Bakkies (Pick-ups for our foreign readers) are the backbone of South Africa. Don’t believe me? Just look at the monthly sales stats from NAAMSA and you’ll see the Toyota Hilux as the number one seller nearly every month without fail – except last month and the month before, when the Ford Ranger bested the Toyota for the second and third time in the sales charts since November 2014.
Which brings us to our latest test vehicle, the Ford Ranger in its most basic and rugged trim – the XL Plus 4×4 double cab 2.2 diesel. It’s the bona fide work horse of the Ranger line-up, unashamedly work-orientated – to the extent that it even features a second, heavy duty battery as standard kit, as well as a locking rear differential, heavy duty canvas seat covers, a tow bar, and 17-inch steel wheels with all-terrain tyres. It’s unashamedly work-biased, but still features the basic mod-cons such as air-con, radio with CD, MP3, and auxiliary capability, and electric windows. It’s safe too, featuring ABS braking with EBD, and front and side curtain airbags as standard kit.
The work horse makes do with a rather capable drive train. Powered by a 2.2-litre turbo-diesel engine, which delivers 110kW and 375Nm, the Ranger XL Plus is able to drive all 4 wheels via the selectable 4WD drivetrain, complete with low range, and a 6-speed manual transmission. The rugged engine lacks refinement – it’s noisy and rough, particularly at idle, and doesn’t rev as freely as engines from competitors such as Isuzu. But what it does do is deliver a solid chunk of torque with enough grunt to tow a claimed 3500Kg braked mass and a payload of 937Kg.
It takes a while to get going, especially on cold starts, but once above 2000rpm there’s a strong surge of torque providing more than ample acceleration up to cruising speeds, and great overtaking punch when needed. The 6-speed manual transmission does well to contain and control the torque delivery, but it feels crude – rugged and designed to last through the most tedious work. The shift action is stiff and requires some muscling to get the shifter in place, but this if offset by a clutch that’s relatively car like and easy to use, although still sitting on the heavy side.
The Ranger matches the clutch’s heavy, but usable nature in its steering feel. The steering is heavy, but yields decent responses on the road with confident direction changes and stability that goes against what the high ride height might suggest. But despite the relative ease of use of the steering, the Ranger has a rather big turning circle, and navigating parking lots is a tedious affair that leaves you spending more time calculating how wide your turning arc needs to be than actually parking the large double cab.
It is large, very much so, and even large parking bays get substantially filled by the Ranger’s size. It occupies a great deal of space, on the open road too, where the high ride height and good visibility are a necessity for maintaining a decent road placement. There’s a good deal of feel through the chassis and suspension that helps with road placement, and around corners and bends the stiff suspension and relatively little body roll does aid cornering confidence. But the ride is harsh – the stiff rear suspension built to carry heavy loads takes a toll on its unladen ride quality. Corrugated surfaces are handled with ease, as are potholes – the high profile all-terrain tyres doing their thing proficiently in dealing with poor surfaces. But speed bumps and manhole covers find a way to permeate the cabin with a solid jolt as the rear wheels cross them. It’s not unbearable – just an ever-present reminder that this is indeed a utilitarian work horse.
In no place is this more evident than the manners of the Ranger off road. Equipped with selectable 4WD, with diff lock, and low range capability, the Ranger is able to conquer almost all terrain. The all terrain tyres do a good job of handling loose surfaces such as dirt and rocks. It rides these types of terrain confidently and proficiently – making detours over poor road surfaces far quicker than sitting in traffic on smoothly tarred streets. It also means that the Ranger XL is perfect for work on farms and mines – where the bulk of its duties will be served as part of a large fleet of double cabs.
It’s in this fleet environment that the Ranger will excel. Not only is it highly capable on all terrains, but the rugged diesel engine and manual gearbox combo feel engineered to work hard for many years to come. Combine that with good looks, extensive kit list, and fuel consumption figures of 9l/100km as achieved over our test period and the Ranger makes a solid proposition for the ‘go anywhere, do anything’ work horse.
It’s by no means a luxury vehicle – the interior feels harsh, and the ride just as much so. But against the likes of the Isuzu KB and Toyota Hilux, the Ranger fares well, and this ultra-utilitarian package faces little to no opposition from its rivals. The interior feels more modern and user friendly than the Isuzu, and while it doesn’t have the same on road manners, it more than makes up for it off road, whilst against the Hilux, the Ranger just feels like something more modern as the Toyota is getting a bit long in the tooth.
|No. of Cylinders:||
110kW @ 3700RPM
375Nm @ 1500-2500RPM
|Approach & Departure Angle:||
25.5° & 21.8°
|Fuel Tank Capacity:||
|Fuel Consumption (Regular driving, combined cycle):||
4 Wheel Drive
|Price (as tested):||