The Ford Ranger is a popular & iconic compact pickup truck with a dominant grip on sales in the UK, but what is it about this truck that makes it so popular? Vanarama's Tom Roberts reports.
When I filmed my review of the latest version of the Ford Ranger - the 2019 Ford Ranger (in reality a mid-cycle update to the previous generation of Ford Ranger) - I called it the best version of the pickup truck yet, & I meant it. Check it out below:
Having driven many of the previous generations & reviewed the last 2 versions for Vanarama, I can picture every major upgrade between the generations & see how Ford have poured their experience into making this truck the sales powerhouse it has become.
The key questions I get asked about the Ranger are whether it's expensive, cost-efficient, chuffs out low emissions & just how fuel hungry it is. If you take those individual questions, you may find other trucks that compare & sometimes exceed the Ranger in performance. What you will not find, in my opinion, are trucks that so capably provide "the full package" like the Ford Ranger does - that's how it wins!
Ford Ranger History Lessons
Since 1958, the Ranger name has been used on no less than three models of Ford vehicles. It all started with the Edsel Ranger (a classic automobile), followed in 1965 as a trim level name on the F-Series pickup trucks (featuring the well-known, even in the UK, XLT & Lariat trim levels). It's the compact pickup series first launched in 1983 when the Ranger name began to be synonymous with the vehicles we know today, & by 2006 the Ranger name was applied to all compact trucks.
Over the past couple of years, I've actively sought out older generations of this truck to drive so I could accurately track its development. The Ford Ranger Wikipedia page is a particularly good place for you to see how it has kept up with the times - starting life as a basic utility vehicle & evolving with every upgrade into the confident combination of truck & SUV we know today.
Finding The Balance
For my money, it's the 2014 generation's Wildtrak trim level edition that took the trend for luxury & utility to its logical conclusion (& packed a 3.2-litre Duratorq engine with excellent fuel economy into the mix).
I'm not saying the previous versions (such as the Ford Ranger XL single cab) weren't comfortable or powerful, but the 2014's full-leather interior & huge engine must have been a pleasant surprise for drivers more used to tough-wearing fabric seats & 2.0-litre diesel engines with high mpg city figures. Check out our old review below:
Since then, the truck's cabin experience has been improved massively by adding in a range of creature comforts. These include an infotainment system on the "center stack" with the excellent Ford co-pilot360 tech, alloy wheels (bizarrely misspelled as "aluminum wheels" in one brochure), high beam lights, Fx4 off road package, 10-speed automatic transmission, full leather steering wheel, cross traffic alerts, automatic emergency braking system, four wheel drive & everything else you'd expect in a modern truck not covered in this exhaustive list.
Trucks like the Toyota Tacoma, Chevrolet Colorado & many others are incredibly popular overseas... the Ford Ranger is our answer to their combination of power, luxury & utility.
The Ranger Range In Focus
What strikes me most is how good Ford have gotten at making sure there's a Ranger truck for any potential user - from the person who just needs a truck, to someone who wants to use their vehicle for work & play. At the basic level is the XL, a single-cab pickup truck with an enormous loading bay capable of carrying well over a tonne in the back & an efficient 2.0-litre EcoBlue diesel engine. The Ford Ranger is usually where people start their search for a pickup, even if they eventually don't go for a Ford Ranger.
One up from that is the XLT, available as a super or king-cab with a slightly smaller loading bay being the only trade off between it & the XL - it can still carry over a tonne & packs the same 2.0-litre EcoBlue diesel engine.
Next is the Limited, which features plenty of comfort additions & is probably the most popular of the Rangers available today. It too is available with a super or king cab & the excellent 2.0-litre EcoBlue diesel engine.
Top of the pile is the Wildtrak, available with either the 2.0-litre EcoBlue diesel engine OR the powerful 3.2-litre Duratorq engine. The current version of the Wildtrak is the one we reviewed & if you check out the interiors of that version & the previous version you'll see what I mean about the new interior being the most tasteful Ford have ever created!
So… Why Is The Ford Ranger So Popular?
Pickup trucks have evolved over the past 60 years with strong outward utility combined with interior SUV-style luxury becoming the dominant trend. Right now, the place where I believe you find the best example of that is in the Ford Ranger.
A lot of manufacturers talk about their truck being the best all-round package, but the Ranger's choice of engines, cab sizes & trim levels means that no matter who you are & what you're looking for in a pickup truck you WILL find it in a Ranger.
I'm not smacking down the competition - Nissan, Toyota, Mitsubishi & all the rest make great trucks (check out my reviews on the Vanarama YouTube channel) - but I'm yet to see or, most importantly, feel the same level of "purpose built for this" that the Ford Ranger seems to effortlessly provide.
If you're looking for a new pickup truck, the Ford Ranger is where lots of you will start your search. But I would bet all the money in my pocket against all the money in yours that for the vast majority of you, it's where your search will end.