What is it?
This is the first pick-up created under the ‘One Ford’ banner, which means it’s designed to be sold in the same form worldwide — except of course in the US, where a completely different Ranger is already sold. Built in Thailand, the new-generation Ranger combines the handsome, chunky looks of an American pick-up with a more modern platform, engines and electronics than that of the previous, Mazda-developed model, as well as a relatively plush cabin in the case of our Double Cab Limited test car, driven for the first time on British roads.
The four-door Double Cab is one of three body styles available, the other two being a two-door Regular Cab and a halfway-house Super Cab with small rear suicide doors like those of a Mazda RX-8. The Regular Cab is obviously the true workhorse of the trio, with a 2.3-metre-long load bay and a net payload of 1.2 tonnes. Those figures shrink to 1.56 metres and a fraction over a tonne for the more family-friendly Double Cab. The 4x4 models can also tow a braked trailer weighing up to 3350kg, making the Ranger a pretty versatile load lugger.
The engine line-up is restricted to two diesels – a 148bhp 2.2-litre four-pot and a 197bhp 3.2-litre straight five – and a six-speed manual gearbox is standard in all models, with a six-speed automatic optional in the Double Cab Limited 2.2 TDCi and Double Cab Wildtrak 3.2 TDCi. Most models have an electronically controlled, switch-on-the-fly four-wheel drive system that offers a choice of rear-wheel drive only for road use and high or low-range 4x4 for venturing into the rough stuff.
With pick-ups increasingly being called upon to widen their brief beyond the traditional workhorse role, the new Ranger comes with all of the safety and convenience features you'd expect of any modern road car, including electronic stability control, hill descent control, hill start assist, automatic headlights and wipers and all the Bluetooth/USB connectivity you could want inside. The cabin is relatively smart and car-like, too, successfully taking the Ranger away from its utilitarian roots.
What's it like?
Clamber up into the high-set cabin and you’re greeted by a chunky, thoroughly presentable fascia that’s arguably more attractive and better laid out than the current Focus’s, albeit with slightly more hard-wearing plastics. There’s plenty of space front and rear for four adults, and the standard leather seats of the Limited-spec model provide a comfortable driving position with a great view out.
With a claimed 0-62mph time of 12.5sec and a 109mph top speed, the 2.2 TDCi Ranger’s performance is best described as leisurely, and it can be a little ponderous at low speeds, not helped by an automatic gearbox that’s quite slow-witted in urban use. But beyond 30mph the Ranger gets along briskly enough and is surprisingly refined at a cruise.
As you'd expect of a vehicle designed to carry heavy loads, the ride is firm at low speeds and always fairly lively, but it’s well within the bounds of acceptability. After a while you barely notice it any more, unless you hit a particularly nasty lump in the road.
In two-wheel-drive mode the steering is faithful and pleasantly weighted, making the Ranger a surprisingly easy, even confidence-inspiring vehicle to thread along a twisty or narrow road. Running in 4x4 mode takes its toll on the steering, though, adding unwanted extra weight and making the vehicle feel much less manoeuvrable at low speeds. On the road at least, it’s clear that the 4x4 system isn’t as slick as that of, say, a Land Rover Discovery and is best confined to proper off-road use.
We didn’t get a chance to try the Ranger in the rough on this occasion, but Ford says it’s got 28deg approach and departure angles, a 25deg breakover angle and a generous 229mm of ground clearance, along with a wading depth of 800mm, so there’s no reason to doubt its credentials as an off-roader. It’ll go places.
Should I buy one?
Rugged enough to cope with life as a workhorse yet comfortable and well equipped enough to perform family and leisure-related duties as well, the Ranger is a much more likeable vehicle than you might have expected. I found myself wishing for the sort of lifestyle that would justify owning a vehicle like this, preferably one involving dirt bikes, jet skis and the like. Sad, I know. The Ranger is facing some serious competition from the likes of the relatively new Volkswagen Amarok as well as old favourites such as the Toyota Hilux and Mitsubishi L200 Warrior, but it’s more than up to the job.
Ford Ranger Double Cab Limited 2.2 TDCi auto
Price £27,600; 0-62mph 12.5sec; Top speed 109mph; Economy 30.1mpg (combined); CO2 248g/km; Kerb weight 2063kg; Engine 4 cyls, 2198cc, turbodiesel; Power 148bhp at 3700rpm; Torque 277lb ft at 1500rpm; Gearbox 6-spd automatic