"Ford has created a pick-up truck that can tow, carry huge loads and tackle the roughest roads while still being luxurious and good to drive."
The third generation Ranger is designed to offer a more car-like driving experience while still giving its owner all the benefits of previous Ranger's off-road and load-carrying abilities. There are three engine choices, and body styles range from a regular two-door, two-seat style to a four-door, four-seat model for those who want to double their pick-up as a family transporter, too. The Ranger looks good in a chunky way and there's more than a hint of Range Rover to the front grille, which is no bad thing.
First and foremost, the Ranger is a pick-up truck and this comes across in the way it drives, especially how it rides over poor surfaces. The Ranger tends to bounce, like the Nissan Navara and Mitsubishi L200, due to the stiff rear suspension these types of car use. However, the Ranger deals with the problem better than its other rivals and feels more car-like as a result. This feeling is helped by the reasonable levels of agility it shows on country roads and its direct, if light, steering. In town, the steering requires too many turns to be easily manoeuvrable but its responsive diesel engines make it good for getting into the flow of traffic. On the open road, the 123bhp 2.2-litre diesel and the more powerful 148bhp version make the Ranger a good vehicle for towing with lots of low end acceleration. At higher speeds, the blunt dimensions make for a lot of wind noise and slow progress, so the Ranger is much happier at lower speeds, especially off-road, where it excels. The top-of-the-range 198bhp 3.2-litre diesel is arguably the model to choose if you're looking to tow heavy loads over long distances, but for us the 143bhp diesel is the better option overall, and a great alternative to the equivalent Nissan Navara.
The interior of the Ranger is not up to the quality of most European cars. Plastics are hard and shiny but they are tough and most vehicles in the class are made of similar materials. What is reassuring is the feeling that the plastics will be able to take whatever you throw at them; they just look cheap. A rap of the knuckles shows that they are, in fact, pretty sturdy. The choice of body styles allows for a wide range of space in the Ranger, and most buyers will go for the double-cab versions, which offer the most room inside. A good driving position is easy to find using the electric seat controls and fully adjustable steering wheel, but the curious position of the hand brake means that it can get in the way of the left leg too easily. Ignoring the tendency to bounce common in vehicles of this type, the Ranger has a decent ride both on and off-road. Noise levels are acceptable overall and are good compared to rivals - but at speed the Ranger's shape leads to a lot of wind noise and the diesel engines can sound a little rough.
Ford has worked hard on improving its reliability over the years and while the Ranger is possibly not going to prove as reliable as the Nissan Navara, it will still prove largely trouble free throughout its life. The interior plastics are sturdy, even if they're not the prettiest to look at, and the mechanical underpinnings are likely to hold together as Ford has largely gone for simplicity over technology where it could. Ford's extensive dealer network should prove more than capable of sorting any problems that do arise. Safety, however, should be one of the strong points for the Ranger - it comes equipped with seven airbags and emergency brake assist as standard and is the first pick-up truck to be awarded a five-star crash safety rating by Euro NCAP.
The size of the load bed obviously depends on the body style you choose. Whatever style you do pick, however, the capacity will never be less than 1,560mm long, which makes its among the class best. Towing is a strong point for the Ranger and the most powerful 3.2-litre diesel is capable of pulling 3,350kg on a braked trailer. Safety hasn’t been overlooked in the Ranger either, and Euro NCAP has awarded the car the full five stars in its crash safety tests. Drivers also have the reassurance of the switchable 4x4 system and equipment like the Trailer Sway Control and Hill Descent Control, which make towing a less stressful experience.
Value for money
The Ranger comes in four specification levels - XL, XLT, Limited and Wildtrak. Limited models get heated electrical seats, 17-inch alloys, Bluetooth connectivity and parking sensors. The Wildtrak models also add a heated windscreen, cruise control, part-leather seats and tinted windows. There's also a choice of three diesel engines - a 123bhp 2.2 litre, a 148bhp 2.2 litre and a 3.2 litre delivering 197bhp - all of which come with either a manual or automatic gearbox. Whatever spec or engine you choose, the Ranger is competitively priced against its rivals and a good alternative to off-roaders from Land Rover.
Pick-up trucks are rarely cheap to run and the Ranger is no different. The diesel engines in the Ranger are fitted for pulling power rather than economy and you will struggle to get above 30mpg even on the lower-powered versions. Tax will also be steep, with the 3.2-litre emitting 249g/km of CO2 and the 2.2-litre diesels hardly worrying the tax-free barrier down at 100g/km. There's a three-year warranty to offset some of the running costs and, compared to other 4x4 alternatives, the purchase price of a Ranger is considerably lower and it should hold onto its price better for resale deals, so the Ranger shouldn’t cost too much to own outside of everyday running costs.