The new Ranger was the most eagerly awaited new addition to the pick-up sector in a long time and the pressure was on Ford to deliver in a market where models such as the Mitsubishi L200, the Nissan Navara and the VW Amarok had moved the game forward.
The Ranger scores points for its availability in single, super and double-cab guises. Double-cabs dominate sales across the sector, which is why some competitors do not offer the other bodystyles.
Ford offers the Ranger with a choice of three powertrains: an impressive 150hp 2.2-litre Duratorq TDCi, which delivers as much grunt as most customers could wish for and accounts for the bulk of sales, a 200hp 3.2-litre version for those who want even more power, and the entry-level 125hp 2.2-litre unit. Both engines are mated to slick six-speed manual or automatic transmissions.
The Ranger line-up is priced competitively against its rivals, considering the level of quality and refinement it brings to the table. Prices, excluding VAT, start at £14,754 for the single cab XL 4x2 and rise to £24,279 for the double cab Wildtrak 3.2-litre 200hp flagship.
Punters are not spoilt for choice in terms of trim levels either, with four specifications up for grabs: XL, XLT, Limited and Wildtrak.
The Ranger offers best-in-class payload capacity of 1152kg for the core double-cab models and also comes out on top with its towing capacity of 3350kg. So despite Ford pitching the new model more towards leisure customers with a penchant for outdoor pursuits, it is not about to get outmuscled when the going gets tough.
Ford worked hard to improve refinement, and the ride quality is much improved compared with the outgoing Ranger. Once on rougher road surfaces the vehicle soaks up the bumps without transmitting the impact to the cab’s occupants.
The new rack and pinion steering is responsive and far from agricultural, and succeeds in imparting a more car-like driving feel, which is enhanced by a reassuring lack of roll when cornering.
The cab is sophisticated, with a high-quality finish, and noise levels are well suppressed as a result of carefully tuned suspension and a frame that is 40% stiffer than the old Ranger. The seats are comfortable and manually adjustable in the lower two trim levels, but electrically adjustable in the Limited and Wildtrak versions. The steering wheel is adjustable for height and reach.
There is a decent level of standard kit but the excellent satnav and rear-view parking camera that comes with the Wildtrak costs £750 on the rest of the range.
Off-road the Ranger is highly competent – helped by water- wading capability of 800mm and ground clearance of 232mm.
Safety is another key strength – the Ranger is the first pick-up to receive a five-star crash-test rating from NCAP and, more remarkably, achieved the highest score of any vehicle for pedestrian safety.
Highly Commended is the Isuzu D-max. Isuzu has high hopes for its new pick-up, which is available in four trim levels, from the entry-level D-max to the top-of-the-range Utah. Prices represent excellent value for money – going from £14,499 to £21,499, excluding VAT. Sophistication and refinement have stepped up considerably compared to the D-max’s predecessor, the Rodeo, but none of the ruggedness and off-road ability for which the brand is known has been lost.