What is it?
Ford’s new pick-up truck. Or rather, Ford’s new car. For the first time, Ford is marketing the Ranger as part of its car line-up rather than sitting exclusively in its commercial vehicle offerings. This is in response to the Volkswagen Amarok, another recent addition from a volume maker into the more road-biased pick-up market.
The new Ranger, every part new apart from the badge, is the latest global product to come from the ‘One Ford’ strategy. Australia has led the development and the latest Ranger will be built in Thailand, Argentina and South Africa and exported to more than 180 countries.
What is it like?
Our test car was a double-cab Ranger in the mid-range Limited trim; there’s also the hairy-chested Wildtrak version that’s tipped to be the most popular in the UK. More basic XL (which is two-wheel drive only and does without the switchable all-wheel drive of other versions) and XL T versions are also offered.
The engine line-up includes the 2.2-litre, four-cylinder turbodiesel from the Mondeo/S-Max/Galaxy range with 148bhp, mated to a six-speed manual gearbox (tested here) or a six-speed automatic, and a 3.2-litre, five-cylinder turbodiesel with 197bhp and the same transmission options. A 123bhp version of the 2.2 is also offered on base models.
In its higher state of tune, the four-pot engine is a solid performer. There’s enough torque (277lb ft) to mask the Ranger’s sizeable mass, although there wasn’t a chance to test the Ranger’s performance with a maximum 1333kg payload. In-gear performance is strong, too; even in sixth, the Ranger responds to throttle inputs.
It’s a shame, then, that the gearbox isn’t quite as accomplished, feeling more like a truck than a car. The distances between the gears are greater than they should be, meaning a bit of searching with the left hand is required, particularly for third and fifth. Certainly given our experiences with the manual, the Ranger feels like it would be much better suited to the auto.
Our test route included some twisty roads through a Bavarian forest. Here, the Ranger performed much better than expected. It’s not nimble, but there’s less roll than you’d expect and a level of communication from the steering not normally associated with cars of its type.
On the motorway, it’s also competent; the engine spins at a quiet 2000rpm and wind noise is kept in check – apart from around the sizeable door mirrors. Ford claims the Ranger is the most aerodynamic in its class.
The spacious interior is also more car than truck. It’s not quite at the same level of luxury or design as Ford’s staple passenger cars, but given that the Ranger will live a tougher life than any Focus, an added level of durability is needed. The driving position is excellent, offering a commanding view of the road, and visibility is also impressive in the double-cab version.
Where the argument that the Ranger can be considered a road car really falls down is in its ride quality. It’s unmistakably a pick-up in this department. The ride is very bouncy, something needed for compensating for large loads, but there’s no adjustability for everyday use without a tonne of bricks in the back.
Should I buy one?
There’s some serious competition for the Ranger from the likes of the Amarok, Nissan Navara, Toyota Hilux and Mitsubishi L200.
But the Ranger is as fit for purpose as it’s ever been. It’s good on the road and more impressive off it, and is now better equipped and nicer inside than ever.
While it might excel among its pick-up peers, certain elements make the Ranger feel very much like a pick-up still, not the car Ford wants you to think it is.
Ford Ranger 2.2 TDCi Double Cab Limited
Price: £26,400; 0-62mph: TBC; Top speed: TBC; Engine: 4 cyls, 2198cc, turbodiesel; Power: 148bhp at 3700rpm; Torque: 277lb ft at 1500rpm; Economy: TBC; CO2: TBC; Gearbox: 6spd manual