Car reviews - Ford - Ranger - range
Ride comfort, dynamics, towing and load capacities, quiet cabin, infotainment and instrumentation on top models, off-road ability, manual gearshift
Room for improvement
Reversing camera range-wide please, reach steering adjustment, plastic steering wheel, reversing camera display in mirror not ideal
20 Aug 2015
WHILE not easily picked as a new model from behind, first sight of the new nose of the Ranger in the metal impresses, as does the first stint behind the wheel of the heavily facelifted and revamped Ford light-commercial ute.
Straight onto a highway and then country roads, the 4x2 super-cab XLT Hi-rider in six-speed automatic guise quickly showed off its quiet and smooth drivetrain.
First impressions are that the engine noise – which was hardly a serious problem in the superseded model – has been further quelled to good effect and the cabin is a quiet and comfortable place to occupy.
Ride quality and general road manners remain impeccable (for a leaf-sprung light-commercial utility) and it feels as though a load in the tray would settle the rear down just the little bit that is required.
It's no fireball off the line, but in-gear acceleration is more than ample, as is the amount of space for the driver.
Manually adjustable seats and tilt-only steering are the only let-downs, the latter more so.
The XLT was optionally equipped with the active lane-departure warning system, which has quite a pronounced impact on the otherwise well-weighted steering – giving the driver a feeling of driving a possessed vehicle, albeit in a safer way – it also had active cruise control, which was a little more subtle in its operation.
The rear jump seat could be tolerated by someone of tallish height behind a similarly-sized driver only for short trips, but for the tradie completing an impromptu school run the two rear seats would do the job ... just.
The centre stack is less busy than some of Ford's other products and that will be of benefit to them, as will the new instruments, with a central dial and two ancillary screens either side.
Tailoring the display to the driver's choice is a relatively easy task and between the instrument panel and the centre touchscreen, there's no cause for complaint about the dashboard, apart from the USB inputs still being a stretch.
After switching to the manual gearbox in an 3.2 XL 4WD, immediately the improvement from the changes to the manual shift system is obvious – the action is cleaner and shorter, with more definition in the gates.
At cruise the base variant is also quiet, despite the fact Ford said only the Wildtrak and the XLT benefitted from extra sound-deadening material.
The plastic steering wheel also betrays the base model status of the XL, as does the air-conditioning the base model's infotainment “time-tunnel” layout is basic and looks low rent, as does the instrument panel.
There's plenty of information on offer – including a digital speed readout – but it's not as easy to access as it is on the up-spec models.
The absence of a standard reversing camera or rear sensors without resorting to an options list is far from ideal, as is the fact that on the bulk of the models the camera displays through the rear-vision mirror.
The Wildtrak flagship excelled on a fast dirt section, delivering a decent ride quality (despite an absence of load in the tray), as well as being quiet and composed backing off the electronics didn't turn it into a tail-happy handful either.
A short stint in the 2.2-litre XLS dual cab showed the smaller engine is still a little noisier than its five-cylinder sibling, as well as being a little underdone for power and narrower in torque spread, but it's by no means the noisiest four-cylinder turbo-diesel in the segment.
Putting the 4WD side of the new Ford to the test, the Ranger's wading depth of 800mm is among the best on the market and it easily dispatched with a short creek run without any water ingress, as well as completing a hill ascent and descent exercise with minimal fuss, apart from the sporadic locking of a rear wheel on the steep concrete descent.
Pricing is still at the premium end – it’s no bargain-basement machine but Ford sees it as being in the top tier of the LCV utility product segment and it’s hard to disagree.
Quieter, more comfortable, still composed in handling, just as powerful and still versatile, the new Ranger has taken a big step in the right direction and it will take something special from Toyota’s new HiLux to remain at the top of the heap.
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