Valuable niche market sees latest Ford Ranger

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WHAT the Americans call pick-ups and the Australians know as ‘Utes’ (utility vehicles) are hugely popular in the USA and Down Under, but here the mix of double cab for passengers and a large open cargo platform has always been more of a niche market.

It’s a valuable one, though, and a sector in which Ford’s Ranger has always struggled to quite get on terms with the Mitsubishi L200 and Nissan Navara market leaders.

Will this latest generation Ranger make the difference?

Taller, bigger, wider and able to carry more cargo, this Ranger pick-up really has gone large.

Under the bonnet of this model lie a couple of far more efficient diesel engines.

First up, and flying the flag for the UK in a car that will be sold in almost 200 countries around the world, is the Dagenham-built 2.2-litre Ford Duratorq TDCI diesel unit with 150bhp and peak torque of 375Nm.

Also new is the 3.2-litre Duratorq TDCI with a beefy 200bhp available along with 470Nm of torque, which should be enough to tow even the largest caravan, horsebox or trailer.

Drivers get the choice of rear wheel drive, or of a four-wheel drive model which can instantly switch drive from two to four wheels with just a touch of the electronic dash-mounted control.

The smart transmission has also been tuned to ensure that while towing is never a problem, acceleration is relatively brisk and the ride is balanced, controlled and uneventful.

Ford have not forgotten that this is a car that could live a tough life and at times be heavily loaded and towing. Hence ground clearance of up to 232mm and the fitment of a proper low range gearbox, whether you specify 6-speed manual or automatic transmission.

Pick-up handling will never be completely car-like, but thanks to a stiffer chassis, new suspension and stability control as standard, this one’s responses should be far more assured than has been the case with previous Ranger models.

An impressive array of technology dedicated to this end includes a clever Trailer Sway Control system that automatically detects when a trailer is beginning to snake and unobtrusively brings things back under control.

There’s also Adaptive Load Control which, should the rear load area have cargo in it that has been badly loaded or which places all the weight in one area, adjusts the suspension so that the car rides level.

Inside, there’s room for five adults and the enlarged passenger compartment gives more shoulder, leg and foot room for rear seat passengers thanks to overall dimensions that see the Ranger stretched in every direction.

It’s almost two inches wider, more than seven inches longer and 2.5 inches taller, with a wheelbase that, at just under 127 inches, is 8.6 inches longer than its predecessor. There are more than 20 stowage areas for drinks, a host of cupholders and enough space in the glovebox for a laptop.

It can also carry more, with a payload of up to 3,300 pounds. The fractionally wider rear cargo area now measures 62 inches long, 20.4 inches tall and 62.4 inches wide. The width between the wheelarches is 45.5 inches and the rear tailgate opens to take items up to 53.2 inches wide.

The Ranger competes against established rivals like the Nissan Navara and the Toyota Hilux, offering a slightly better value proposition in the £16,000-£22,000 bracket than either.