By Andy Enright
Buying a used pick-up would seem to be a fairly straightforward assignment, and buying a used Ford pick-up easier still. While it's true that Ford's Ranger is one of the toughest cars in its class, it's worth remembering that some were bought as lifestyle accessories and some have been given a good battering on a building site or plantation. In other words there's a whole heap of variability in the quality of used stock. Here's what to look for when shopping used.
2/4 door pick-up (2.5, 3.0 diesel [XL, XLT, Thunder, WIldtrak])
Pick-ups have come a long way in the last few years. Until the turn of the century, they were basic, utilitarian things but by 2005, the standard had risen so dramatically that many buyers could consider double cab versions of offerings like Nissan's Navara, Mitsubishi's L200 and Toyota's Hilux as realistic alternatives to a family estate. They weren't quite as refined to drive but for those with hard day jobs also wanting the same vehicle for weekend use, they were just the ticket. Ford's Ranger was improved at the same time too but it took until the launch of the 2009-generation version we're looking at here for the Blue Oval to really get on terms with its competitors. This model sold well, despite tax regulations that, in effect, closed a loophole that made these vehicles popular for private buyers for a while. The last of the Mazda-developed cars, this version of the Ranger was replaced in 2012 by a more expensive and more sophisticated in-house Ford design.
What You Get
This version of the Ranger is more distinctive than its predecessor, thanks to the same kinetic design that has served Ford's passenger cars so well. As before, customers had a choice of the 'Regular Cab' two-seater (with a Tipper option) and the 'Super Cab' model with its occasional rear seats. There's also a Double Cab version intended to appeal to the leisure-orientated private buyer market for the kind of customer who enjoys active outside pursuits and wants something a bit tougher and more versatile than an ordinary SUV. Inside, it's pretty family-orientated, with plenty of cubbies, boxes and bins for ample cabin storage. At the wheel, there's that great driving position, compromised only by the lack of reach-adjustment on the steering wheel and the rather utilitarian 'umbrella handle'-style hand brake. The silver detailing isn't bad, the three-ringed instrument cluster is easy to read and on the top Wildtrak model, there are extra dash-mounted gauges that display pitch and roll, internal and external temperature and a compass. Space for rear passengers is slightly less comfortable than that provided for those at the front, thanks to rather upright seating, though legroom is better than you might expect. It's a pity there's no three-point belt for the middle rear passenger though. There are three load deck sizes, depending on which of the three bodystyles you choose. This doublecab has a class-leading loadbox length of 1530mm, a width of 1456mm and a depth of 465mm and there are useful loadbox tie-down to keep items from sliding around in transit. A nice touch is the two-position drop-down tailgate.
What You Pay
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What to Look For
The Ranger is built extremely tough, and has benefited from many years of continual development. The interior isn't the last word in sophistication but it is hardwearing. Virtually everybody we spoke to only had good things to say about the car's durability. It's covered by a three-year/60,000 mile warranty which also includes Ford breakdown assistance, so any faults that have shown up should be taken care of. It's worth remembering that this model is in fact built by Mazda which bodes extremely well for reliability. As usual, check for damage to exhausts and suspension from off-roading, check that the load bay tie-downs aren't bent or broken and ensure there's life in the clutch, diffs and dampers. It might have been used for some very heavy towing.
(approx prices, based on a 2010 2.5 Ranger Wildtrak Super) As with most Ford models, spare parts are reasonably priced. A refurbished alternator will cost £125, while a starter motor is £175. A replacement step-up rear bumper costs £200 while an air filter will be £12 and a fuel filter £15.
On the Road
You climb up high to perch behind the wheel of any pick-up and this Ranger is no exception. Your impressions with regard to its handling will probably depend upon how realistic your expectations are. If you're wanting something to rival a family 4x4, you'll be disappointed. But come to it having experienced an older generation of pick-up and the on road experience will likely be a revelation. The ladder chassis and live, leaf-sprung rear axle is designed to accommodate heavy loads rather than provide for a cosseting ride, but it's really not that far off the clunkier passenger 4x4s on the market. The 12.6m turning circle isn't too bad for this type of vehicle either. Off road, you'll forgive it everything. Four-wheel drive is on offer in both high and low ratios and good ground clearance (up to 207mm) with front and rear overhangs that don't catch too readily in tight gullies make it well suited to anything but an off piste situation you really shouldn't have been in the first place. If conditions turn really bad, a torque-sensing limited slip differential at the rear should help you through. A wading depth of up to 750mm should also help you through the worst of the winter storms. Power for entry-level Ranger models is supplied by much the same 2.5-litre common-rail injection diesel engine, developing 143PS and doing so at a usefully low 2,000rpm. If you need more grunt, there's a 156PS 3.0-litre TDCi engine option available with the higher spec-derivatives and this unit is available with an automatic gearbox. On paper, it doesn't look much faster (sixty is 11.3s rather than 12.5s away from rest) but the important figure is the extra pulling power on offer (380Nm of torque rather than 330Nm). That's enough to cope with a payload of up to 1235kg, depending on the version you choose, and to pull along up to 750kg unbraked and up to 3,000kgs braked. And talking of anchors, there's a hydraulic braking system with ABS on all four wheels.
While it's true that most buyers in this class plump for a Toyota Hilux or a Nissan Navara, the Ford Ranger makes a very credible alternative. It'll be cheaper than the Toyota and just as reliable, and although it doesn't drive as well as the Nissan, it's much tougher. As such, it earns a solid recommendation from us if you're looking for a pick up that's priced well and can take a good leathering.