The current-generation Ford Ranger will soon be driving off into the sunset, with the recently introduced Stormtrak and Wolftrak editions seeing the model out in style. But despite the appearance of those extrovert variants, Ford hasn’t forgotten how to also build an honest working pick-up. To prove it, we present here the most modest current Ranger What Van? has tested – the entry-level single cab body style, with the entry-level XL trim option.

Choosing a single-cab pick-up is not just about saving money, of course. There is the obvious practical advantage of a longer load bed than with other Ranger variants, alleviating the need to take up space with back seats – more than 700mm of extra room compared with a double-cab model is not to be sniffed at. It is also worth noting that with the engine tested here, the single-cab and chassis-cab Rangers also have the highest gross payload of any variant in the range, at 1,252kg – worth bearing in mind for those who often need to move heavy loads. Also having a single cab model makes manoeuvring easier, since the driver has a great view over their shoulder straight through the rear window when reversing – especially welcome since XL spec features no parking sensors or reversing camera. Large door mirrors also help with visibility.

As you would expect from an entry-level vehicle, interior materials are mostly of the robust plastic variety, though you do get leather door armrests. Controls such as the indicator stalks feel light and easy to use, but also robust.

Instead of a modern touchscreen, XL trim comes with an old-school digital display, but this works for what it does, and would probably be easier to operate than a touchscreen when wearing gloves, though obviously navigation will need to be via third-party means. You do still get a USB port, allowing music to be played from a smartphone. Other standard equipment includes air conditioning and cruise control, while standard safety features include autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection, and an intelligent speed limiter. 

One item of kit you don’t get is a starter button, which contributed to a potentially embarrassing start to our test when we couldn’t get the key to turn in the ignition – a call to Ford’s press garage revealed an overzealous steering lock was to blame, and jiggling the wheel while turning the key produced the desired result.

Although most of our test vehicle was base spec, there was an exception in the form of the engine, a 170hp 2.0L diesel – a 130hp version, which is only available with single- cab Rangers, can also be specced (unsurprisingly, there’s no option to have the 213hp engine at this end of the range). The 170hp engine delivers strong performance, meaning little effort is needed on the accelerator pedal to keep up with traffic. It does produce a fairly gruff rattle when idling, and remains a bit noisy when setting off and accelerating, but is quieter at a cruise, although at motorway speeds you get a fair bit of road noise instead, largely through the back window – a disadvantage of having it right behind you. A six-speed manual gearbox (no auto option is available with this variant) has a slick and easy shift action. Four-wheel drive is standard throughout the range.

Despite the more utilitarian spec, the single-cab Ranger XL is still enjoyable to drive. Car-like, crisp and accurate steering is a real highlight, making the truck easy to place on the road and contributing to strong overall dynamics, with nicely composed handling in the bends. There are also good levels of ride comfort – perhaps thanks in part to the relatively small 16in wheels fitted to this entry-level model allowing for more cushioning from the tyre sidewalls, helping to take the edge off potholes.

The all-new Ranger is due to be launched late 2022, with the first variant being the range-topping Raptor model. Here’s hoping that when more modest versions appear, they are as accomplished as the outgoing XL.

Ford Ranger XL Single Cab 2.0L EcoBlue 6-spd Manual

Price (ex VAT) £26,241

Price range (ex VAT) £25,591–£50,616

Insurance group 37E

Warranty 3yrs/60,000mls

Service intervals 12,500mls

Load length 2,317mm

Load width (min/max) 1,139/1,560mm

Load bay height 511mm

Gross payload 1,252kg

Engine size/power 1,996cc/170hp

Combined fuel economy 33.2mpg

CO2 229g/km