Johannesburg - Ford’s Ranger has certainly been a conversation topic around the braais this year, with the release of the long-awaited Raptor, as well as its new 2-litre twin-turbo diesel engine, which also powers a few other models in the line-up.

Sitting quietly in the corner, however, are a pair of single-turbo XLT double cab models, which on closer inspection appear to offer really good value for money. The 4x2 retails at R525 600, while the 4x4 that’s the subject of this test is yours for R582 700. While it would be unfair to use the word cheap at this price level, it's worth noting that the model undercuts most of its rivals quite comfortably. A Toyota Hilux 2.8 GD-6 Legend 50 4x4 auto, for instance, is priced at R668 800, while the equivalent Volkswagen Amarok costs R659 800, the Isuzu D-Max retails for R640 500 and the Nissan Navara is listed at R635 800. Only the Ford's unpopular Mazda BT-50 twin undercuts it at R581 200 for the 3.2 flagship, while the range-topping Mitsubishi Triton comes close at R599 995.

So on paper, the Ranger 2.0 Turbo is a great buy, and its outputs of 132kW and 420Nm are competitive in the class, matching the Amarok and out-powering the Hilux and Isuzu.

But how does it perform in the real world?

This is where we were a bit worried at first, due to Ford’s own description of the twin-turbo engine - in which both turbochargers work in series at lower engine speeds in order to combat lag. Did that mean that the single-turbo version would be laggy?

After spending a week with the Ranger 2.0 Turbo, it turns out that our fears were unfounded. Mash the pedal and the vehicle takes off without any hint of lag, even at Gauteng altitudes. All round performance is what we could describe as relatively comfortable. It’s certainly not the fastest bakkie on the block, but it doesn’t feel slow either and it should have no trouble satisfying most owners. It also has a braked towing capacity of 3.5 tonnes.

As with the twin-turbo version, the engine is mated exclusively to Ford’s 10-speed automatic gearbox, which is reasonably smooth, but perhaps a bit too busy in its constant quest to find the optimal among its myriad ratios.

However, the engine and gearbox combination works wonders for ticking along quietly at low revs when cruising at highway speeds.

As for consumption, our vehicle sipped 11.7 litres per 100km in a mixture of urban and freeway use.

As with it rivals, the 4x4 model that we tested has all the right ingredients for an extreme off-road excursion, including a transfer case with low range, locking rear differential and a ground clearance of 237mm. The approach, breakover and departure angles are listed at 25.5, 18.5 and 21.8 degrees respectively. Driving into a river anytime soon? The Ranger has a wading depth of 800mm according to Ford.

When it comes to tackling the daily urban grind, the Ranger excels in most areas although its sheer bulk can make parking a pain in some of the narrower bays that one finds in modern shopping complexes, which were seemingly designed by people who have never seen a car before.

While no traditional bakkie ever rides completely comfortably, the Ranger’s ride comfort is right up there with the best in the class. You’ll still feel a certain firmness over large speed bumps and undulations, but overall it is quite comfortable by bakkie standards. On that yardstick, the steering also has quite a firm and positive feel to it. 

The cabin is also among the better efforts in this class. Prominent horizontal dashboard lines impart a feeling of strength, even hinting at the Mustang a bit, and the materials are of a reasonably good quality.

Ford’s flagship Sync3 infotainment system with navigation is standard on the XLT, and it’s operated through a 20cm touchscreen. The graphics aren’t the prettiest or most modern looking, but the system is user-friendly and also comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity.

XLT models also get leather seats as standard, along with cruise control, dual zone climate control, auto headlights and wipers, multi-function steering wheel, front and rear parking sensors, reverse camera and an overhead console. Safety kit includes front, side, curtain and driver’s knee airbags, Traction Control, Trailer Sway Control, Adaptive Load Control and Roll-over Mitigation.

But is it big enough for the family? Yes, the Ranger offers fairly ample rear legroom, and enough headroom for those not too much taller than average.

VERDICT

On paper the Ford Ranger 2.0 Turbo XLT 4x4 offers really good value in relation to its rivals, and we’re pleased to report that this holds true in the real world too. With reasonable performance, impressive refinement, a decent ride by bakkie standards and a price tag that considerably undercuts key rivals, this bakkie impresses as a great all rounder.

IOL Motoring