Ford Ranger has deservedly retained the Pick-up of the Year Award for a second year running.
Bigger and better than its utilitarian predecessor the new Ranger simply has more going for it than the competition.
For a start it is available in a full range of bodystyles, single, super and double cab.
Double cab derivatives dominate sales – being able to serve as business pick-ups carrying a team of workers as well as the materials and tools for the job, and also as family or leisure vehicles. For this reason some manufacturers limit their pick-up portfolios to double cab models. But, despite the new Ranger’s quantum leap in terms of comfort and sophistication compared to the previous generation truck, Ford recognises there is still a demand for the more workhorse versions.
Ford’s overhaul of its light commercial vehicle line-up is now well under way but the Ranger was the first of the new breed to arrive in January 2012. It is now firmly established with sales almost doubling this year to give it a 15% market share, according to the manufacturer.
A notable feather in the Ranger’s cap is that it is the first, and so far only, pick-up to gain a maximum five star Euro NCAP rating. Scoring 89% for overall safety, one of the highest scores recorded for any vehicle, the Ranger also achieved the highest rating of any vehicle previously tested by the European road safety organisation for pedestrian protection – at 81%.
Euro NCAP secretary general Michiel van Ratingen described the Ranger’s test performance as “remarkable” and added: “The Ranger is undoubtedly raising the bar for safety.”
The already well-muscled Ranger was beefed up still further in March 2013 with its towing capacity increased to a class-leading (along with the Isuzu D-max) 3500kg. A maximum payload of 1152kg is the best in the market too.
Ford offers the Ranger with a choice of three powertrains; an impressive 150hp 2.2-litre Duratorq TDCi, which delivers as much grunt as most customers could wish for and accounts for the bulk of sales, a 200hp 3.2-litre version for those who want even more power, and the entry-level 125hp 2.2-litre unit. All engines are mated to slick six-speed manual or automatic transmissions.
The Ranger’s on-road drive quality and refinement are at least the equal of any other pick-up on the market and far better than most.
The rack and pinion steering is responsive and succeeds in imparting a car-like driving feel, which is enhanced by a reassuring lack of roll when cornering.
The cab is sophisticated, with a high-quality finish, and noise levels are well suppressed as a result of carefully tuned suspension and a frame that is 40% stiffer than the old Ranger.
It is also a formidable off-road performer, helped by water-wading capability of 800mm and ground clearance of 232mm, and customers can choose from four trim levels: XL, XLT, Limited and Wildtrak.
The VW Amarok is this year’s Highly Commended pick-up truck. It is the only model that can match the Ford Ranger for ride, refinement and interior sophistication but is only available, as yet, in double cab guise. VW has now introduced the impressive 180hp version of its 2.0-litre diesel engine to the line-up, which is available with a superb eight-speed automatic transmission. In June 2013 Volkswagen supplemented the range with the special edition Amarok Edition model.