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.
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 transmission.
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.
Ford Ranger Double Cab Limited 4x4
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