"Ford has created a pick-up truck that can tow, carry huge loads and tackle the roughest roads while still being fairly easy to drive."
With the Ford Ranger, Ford has made the transition from driving a car to a pick-up truck much easier for people either needing the extra towing ability and storage but who don’t want a full-fledged van. The third-generation Ranger is thus designed to feel much more like a car when you’re driving it, while still providing all the benefits of the previous models, which include good off-road and load-carrying abilities. The are three engines to choose from, plus a range of body styles that include a regular two-door model up to a four-door, five-seat double-cab version for those who want to use their pick-up as a family car, as well. The Ranger has an appealing exterior with chunky styling and there's more than a hint of the old Range Rover to the front grille, which let's be honest is no bad thing!
MPG, running costs & CO2 emissions
When you buy a pick-up truck, even how it looks on the outside screams “big and expensive to run”, and the Ranger most certainly fits the mould. Whereas standard cars tend to come fitted with diesel engines for their superior fuel economy, in the Ranger it's all about pulling power instead. You will definitely struggle to see fuel economy above 30mpg, even though official figures claims all but the Double Cab models will get above that number, with the lowest-powered engine claiming to return 38.7mpg. And even then we’re talking unladen, so expect them to drop even further once you load up the truck with building materials and passengers. You’ll have to pay a hefty annual road tax bill, too, thanks to CO2 emissions of 222 g/km, with none of the engines even getting close to the magic tax-free sub-100g/km mark. However, you do get a three-year warranty that should offset some of those running costs. Also, when you compare the Range to other 4x4s, the purchase price is actually considerably lower, and it should hold onto some resale value in the used car market, so the it shouldn’t cost too much to own outside of its queasy-looking everyday running costs.
Interior & comfort
Ford's build quality, especially inside the car, can sometimes leave a lot to be desired, and the interior of the Ranger is not up to the quality of its European challengers like the Volkswagen Amarok. However, while the plastics are hard and shiny, they are also tough, and most vehicles in its class are made of similar materials. You will find that most of the plastics will be able to take pretty much whatever you throw at them, so while they look cheap, they should be durable. One quick rap of the knuckles shows that they are, in fact, very solid. The range of body styles on offer allows for a varying amount of space inside the Ranger – but most buyers will go for the Double-Cab versions, which offer the most room inside and allow the owner to use the car as a dual purpose, work-and-family vehicle. It's easy to find a good driving position using the electric seat controls and fully adjustable steering wheel, but the hand brake is a little oddly positioned, which means that it can get in the way of the left leg too easily while you’re on the move. If you can ignore this kind of vehicle's natural bounce, then the Ranger gives a decent enough ride both on and off-road, and noise levels are generally acceptable and good when compared to many of its rivals. Just be aware that the truck's shape means it does create a lot of wind noise on the motorway and the diesel engines can get a bit growly.
Practicality & boot space
Exactly how practical the Ranger is will depend on what you need it for and on which body style you decide to go for. That said, the load area will never be any less than 1,560mm long, which easily places it among the best in class. The Ranger is also especially good for towing, with the most powerful 3.2-litre diesel being fully capable of pulling an impressive 3,350kg, on a braked trailer. And none of the extra dimensions and power has compromised the Ranger's five-star crash safety either, with a range of airbags and an emergency brake system as standard. Buyers will also have the extra reassurance of a switchable 4x4 system and technology like the trailer sway control and hill descent control, which do make towing a much less stressful experience.
Reliability & safety
Given that Ford has been working hard over recent years to improve its reliability, it's disappointing that it could only rank 23rd in the manufacturers rankings in the 2013 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey. This is an improvement of two places on the 2012 poll, but build quality is a real issue for owners, which can effect how reliable their car proves to be in the long run. The Ranger itself doesn’t feature in the survey, but that is likely to be because pick-up ownership in the UK is still in its infancy. It should still prove sturdy enough, although it's not likely to trouble the Nissan Navara in the reliability stakes. The interior plastics are solid enough, even if they're not the prettiest to look at on the market, and because Ford has generally gone for simplicity over technology, the mechanical underpinnings are likely to hold together. You do benefit from Ford's extensive dealer network should any problem arise, which makes it easy and quick to get it looked at. The Ranger should also be prove to be a very safe vehicle, as it was the first pick-up truck to secure the maximum five-star rating in the Euro NCAP crash safety test. It comes fitted with with seven airbags and emergency brake assist as standard equipment.
Engines, drive & performance
The Ranger is a pick-up truck, so if you expect to get in it and experience a smooth, bump-free ride, well, you’re in for a bit of shock. The Ranger tends to bounce about quite a bit, especially when driving over rough road surfaces. That's no different from the likes of the Mitsubishi L200 or Nissan Navara, and is due to the stiffer rear suspension that's required on these types of cars. The Ranger actually deals with this issue a lot better than most of its rivals, feeling a lot more car-like to drive as a result. There's also a good degree of agility from behind the wheel, which really shows on winding country roads. It gets nice direct steering, as well, even though it can feel a bit light considering the dimensions and weight of the car. When you’re driving around town, the steering does requires a good few too many turns for it to be easily manoeuvrable, but its responsive diesel engines does make it good for nudging into the flow of traffic. Once out on the open road, the 123bhp 2.2-litre diesel and the more powerful 148bhp version help make the Ranger a solid vehicle for towing, with a healthy amount of low-end acceleration. When driving at higher motorway speeds, the blunt dimensions whip up a lot of wind noise and tends to make for slow progress - so the Ranger is much better suited to lower speeds, especially off-road, where it truly excels. If you want to tow heavy loads over long distances, then we’d recommend the top-of-the-range 198bhp 3.2-litre. But, generally, we’d go for the 143bhp diesel as the best overall option, and a great alternative to the equivalent Nissan Navara.
Price, value for money & options
The Ford Ranger comes in four main specifications – entry-level XL, mid-range XLT and Limited, and top-of-the-range Wildtrak. It also comes in two-door Regular Cab, practical Super Cab and four-door Double Cab bodystyles. The higher-spec Limited models come equipped with heated electrically adjustable seats, 17-inch alloys, Bluetooth connectivity and parking sensors, while the top-of-the-range Wildtrak also adds a heated windscreen, cruise control, part-leather seats and tinted windows. You get to choose between three diesel engines - a 123bhp 2.2 litre, a 148bhp 2.2 litre and a 3.2 litre, which delivers 197bhp - all of which come fitted with either a manual or automatic gearbox. Whichever model or engine that you decide is right for your needs, the Ranger remains competitively priced against all of its rivals and is a good alternative to off-roaders from the likes of Land Rover.