Cape Town - Despite its off-road and workhorse prowess, Ford’s Ranger, plays second fiddle to the new Toyota Hilux.
Its ‘best of the rest’ tag is hard to shake off and for the better part of 2016 it has been overshadowed by the Hilux in terms of sales.
The Ranger 2.2 XLT is slightly more expensive than the equivalent Hilux (depending on specification) and unlike its rival, in its current guise is not a "new" vehicle. The Ranger is by no means an inferior bakkie.
The Ranger trumps the SA market-leader in many ways, though consumers are dead-set on purchasing a Hilux as is evident by surging sales.
This where the Ranger 2.2-litre XLT comes fits in. It may appear to be a standard Ranger bakkie but Ford has kitted this variant with a six-speed auto.
One of the Ranger’s best qualities is its muscular design. None of the current bakkies on offer have the Ranger’s presence and stance. This can be attributed to Ford’s American origins where bigger is associated, but doesn't necessarily mean, better. The front design is nothing short of imposing but towards the rear it adopts a more traditional approach. With a height and width of 1851mm and 1860mm respectively, the Ranger looks solid. And the facelift it received towards the end of 2015, its design was greatly enhanced.
READ: We drive updated Ranger in SA: 'Your move Hilux'
The ‘big’ approach with regards to the design is also evident in the loading bay. With a load carrying capacity of 998L the Ranger’s ‘boot’ is prepared to tackle any load ready to carry anything. What's not standard is a loading bay cover.
Functional, practical interior
For what it’s worth, the Ranger’s interior combines rugged elements with premium touches usually reserved for Ford's passenger cars.
It's rugged in the sense that the large facia contributes to the bakkie’s imposing persona, and modern since it borrows trim details from its passenger-car siblings. Five adults can be transported without getting in each others way, while the rear seats can be folded and lifted to expose a number of storage bays.
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The infotainment system offers a Bluetooth, Aux and USB connectivity though the touchscreen takes some time to get used to. Leather seats offer sufficient comfort but rear comfort is undermined by a slightly jittery rear suspension.
How the drivetrain comes together
As already mentioned, this Ranger is equipped with Ford’s 2.2-litre diesel engine that churns out 118kW/385Nm. Interestingly, this unit delivers more power than the previous generation Ranger’s 3.0-litre oil burner (115kW/380Nm) and sends power to the rear wheels via the newly added auto ‘box.
READ: Ford's SA bakkie trump card: New Ranger Auto 2.2 arrives
Speaking of, the new gearbox fits the 2.2 Ranger really well. Sure, it’s not as refined as some of the more modern automatic boxes on the market, but when measured against its peers it delivers a much smoother application. One team member commented that the gearbox in the Ranger is much better than its equivalent found in the Hilux.
Drive to the rear wheels is channeled without any issues and its transmission shifts seamlessly. The ratios of first and second gears are perhaps a little too high, which makes the engine sound as if it is running on overdrive. Fortunately, wheel spin is curbed quite well. Gentle application of the throttle eliminates any free revving of the engine and smooth gear changes are the order of the day.
SA’s bakkie market is a fiercely-contested field, with the Hilux dominating the country’s overall sales charts month after month. The addition of this new gearbox is beneficial to the Ranger, but Ford would need to dig deep if it is to convince the publication of it and steal buyers from the market leader.
The gearbox is far from perfect, but it fits the Ranger and the manual shift option is not lazy, either. But both Ford and Toyota’s offerings are trumped by the Volkswagen Amarok’s eight-speed gearbox.
Nevertheless, all that’s left to do now is to keep an eye on the sales charts…
Janine van der Post - If I had to put all South Africa’s most popular bakkies in a line, Ford’s Ranger would stand out as the most good-looking of the lot. Toyota’s Hilux might be the most favourite in SA - and the best-selling most months, and is probably deemed the most hardworking-workhorse, but the Ranger is becoming increasingly popular.
And, it’s not to say the Hilux, or Isuzu’s KB aren’t good-looking bakkies but let’s just say the Ranger is the Kim Kardashian of the clan and the one who would make the fashion catwalk for a modelling show.
Its interior is certainly more modern too in terms of design, ergonomics and equipment. Even the materials are more fashionable. The Ranger is fitted with some heavyweight accessories which takes its styling up another notch.
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The drive is more akin to the SUV variant, the Everest, or even a comfortable MPV, instead of a the "agricultural" (read: harsh) experience from most bakkies. It comfort and smooth shifts will help sell the 2.2-auto version too.
The South African Women’s Car of the Year jury also chose the Ranger as the lifestyle bakkie of choice for 2016. It can be considered that for those buyers who want a bakkie for roadtrips, or hauling gardening purchases around, or to take their pets for a run on the beach rather than towing a big boat or transporting a super heavy load with its torque-er 3.2-litre derivative.
So there’s a bit of turbo-lag at times but driving it is a pleasure on any road surface. Whether it’s wet and muddy or a sunny day on a gravel off-road route, the 2.2 could perhaps rope in the numbers the Ranger needs to challenge the Hilux.