What is it?
Ford has had an impressive start to 2016 on the pick-up front, with 1100 Rangers already sold. Those sales could be crucial in order to dominate the pick-up sector, with the Mitsubishi L200 being revamped at the end of last year and Nissan launching the Navara NP300.
But the class is set to be strengthened even further. Toyota unveiled its new Hilux at Geneva and there have been murmurings that Mercedes - among others - are toying with the idea of joining the class. So, Ford had to get this mid-life facelift Ranger right, and the first step was to go through the old model thoroughly, and in doing so, it has enhanced the equipment levels on all four trims.
Range-topping Wildtrak and Limited 2 trims accounted for nearly 95% of the previous Rangers sold. These now get numerous additions, with Ford's Sync 2 infotainment system, reversing camera, traffic sign recognition, adaptive cruise control, collision mitigation system and lane assist being among the technology now available.
Mechanically, Ford has opted for a new electric power steering system, which aids the lane assist and trailer sway control safety functions on the Ranger, while the 2.2 TDCi four-cylinder engine in Limited 2 trim is now available with a six-speed automatic gearbox. It's this model we're driving.
What's it like?
On first impressions, the Limited 2 Ranger looks a strong offering. It has a plush, well-appointed interior, with swathes of leather on the seats and a clean but rugged dashboard and centre console.
The driver’s seat is comfortable and electrically adjustable, along with a generous amount of height adjustment for the steering wheel. The double cab provides space in the back for two adults to sit, but probably ideally for only a short while, because the high floor makes getting comfortable tricky. The rear of the cabin also feels rather more functional in quality than the front.
Turning the key brings a grumble from the diesel, giving you a brief idea of the no-nonsense torque available. Admittedly, no diesel is outright pleasant-sounding on start-up, and a distinctive clatter remains present even on the move.
However, compared with the Nissan Navara NP300, the Ranger’s engine sounds more refined and less strained throughout its rev range, even with hefty throttle inputs. The auto ’box shifts through its ratios smoothly and is keen to select higher ratios in search of better fuel efficiency at a cruise.
On the road, the Ranger feels one of the more capable and steady pick-ups, with little disturbance entering the cabin from smaller imperfections in the asphalt. That said, when the going gets more rutted and uneven, the reverberations can really unsettle it with its load bay empty.
As for the Ranger's carrying and towing ability (arguably one of the most important figures for buyers), the double cabs are able to haul 1081kg in the back, while the automatic Navara we tried has a slightly lower maximum payload of 1052kg. The braked weight it can drag behind it stands at 3500kg, which matches a Navara's best effort.
Should I buy one?
The Ranger is certainly one of the more refined pick-ups available, its 2.2-litre diesel clattering less than a Navara’s oil-burner. But what the Ranger gains in noise suppression, it loses on ride sophistication; the Nissan's five-link suspension set-up ultimately makes it more civilised on the road than the Ford.
Given that the Nissan matches the Ford for hauling and dragging loads, and the majority of pick-ups spend the majority of their time on the road, while we'd suggest there's good reason to investigate both these options, the Navara is ultimately the more rounded choice.
Ford Ranger 2.2 TDCi 160 Limited 2 auto
Location Buckinghamshire; On sale Now; Price £30,449; Engine 4 cyls, 2198cc, diesel; Power 157bhp at 3700rpm; Torque 258lb ft at 1500-2500rpm; Gearbox 6-spd dual-clutch automatic; Kerb weight 2119kg; Top speed 109mph; 0-62mph 12.8sec; Fuel economy 35.3mpg (combined); CO2 209g/km