Ford Ranger review
Tough-as-nails Ford Ranger pick-up has 2.2-litre or 3.2-litre diesel power and lots of load space
The current Ford Ranger has ditched the workhorse pick-up truck image of its predecessor and gone upmarket, especially when you look at the top-spec Limited and Wildtrak versions. The permanent four-wheel-drive transmission means it can cope with some serious off-roading, while the large load bed is rated to carry a tonne of payload.
The brash US-style lines mean it stands out against rivals such as the Toyota Hilux and Volkswagen Amarok, while it has a durable interior inspired by the Focus and a decent engine range. On the road it has an uncomfortable ride, but that’s not much different from rivals such as the Mitsubishi L200 and Isuzu D-MAX, 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 and there is a choice of a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmissions. There are a variety of body styles, too, from single and extended cab to double cab and a covered or uncovered loading bed, although the Double Cab is the model to go for if you want the best practicality.
Our choice: 2.2-litre TDCi Double Cab Limited 4WD
In the past, the Ford Ranger has had chunky pick-up styling with no real redeeming features, but the latest version is pretty stylish. It's not curvy like a Mitsubishi L200 but has an aggressive, chunky shape and its sheer size means it dwarfs most cars on the road.
The Ranger has a sturdy dashboard made of strong plastics and simple controls inspired by the Ford Focus for the air-conditioning and stereo. The VW Amarok has is a step ahead though, with a more car-like cabin. However, the Ranger has an advantage over the Toyota Hilux because the steering wheel has reach adjustment, while higher spec models also get electric seat controls so getting comfortable is very easy.
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. At the top of the range, the Wildtrak adds side bars, 18-inch alloy wheels, a styled roof bar and ambient interior lighting.
If you think the Ford Ranger will be like an SUV to drive, think again. Like all pick-ups, the ride is very bouncy when the truck is unladen, as the bed is supported by very stiff suspension that’s designed to take heavy loads. However, the Ranger’s steering is light enough and direct, even if it does require many turns of lock at low speeds, and the Ranger is reasonably agile on a country road.
On the motorway, the 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. There are two engines on offer, a 2.2 TDCi and a 3.0-litre five-cylinder diesel, but we’d go for the former. the 148bhp, four-cylinder 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 plenty 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 included and Limited models get cruise control as well. Its relative rarity 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 (1,139mm between the wheelarches) and depth (511mm), but the length does vary. The Single Cab is longest at 2,317mm, the Double Cab the least (1,549mm). Compared to rivals the Ranger beats the Nissan Navarra on space, and can carry a huge payload of up to 1,340kg 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. Even the 2.2 TDCi diesel has CO2 emissions of 224g/km, private buyers will have to pay hefty annual road tax to keep the Ranger on the road.