Ford Ranger squares up to the competition

Last year Ford's Ranger became the best-selling pick-up truck in Europe. Just over 8,000 of its 27,300 sales were in the UK, handing it around 20 per cent of the market.

In order to maintain that share Ford has launched a new version of the Ranger promising better economy, more advance technology and a bolder design.

The last point certainly isn’t in doubt. From painfully bland workhorse looks of its early generations the Ranger has evolved into a brash muscular vehicle. The top-spec Wildtrak trim in particular looks like a life-size Tonka toy.

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Starting at £17,795 (£22,589 including VAT) the Ranger comes in three body styles, four trim levels and with the choice of a 2.2 or 3.2-litre turbodiesel engine and six-speed manual or automatic 

Scotsman Motors drove the double cab four-wheel-drive 3.2 auto in Limited specification.

It’s a new engine and offers 197bhp and 347lb/ft of torque, compared with the 2.2-litre’s 158bhp and 284lb/ft. It’s more powerful than the 2.4-litre in our long-term Mitsubishi L200 but didn’t really feel any more potent and was far noisier on the move.

As part of the update, auto stop/start, new gear ratios and a new power steering system have been introduced to improve the Ranger’s efficiency by up to 17 per cent. Our test vehicle officially returned 31.7mpg and emitted 234g/km of CO2 while the cleanest 2.2 manual offers 171g/km and 43.5mpg.

The new power steering system also offers positive and communicative steering and its speed-sensitive adjustment makes parking the 2.2-tonne truck a doddle. On the road this and a relatively composed ride put it ahead of some rivals but wind and road noise aren’t as well controlled.

Like all pick-up manufacturers, Ford is going after two markets with the Ranger. There’s the traditional trade market looking for a simple tough workhorse, and there’s the active lifestyle buyer looking for all the luxuries of a normal car but with added off-road and load-lugging ability.

Our Limited test model was definitely aimed at the latter, sporting 18-inch alloys and chrome trim all over the exterior and packing the interior with the sort of spec you’d expect in a high-end Mondeo. Dominating the dash was the eight-inch touchscreen running Ford’s excellent Sync 2 media system. Alongside that, the Limited packed in dual-zone climate control, a coolbox in the centre storage bin, heated electrically adjustable leather seats, auto lights and wipers, parking sensors and a clever C-channel tie-down system in the load bed.

It also came with options including a rear parking camera, sat nav and tonneau hard cover. Allied to the driver assistance pack – featuring adaptive cruise control, lane keeping aid, traffic sign recognition, collision mitigation and auto high beam – these pushed the list price of it to an eye-watering £35,724.

For those seeking a capable work vehicle, the 2.2-litre XL regular cab in 2WD starts at a more sensible £22,589, inclusive of VAT. This still includes electric windows, DAB radio, traction and stability control and a host of airbags. Opt for the four-wheel-drive version and it will match any of its pricier stablemates in off-road ability.

Having had the opportunity to put its 4x4 systems to the test I can confidently predict that whatever any buyer chucks at it the Ranger should cope with ease. High ground clearance, class-leading wading depth and clever electronics that will hold the truck and guide it down steep inclines under complete control make for a very capable vehicle that lives up to its rugged looks.

Add those abilities to its much improved running costs and its effectiveness as a carry-all truck and it’s easy to see the Ranger hanging onto its best-seller crown.

Fast facts

Ford Ranger Double Cab Limited 4x4

Price: £35,724

Engine: 3.2-litre turbodiesel producing 197bhp, 347lb/ft

Transmission: sSix-speed automatic driving all four wheelsl

Performance: Top speed 109mph, 0-02mph in 10.6 seconds

Economy: 31.7mpg combined

Emissions: 234g/km of CO2