Ford Ranger Thunder double-cab 2.5
09 August 2006
Category: Pick-up Price: £11,650-£17,450
Key rival: Nissan Navara On sale: September
There's a new version of fleet's biggest selling pick-up in town. The Ford Ranger outsold the second-placed Mitsubishi L200 by 2000 units last year, putting 5482 into fleet, and it's maintained its market-leading position in the first half of this year, despite this replacement model looming and amid growing pressure from Nissan's Navara in particular, as well as Mitsubishi's new L200.
The Ranger isn't all-new, rather a massive reworking of the old pickup. It's powered by a new 2.5-litre common-rail TDCi diesel that offers 143PS compared with the old model's 109, but the chassis and steering are updated from the current model.
The bodywork is also claimed to be all-new and, parked next to the previous-generation model, the differences are obvious with the new Ranger taking on a more aggressive, strong look.
The load bed dimensions are the same as the outgoing model, but the bed's 60mm deeper thanks to taller sides. Ford's carried out plenty of work inside, with more comfortable sculptured seatbacks. The dashboard is basically unchanged, though Ford has added a chrome finish.
Rear access isn't brilliant thanks to a narrow opening, and when passengers are there, they'll find legroom is at something of a premium, though shoulder and headroom are good. The central rear passenger only gets a lapbelt.
The five-speed manual gearbox is the same as before, which is fine because the solid shift didn't need improving, while the steering's fine rather than good, offering little feel, though it has got an excellent steering lock, helpful for manoeuvring these big vehicles.
The new engine is the Ranger's strongest feature. The 143PS serves up plenty of performance around town, and on the motorway it's refined and capable of holding its own in the outside lane.
But it's at higher speed that the Ranger's case struggles. Unladen, the ride's just nowhere near as good as the class-leading Mitsubishi L200 or, close second, Nissan Navara, especially the rear suspension set-up that seems to thump against crests and bumps, rather than offering any degree of compliance. It's a characteristic that makes long journeys less appealing than they would be in the key rivals.
But neither the L200 nor Navara can match Ford's pickup as a working tool. The Ranger's position as the most practical pickup is reinforced by it having the longest load length, and retaining the highest gross payload among the leading players, 1075kg, while towing capacity is up from 2.8 to three tonnes. It is also likely to prove too capable for the others off-road, though all these four-wheel drive pickups will cope with virtually anything that most operators would throw at them.
Ford has also improved service intervals from 6000 to 12,500, and the warranty's improved to three-years and 60,000 miles.
The Ranger's biggest problem is that, despite its strong new engine, it's a pretty good pickup in a market that's now led by a couple of excellent ones.