Ford Ranger Pickup Review
It’s been around in its current form since 2011, but countless updates and new engines have kept the Ford Ranger fresh.
Deep down, it’s still a rugged workhorse, but there’s enough luxury, performance and practicality for it to be considered a reasonably sensible family car. It’s just one that can venture virtually anywhere off-road.
It’s a big old lump, though. At 5.36m, it’s the longest pickup on sale, bar the SsangYong Musso LWB, which translates to decent interior space and, vitally for many, a huge load deck.
Select's rating score* - 4.3 / 5
At a Glance
It’s got a bold style that every pickup seems to have these days, but doesn’t go all-out on the aggression. It’s got an impressive load box and the practicality that comes with that, and it’s got a cabin that’s sizable and comfortable. It even has a decent list of equipment, including some truly premium additions.
The soulful V6 engine might have disappeared now, but the 2.0-litre EcoBlue diesels that remain are powerful, reasonably economical and sufficiently refined. You’re not going to mistake the driving experience for a Lexus RX, but it’s as good as you’ll find in the pickup segment at the moment.
You can even find super-tough off-road rally-ready modes (the Raptor) and low-slung performance street machines (the MS-RT) as well as wipe-clean commercial models and stylish attention grabbers (Wildtrak).
The hard part is picking the right model, but there will, absolutely definitely, be one that’s spot on.
Ford has bridged the gap between rugged workhorse and active lifestyle requirements with the Ranger, offering it in various states of trim to appeal to each distinct audience. However, there’s a happy crossover point in the middle of the range where it offers a little bit of everything to each customer.
It’s got a fearsome reputation for its go-anywhere ability, and the sheer number of customisation and conversion options available is mind-bending. Need an off-road recovery vehicle? No problem. Something that can carry a few sheep across a muddy field? Sure thing. A private bar on a platform to serve drinks through the window of an apartment? Amazingly, yes. Honestly, Heinekin did that. If your business needs something specific, there’s a very good chance that Ford, or one of its conversion partners, will be able to provide it.
That flexibility, and the backup of a huge nationwide dealer network, will be reassuring to both private individuals and fleets.
Performance & Drive
For the double-cab model, engine options are limited to two 2.0-litre diesel units, producing either 170 or 213hp. With either 420 or 500Nm of torque, there’s enough pulling power in either. Opt for the 213hp model with an automatic gearbox and you’ll be able to hit 62ph in just nine seconds, while even the least powerful version only takes 11.4.
That’s not going to worry any hot hatch drivers, but it’s enough to get the Ranger rolling with everyday traffic, and leave some of it behind. Be brave and you’ll be able to reach up to 112mph. The more utilitarian single-cab model has a 130hp engine choice but, thanks to its lighter weight, performance is every bit as potent.
An outsider to the range is the Raptor, a high-performance tough-as-nails truck that looks like it’s ready to enter the Baja rally. While the larger US-only F-150 Raptor has a 450hp V6 engine, the UK’s Ranger version makes do with the same 2.0-litre diesel power as the rest of the range. Thanks to the extra bulk and off-road suspension, it’s slower than the regular models, but you’ll feel invincible driving it.
Handling, by pickup standards, is excellent. It turns in sharply, the body control is impressive, and the suspension is forgiving enough to make progress comfortable. It’s not going to have Volvo redesigning the chassis of the XC90, but there’s nothing better that can carry a tonne of cargo in the back.
It can get bouncy on uneven surfaces, though, and the sheer bulk of it makes urban use a little trying. Huge mirrors and a reversing camera make manoeuvring easier, though.
Company vehicle drivers can still benefit from a fixed benefit in kind rate for 2020/21 of £3,490, which means your annual company car tax bill will be set at either £698 or £1,396, depending on your income tax rate.
Vehicle tax is also set at a fixed rate, regardless of emissions, which currently translates to a figure of £265.
However, company drivers need to be very careful with the Limited 213hp Auto specification and all Wildtrak and Thunder trims, especially if you’re considering having a canopy over the load deck. Doing so reduces the payload to below one-tonne, taking it out of the commercial vehicle category and making it a car - there’ll be no VAT reclamation, and BIK will be baked on emissions and list price.
The Raptor has never been considered a commercial vehicle, so the company car tax bill shoots up to £7,365 for somebody paying a 40% rate of income tax.
Private users fare better, but fuel economy might still be a shock. Our Thunder specification test model, with 213hp and a 10-speed automatic gearbox, promises just 30.7mpg, and returned an average of 28.6mpg over a week’s testing on mixed roads. That’s competitive enough in the sector, but will be a shock to anyone moving from a modern SUV.
The Ranger received a heavy facelift in 2016, and that’s transformed the cabin from a dreary, dated place to put up with something that’s not too far removed from what you’d expect in a Ford road car. Ok, maybe not a 2021 road car, but there's an impressive 8.0-inch infotainment centre on most models, sitting above a dual-zone climate control system.
That’s all wrapped up in a dashboard that’s functional but elegant with, on this high-spec model, swathes of dark gloss plastics and anthracite trim to add a dark but classy ambience.
There are still far too many buttons though, with the climate control system being tricky to use if you need anything beyond ‘automatic’, especially given its position low down in the cabin, while the 22 buttons on the steering wheel can be a little overwhelming at times.
In contrast, the control to switch between the various drive modes is a simple, easy to use rotary dial that couldn’t be clearer.
Equipment levels vary from trim to trim, with the entry-level XL model kitted out with the essentials but little else, rising to positive luxury in this Thunder model; there’s heated, electrically adjustable, leather-clad seats, a semi-digital instrument binnacle, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, a DAB radio and heated door mirrors.
Practicality & Boot Space
Pickup practicality focuses on two areas, the load box at the back and the interior of the cabin.
Fortunately, the Ranger is well disposed in both areas. Being the longest truck on sale (except for the lengthened SsangYong Musso) it’s got an impressively sized loa box, measuring 1,613mm long.
However, While it's got the volume, its ability to carry mass is rather more limited compared to its rivals. Our Thunder-specification test model can take just 1,024kg of cargo and passengers, leaving it perilously close to the HMRC’s 1,000kg limit for VAT reclamation. That SsangYong Musso can carry another 191kg on top.
The sheer size of the Ranger makes for more room in the cabin, too. There’s acres of space for those in the front, with a large storage area between the seats, some big cupholders, and sensibly sized door pockets and glove box.
In the back, there’s a three-person bench seat that is comfortable enough for almost any adult. Two fit nicely, of course, but a third passenger in the middle won’t feel too hard done by unless they’re facing a particularly long journey.
Even the most basic Ranger gets a long list of safety equipment, including lane-keeping assist, a collision mitigation system, rollover prevention, and automatic emergency braking. Adaptive cruise control is available as an option across the range, which also includes a head-up display.
EuroNCAP has tested the Ranger, but only back in 2012 when it ran under a less stringent set of requirements. However, it scored the maximum five stars back then, with exceptional protection for adult occupants. Despite its size, pedestrian protection was also rated strongly.
Ford’s range runs from the utilitarian (read: basic) XL through to the almost luxurious Thunder, with five other trim levels available to meet your professional or lifestyle needs. XL and XLT are more commercially focussed, while Wildtrak and Thunder err towards the consumer market. Limited strikes a fine balance between the two.
There are several cosmetic changes you can make, from the addition of a chrome or plastic sports bar to a variety of alloy wheel choices, but most additional kit revolves around improving practicality.
All but the entry-level XL come with an 8.0-inch infotainment screen, with Limited and higher grade models getting Ford’s Sync 3 software that includes Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. You’ll need to splash out a little extra, or choose a higher model, for built-in navigation, though.
There's a vast array of load box accessories, from cargo management kits with rails, tie-down points and liners, to tonneau covers, solid roller covers and various canopies. You’ll be able to make the laid box as open, closed, flexible or secure as you need it to be.
Each model can also be specified with off-road packs, that generally include a locking rear differential, parking packs that add active park assist, and driver assistance packs that include adaptive cruise control, auto high beam lights and a head-up display.
Toyota’s freshly updated Hilux finally has an engine to match the Ford Ranger and offers impressive performance. It’s not quite as comfortable, but balances that by being virtually indestructible - if you’re heading somewhere seriously remote, the Hilux will get you there and back without a worry.
The Nissan Navara offers a similarly smooth ride on the road, thanks to independent rear suspension rather than rugged but agricultural leaf springs. It’s pleasingly car-like inside, too, although the cabin is beginning to feel a little dated.
Isuzu’s new D-Max launches soon, and that’s been getting rave reviews in Australia, where it’s already available. The same solid reliability is expected but paired with a high-tech cabin featuring large touchscreens and modern comforts.
Verdict & Next Steps
There’s a reason that the Ford Ranger is the best selling pickup truck in the UK. It does almost everything well and offers an all-round package that appeals to commercial users, professionals and families.
The Thunder specification model tested here strikes an impressive balance between lifestyle use and light commercial duties, but the cosmetic upgrades make it less suited for rugged off-road work. For that, the Limited model will serve you better, while those wanting the load-carrying capability but with little need for off-road use can look at the low-slung MS-RT model.
Where to next?
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*Score based on Select’s unique meta score analysis, taking into account the UK’s top five leading independent car website reviews of the Ford Ranger
**Correct as of 08/04/2021. Based on 9 months initial payment, 5,000 miles over a 24 month lease. Initial payment equivalent to 9 monthly payments or £2516.29 Ts and Cs apply. Credit is subject to status.