versions, but rear space in the back seats is on a par with its closest rivals even if the bench is fairly narrow. All Ranger variants have the same load bed width and height, but the length does vary. The Single Cab has the most, the Double Cab the least. Compared to rivals the Ranger beats the Nissan Navarra on space, and can carry a huge payload of up to 1,152kg or tow closer to three tonnes. The Limited trim gets a clever sliding rail system with tie-down points for heavy loads and stability control that factors in the extra weight of a trailer. Still parking this enormous car can be a very tricky business - so it might be best to reconsider if you live down a narrow street or crowded suburb without private parking.
As the Ford Ranger is termed a commercial vehicle, business drivers can claim VAT back and pay less benefit-in-kind tax too. That makes it much cheaper to run than a conventional large executive car. With solid mechanicals and that durable interior we wouldn't expect anything other than routine servicing either, but the weight of the Ford Ranger and size means you will be lucky to get over 30mpg in everyday driving. However with C02 emissions of 224g/km private buyers will have to pay hefty annual road tax to keep the Ranger on the road.