Test drive: Ford Ranger XLT 2.2 TDCi 150 HP image

Ford is well known around the world for its F-150 pickup truck that actually doesn’t have a global presence. A paradox, yes? Well, actually no. That’s because the US company thinks the Ranger model we tested is a compact truck! By all means – if the 5359 mm long vehicle is compact, we dare not ask what dimensions meet the criteria of subcompact pickup trucks.

Well, ironies aside, the move to offer the Ranger on more than 180 different markets and across five continents is a good one – especially since the model lacks a US presence. The Detroit automaker abandoned the segment in its home market, allowing the Japanese to reap most of the not so great sales. Without being actually related, the Ranger still manages to bring a great feeling of relationship to America’s best selling pickup truck since, well…forever.

Meanwhile, “political” technicalities aside, we are treated to the “Built Ford Tough” scenario in Europe – where Ranger competes with models like Mazda’s BT-50 (once a sibling), Toyota’s Hilux or Nissan’s Navara. The only European competitor is Volkswagen’s Amarok – a model that actually we consider to be the closest to Ranger’s qualities. The trio of Japanese models retains the definite commercial feel – while both Ford and VW have broken the boundaries towards the passenger car segment.

Design, Interior and Gadgets

Can you believe when I say that the Ranger has been presented to the world back in 2010 at the Australian International Motor Show – we double-checked as well. That’s because the model looks as fresh as ever. Seriously – it’s not really integrated into the design language that Ford uses for its passenger cars, which is great – we have here a model that technically belongs to the commercial side of the business. But the lines are contemporary, well balanced and make you often wonder why there aren’t more models with the cues – they definitely scream Ford, but they do it in a “fashion” designer’s kind of way. Which is incredible, since except for the small chance (in Europe at least) of being an “urban cowboy,” the Ranger will be a model chosen based on technical qualities like the size of the charging bin, off-road angles and so on. But then again, just by looking at the Ranger’s exterior you’ll know that – save for the very big parking space needed – there won’t be any problem if you go in a tuxedo to the opera.

The interior of the car – unlike the exterior – does remind us the model is now four years old. The choice of materials is pretty much what you would expect from a commercial vehicle (but we’re keeping our fingers crossed for the redesign or next generation) – strong, dark and rugged plastics. They’ll last (hopefully) a lifetime but they shure don’t look great. Than, the design of the instrument clusters – both behind the wheel and the main area – don’t relate to the Ford cars of today. Which has advantages and disadvantages. The main asset is that Ranger’s main information areas are free of the clutter you see in many Fords today – which makes everything easy to handle. The main aspect we need to complain about – the puny and measly information display on the center console. Just 5 inches in diagonal, but when you sit in a pickup that has over 5,3 meters in length and is 1,85 meters wide you’ll count that display being as large as the one on your new smartwatch.

Fortunately, in the version we tested, Ford provides most of the basic modern amenities – we have a Bluetooth connection for our smartphone, USB connection for our music and in more expensive trims (Limited, the great Wildtrack) there’s even more, like Sat Nav.

With a wheelbase of 3220 mm and a height of 1815 mm there’s no problem taking in five persons. Even the fact that the bucket behind needs most of the space for work purposes doesn’t cause any compromises in the back seats. There, three adults can have a nice trip, while the front seats are large, comfortable and lacking any side support what so ever.

Engine, Transmission and Road/Off-Road Handling

We mentioned before – more than once – that the Ranger breaks away from the commercial heritage. It’s still as rugged and capable as ever (actually even more so than the last generation) but its passenger car-like qualities make you want to buy it and use it as your daily commute! Inside a busy town that is! Except for when you’re going off the asphalt, the Ranger performs smoothly – no rattles and brambles when changing gears, no coffee spilling vibrations when waiting for the green light and interior noise at highway speeds is incredibly low for a car with a Cx factor of 0,40.

Cabin insulation plays a big part in the latter aspect but the 2.2 TDCi also has its wonders. Driving with the windows down you can hear the specific turbo whistle when it discharges, but other than that when throttling there’s no sound attack. Kudos for Ford, which designed a vibration free, discreet diesel engine that shows off only when you need him.

Mated to a six speed manual transmission (there’s an automatic option as well), the 2.2 liter in line four churns out 150 hp at 3700 rpm and has a torque of 375 Nm between 1500-2500 rpm. Even if the vehicle’s dry weight is above the two tonn average (2123 kg), the Ranger never feels underpowered – as was the case with the generation it replaced. And fuel consumption – for this category at least – is also great. Factory figures are 10.1 l/100 km in urban driving, 7.7 on the highway and an average of 8.5 l/100 km. These figures are of course an ideal that would be hard to achieve, but nevertheless the real world scenario reveals an impressive fuel economy.

The drivetrain keeps well in check on-road and off-road capabilities, without sacrificing functionality (we still get an old-school rear leaf suspension design) or payload. We tested the Ranger on a variety of roads and the model performs great – in town and on roads with a good surface is quiet and comfortable. Going off-road, the ground clearance of up to 232 mm is adamant, while the model (understandably) is easier to handle if the cargo box is loaded. The 4×4 system is very simple and easy to use – you have a small switch that takes the transmission from 4×2 to 4×4 and 4×4 low.

Smooth ride, interior space and a great engine are its biggest assets. Meanwhile, the model shows its age when it comes to the interior and way it handles information delivery.

Photo by Gabi Gogiu