With every mainstream light commercial manufacturer seemingly determined to pile into the purpose-built pick-up market if they aren't there already, Ford aims to ensure that the Ranger holds its ground – and maybe gains a point or two.
Last September saw the European launch of a facelifted version that the brand hopes will see off at least some of the competition. If more-aggressive looks will do the trick then all those existing and potential rivals had better get running.
The latest 4x2 or 4x4 offering is distinguished by a redesigned front grille, a bigger oval badge, sharper bonnet lines, and slimmer and more rectangular headlights and sidelights. The net effect is to give the newcomer an even more ‘in-yer-face’ presence than its predecessor.
The old Ranger's 200hp 3.2-litre diesel has been retained with some upgrades, but the 2.2-litre 125hp and 150hp diesels have both been junked in favour of a new 2.2-litre producing 160hp.
With XL, XLT, Limited and Wildtrak trim levels all on offer, buyers cannot complain about a lack of choice. Furthermore, three cab options are up for grabs: regular, super, and four-door double cab.
There is no disguising the fact that the Ranger remains a big, heavy, beast and that has implications for its fuel economy and CO2 emissions. Ford has attempted to cut down its environmental impact, however, with the introduction of auto stop-start, electric power steering and revised final drive ratios. As a consequence, the Ranger's thirst for diesel has fallen by up to 17% the manufacturer contends.
Maximum braked towing weight, depending on the model you select, is a praiseworthy 3.5t. Specify the Eco Axle with economy in mind, however, and that drops to 1.8t, which may be sufficient for some users, so long as they remember not to haul anything bigger.
Purchasers can opt for either a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic gearbox. We opted for the latter in a 3.2-litre Limited-specification 4x4 Double Cab, and gained grim satisfaction from watching small hatchbacks flee in terror in all directions as we rumbled down the highway.
Access to Ranger's lined loadbay and its lashing points is by means of a beefy, lockable, drop-down tailgate supported by gas-filled struts. You can deposit weights of up to 200kg on it while you consider your next move. What you cannot do, though, is drop it down completely because the combined bumper and step, plus the (optional) tow bar, get in the way.
Our demonstrator's cargo area was protected from the weather and the criminally inclined by an impressive, optional, lockable hard tonneau cover that also employs a set of gas struts. Combined with the chrome tubular sports bar, it enhances the Ranger's appearance as well as being practical.
Cab and equipment
Select Limited trim and you are in danger of disappearing under a mountain of goodies. That mountain does not include touchscreen satellite navigation or a full-colour reversing camera as both are extra-cost options.
But what you do get is an 8-inch touchscreen with voice control that governs your media settings and your phone. Also included in the deal are a DAB radio and electronically controlled dual-zone climate control. You can operate both by either using the touchscreen or the conventional manual controls also provided, which seems a little odd.
Provided too are a Sync 2 connectivity system (which should help ensure that the emergency services are alerted and rush to your aid if you are in a smash), USB and aux-in sockets, cruise control, and rear parking sensors. But before you get to grips with all of that you will need to ensure that you are nice and comfortable in your eight-way electrically adjustable driver's seat. Both front seats are heated, and you can switch that heating on via the touchscreen.
All the seats are leather-trimmed, while privacy glass for the rear windows should help frustrate the unhealthily nosey. The three rear seating positions each have their own headrest and lap-and-diagonal belt. Three-abreast may be a tad too cosy for some, but if there is no centre passenger then you can fold down the armrest for added comfort.
Electric windows are fitted all round and the exterior rear-view mirrors are electrically adjustable. There are two 12V power points in the centre of the dashboard, although we would prefer to see one of them positioned on top.
Storage features include a cool box between the seats, a lidded glove box, bins in all four doors, and an overhead sunglasses holder. There are two cup-holders between the front seats, plus a tray for small change on top of the fascia.
In terms of the in-cab extras fitted to the demonstrator, the reversing camera offers a clear, full-colour view, and is a boon when it comes to low-speed manoeuvring. Meanwhile, city centre parking bays are not designed for vehicles the size of the Ranger, which can make parking a challenge, so the rear parking sensors certainly help.
Also worth applauding is traffic sign recognition, which forms part of the Driver Assistance Pack. It provides you with a handy reminder that you are about to enter, say, a 30mph limit, and could help keep points off your licence.
The Ranger does, of course boast all the usual electronic safety devices designed to keep drivers out of trouble including ABS, electronic stability control, emergency brake assist, roll over mitigation, and hill start assist. Front and side airbags are installed too.
Our Ranger came with metallic black paint (an extra-cost option) and plenty of chrome, with the mirror casings glinting in some rare British sunlight.
The Euro5 3.2-litre engine delivers maximum power at 3000rpm, while top torque of 470Nm bites across a wide 1500-2750rpm plateau.
Engage four-wheel drive by turning a knob on the dashboard, with 2H leaving you in 4x2 mode, 4H taking you to 4x4 mode, and 4L providing a high-ratio set of gears. The package includes shift-on-the-fly should you need to switch from 4x2 to 4x4 or back again in a hurry.
Chassis and steering
Independent suspension is fitted at the front while leaf springs help support the rear. Our Limited-trim Ranger sat on 17-inch alloy wheels shod with Goodyear Wrangler HP 265/65 R17 mud and snow tyres.
Turning circle? Kerb-to-kerb, it's 12.4m.
The Ranger pulls strongly away from rest with the automatic box delivering barely noticeable changes as the big truck gathers momentum. What is noticeable, however, is how ragged the engine sometimes sounds under acceleration, although noise levels are otherwise well-suppressed.
The beefy Ford handles far better than pick-ups of a similar size. Body roll is well under control, which ensures that you do not end up wallowing wildly through bends. Nor do we have too many quarrels with the ride. Lumps and bumps in the road are steamrollered flat, and only the worst of potholes disturb the Ranger's composure.
Off-road, Ford's newcomer is a perfectly competent performer, grinding its way along slippery rutted farm tracks and up and down muddy embankments. Mitsubishi's L200 probably has the edge over it, though.
Buying and running
You do not buy the 3.2-litre automatic Ranger if saving money at the fuel pumps is your main motivation. The official combined fuel economy figure is a painful 31.7mpg, and there were times when we were achieving more like 28-29mpg. As a consequence, you're talking about a CO2 figure of 234g/km.
That is the price you pay for sitting behind a big, powerful engine. Most buyers, we suspect, would be better off specifying the 2.2-litre from both the front-end price as well as fuel economy/carbon footprint viewpoint, and you can order it with the automatic box.
|Ford Ranger 3.2-litre Duratorq TDCi 4x4 Automatic Limited double-cab pick-up|
|Price (ex VAT) - £25,445|
|Price range (ex VAT) - £17,795-£26,245|
|Gross payload - 1033kg|
|Load length - 1549mm|
|Load width - (min/max) 1139mm/1560mm|
|Load bay height - 511mm|
|Loading height - 835mm|
|Gross vehicle weight - 3200kg|
|Braked trailer towing weight - 3500kg|
|Residual value - tba|
|Cost per mile - tba|
|Engine size/power - 3196cc, 200hp @ 3000rpm|
|Torque - 470Nm @ 1500-2750rpm|
|Gearbox – 6-spd automatic|
|Fuel economy - 31.7mpg (combined)|
|Fuel tank - 80 litres|
|CO2 - 234g/km|
|Warranty - 3yrs/60,000mls|
|Service intervals - 2yrs/20,000mls|
|Insurance group – tba|
|Price as tested – £29,040|
|• Driver assistance pack (adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping aid, traffic sign recognition, collision mitigation and auto high beam) - £1,125|
|• Tonneau hard cover - £1,200|
|• Metallic paint - £400|
|• Satellite navigation - £350|
|• Rear-view camera - £250|
|• Tow bar with 13-pin electrics - £250|
|• Scuff plates - £20|
Overall, it's an impressive package, but the 3.2-litre's 200hp is probably more than most users will need unless constantly pulling a heavy trailer. It might make sense to save your pennies and opt for the 2.2-litre.