Ford made an assured return to the top tier of the pick-up sector with the launch of its new Ranger in 2012 and has now given the model a mid-life facelift.
The Ranger has always been one of the more muscular members of a segment that is becoming crowded with new competitors and the exterior styling tweaks serve to make the truck even more butch.
Chris Muers, Ford of Britain’s product manager, says the redesigned grille, sharper lines in the bonnet, slimmer and more rectangular head and side lights and bigger blue oval badge give the revised model “more presence”.
The interior, meanwhile is classier now, although it wasn’t shabby before, and is designed on a different template to that which is replicated across the models in the Transit van range.
This incarnation of the Ranger not only has to compete with the likes of the new Mitsubishi L200 and Nissan Navara as well as the forthcoming Toyota Hilux, VW Amarok and debut trucks from Renault, Mercedes and Fiat Professional, it also has to maintain the impressive momentum it has generated over the last four years.
According to the manufacturer, the previous version hit 8033 sales in 2015, up from 5500 in 2014, 4310 in 2013 and 3000 in its debut year of 2012.
With more models arriving on the pick-up scene Muers believes there is “room for the market to grow” beyond its current 10% share of the LCV sector and reckons the current low cost of fuel will help to boost sales to lifestyle customers. With the growing sophistication of contemporary pick-up trucks coupled with the VAT advantage, she also thinks buyers are increasingly considering well-specified pick-ups as an alternative to SUVs.
The Ranger line-up consists of XL, XLT, Limited and Wildtrak trim levels with prices going from £17,795, excluding VAT, for the XL 4x2 Super Cab to £26,245, excluding VAT, for the Wildtrak automatic.
The model is available in Regular, Super and Double-cab formats but the Regular XL is now only offered in 4x4 and thus has a slightly higher price tag than the entry-level 4x2 Super Cab of £18,095, excluding VAT.
The Limited gets a heavy dose of chrome at the front end but, curiously, and perhaps more tastefully, the flagship Wildtrak reverts to a darker, more sober finish more in line with the XL and XLT versions.
The Wildtrak retains its 3.2-litre 200hp powertrain, albeit with tweaks to improve efficiency, but the rest of the line-up gets the new 2.2 160hp engine to replace the 125 and 150hp units in the pre-facelifted Ranger.
The brand claims to have improved fuel efficiency by up to 17% on the revised model with the introduction of Auto-Start-Stop, new final drive ratios and electric power assisted steering. The new 160hp TDCi achieves an official range best 43.5mpg and 171g/km CO2 (when combined with the Eco Axle that reduces towing capacity to 1800kg) compared to the previous range best of 36.2mpg and 206g/km.
If you want the 3500kg towing limit, which remains class-leading along with the Isuzu D-max and new Nissan Navara, then you will sacrifice 3.7mpg in fuel efficiency.
Realistically, it is unlikely many operators would want to slice their truck’s towing capability in half so this means the Ranger’s figures of 39.8mpg and 185g/km fall short of the 44.1mpg and 167g/km Nissan claims for the Navara and the 42.8mpg and 169g/km Mitsubishi says the L200 can achieve.
We got behind the wheel of the double-cabbed Ranger in the Limited trim that sits beneath the Wildtrak halo model but is the highest specced of the 160hp-powered versions. These two versions are expected to take about four out of five sales. Our truck had the six-speed manual ‘box that Ford says is likely to be about twice as popular as the six-speed automatic alternative.
At £23,795, excluding VAT, as do all prices quoted here, the Limited is slightly more expensive than the N-Connecta, the second top model out of five in the Nissan Navara range, which comes in at £22,793. The 2.3 190hp N-Connecta also gets touch screen navigation and a colour reversing camera, both of which are only included as standard on the Wildtrak in the Ranger line-up. A reversing camera is available as a £250 option on the Limited and sat nav can be added for £350.
The 2.4 178hp Warrior, which sits below the Barbarian in the Mitsubishi L200 range, also gets sat nav and a rear view camera included in its £23,049 price tag, although it does not have touch screen controls and the reversing camera does not come with an audible alert.
The Limited cabin certainly doesn’t have a Spartan feel to it anyway. There is a coolbox in the centre console as well as decent storage space, dual zone electronic automatic temperature control, the Sync 2 connectivity system with DAB radio, 8-inch touch screen and voice control for phone, media and climate settings, an eight-way electrically-adjustable heated driver’s seat, leather seat trimmings, an overhead console with a sunglasses holder and rear parking sensors.
USB and Aux inputs remain from the XLT trim (below Limited) as does cruise control but adaptive cruise control, Lane Keeping Alert, Traffic Sign Recognition and Collision Mitigation with Head-up Alert and Auto High Beam are an additional £1125 as part of the Driver Assistance Pack.
The exterior includes privacy glass for the rear windows and 17-inch alloys – sitting between the 16-inch versions on the XLT and the 18-inch ones on the Wildtrak.
The Limited has a payload capacity of 1092kg, a slight advantage compared to the Warrior’s 1045kg and the N-Connecta’s 1047kg.
The Ranger Limited is an extremely competent off-road performer with 4x4 available in both high and low-range gearing, for tougher conditions. But for those needing to tackle the most extreme off-road conditions then the Mitsubishi L200’s Super Select 4WD-11 system has the edge over anything else on the pick-up market.
With front and rear differential locks, the Ranger, in common with most pick-ups apart from the L200 Warrior with its centre lock, cannot be driven above low speeds on road in 4WD mode.
In 2WD the Limited handles at least as well as any of its rivals on road, whether it be tackling country lanes, B-roads or motorways.
The steering is true and offers plenty of feedback, the gear lever is positioned within the most comfortable reach and the changes are sharp and precise. Body roll when cornering is well controlled and the Limited’s all round sure-footedness inspires confidence. Our only criticisms would be that engine noise could be intrusive when accelerating and, without a load in the back, the ride tended to be bouncy over rougher road surfaces. Power delivery from the 160hp engine is generous and we can not imagine that this would diminish greatly with a load on board, which could make it difficult to justify opting for the 3.2-litre 200hp drivetrain that is available with the Limited and the only engine offered on the Wildtrak.
The Ranger Limited is not the most affordable or the most economical pick-up available but it is a fine all-rounder and in a league of its own for driveability
|Ford Ranger Limited 2.2 TDCi 160hp double cab manual|
|Price (ex VAT) £23,795|
|Price range (ex VAT) £17,795 - £26,245|
|Insurance group 12E|
|Service intervals 2yrs/20,000mls|
|Load length 1549mm|
|Load width(min/max) 1139mm/1560mm|
|Gross payload 1098kg|
|Engine size/power 2198cc/160hp|
|On sale January 2016|
|Combined fuel economy 39.8mpg|