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The new Ford Ranger is finally on the verge of taking its place in showrooms in the UK and across the rest of Europe.
It's been a long time coming. Having first broken cover at the Sydney motor show more than a year ago, it made its UK debut at the Commercial Vehicle Show back in April.
So how does it shape up? We tried the 2.2 XLT 150hp 4x4 double cab with manual transmission, and initial impressions were that the ride is slightly juddery, although this would almost certainly improve with a load on board, while on slightly rougher, gravelly terrain the Ranger soaked up the bumps well without transmitting the impact to the cab's occupants.
The gear change is slick and well spaced and there is a surprisingly light touch to the new rack and pinion steering. Ford claims this is a deliberate ploy to give the truck a more car-like feel and to resist roll when cornering. Power, meanwhile, is more than adequate when on the highway.
Off-road the new Ranger demonstrates considerable prowess, and one of the new model's claims to fame in 4x4 guise is its class-leading water-wading capability of 800mm. Another is its 232mm ground clearance, and generally the Ranger is able to negotiate fast-running rivers, boulder-strewn riverbeds and steep, slippery climbs and descents with minimal fuss.
The cab interior is understated and tasteful if not quite a match for the VW Amarok in terms of quality. Noise levels are well suppressed, too.
The seats are comfortable and manually adjustable - as is the steering column for height and reach - and finished in cloth trim, but you get leather in the Limited and Wildtrak derivatives along with powered seats.
There's plenty of storage space thanks to 23 stowage compartments.
The Ranger is now the proud recipient of the first NCAP five-star crash test rating bestowed upon a pick-up. More remarkably, it has also achieved the highest score of any vehicle for pedestrian safety. A raft of safety features includes Trailer Sway Control, which mitigates problems caused by side winds or badly loaded trailers; Adaptive Load Control, which adjusts stability according to the load; and Roll-Over Mitigation, which triggers the ESP to restore stability.
The new Ranger certainly represents a major advance in comfort and sophistication compared with its predecessor, and it looks the part too, with a tough, imposing stance. It joins a sector that has recently become more competitive with the arrival of the well-received VW Amarok. However, the Ranger's composed and accomplished performance, together with its bar-raising safety technology, suggests it's on course to shake up the established order.