When it came along a fraction before the new millennium, the Ford Ranger was seen as a haphazard attempt at joining a growing market for the lifestyle pick-up. However, it simply takes a closer look and what you’ve actually got is a truck that is set up to put in a shift – and happily at that.
Dig beneath the surface and the Ranger was a blue-collar working vehicle that had luxury trims not comprehensive enough to hide its true identity. It came into fruition as a joint project with Mazda that also spurned the B-Series trucks (see this section of the last November issue), with the Ranger coming out of the deal as the better furnished and higher spec’d trucks on the same platform – which means there are many more Fords on the used market than there are Mazdas.
They won’t be quite as well represented as the contemporary Mitsubishi L200, but nonetheless you shall not be left wanting in terms of choice.
The interior in the Ranger was more upmarket than the Mazda counterpart, hence it being, however relevantly, banded into the lifestyle bracket. As with buying any used double-cab, the Ranger will likely have been used, at least in part, as a workmate of a builder or farmer – probably as a family run around, too. This means it may well have taken a battering of sorts, so when looking at a second-hand Ranger, be sure to keep an eye out for signs of misuse. There will be examples out there that have been cared for more than adequately, though, so don’t be afraid to turn down an otherwise commendable truck if you aren’t sold on the state of the interior.
One way the Ranger hasn’t aged too well is the quality of the interior trim. Whilst it was tough and hard-bearing, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it will stand the test of time. Ensure that you keep tabs on the rigidity of some of the fitments, as they may come loose.
On the B-pillar, the plastic sheaths around the exit for the front seatbelts, has been known to come away from its mounts. If they do this, they’ll flap around near the front headrests, obscure peripheral vision and perhaps even hit the driver in the head.
Centrally on the dashboard, the soft-touch plastic is particularly prone to marking. Something that if it has been used commercially will have had plenty of opportunity to get marked by mucky work boots and tools et al. The texture of the plastics can be difficult to scrub stains out of, and scratches and scuffs are nigh on impossible to rectify.
Now this one may be annoying to those on the road a fair bit. The front cup holders in this generation Ranger are small. They do hold cups, but your generic service station coffee – whichever tribe you’re aligned to – is likely to be a rather snug fit at best. Look out for coffee stains on the carpet and dash, but more importantly milk – as if that gets old no air freshener will do a good enough job at covering it up.
But, should you grab yourself a smart and well-tacked example, the design isn’t all that bad – albeit a heavy-handed reference to the red-neck image it had gained. Having said that, once you look past the statement of the design, you see a sturdy interior with well positioned and good to use switchgear. Leather or cloth seats are comfortable and supportive – at least they were when brand spank – which goes a long way in utilitarian machinery.
The first Ranger to come over to Europe wasn’t the most enjoyable of trucks to drive in comparison to its contemporaries. For driver and passenger alike. The rear leaf springs are equipped to carry a hefty 1-tonne payload, and when unladen this can result in a rough ride. But like many trucks the handling and ride improve when loaded. Not ideal, but if you store a bag of cement mix (other weighty stalwarts are available) in the truck bed you’ll go a long way to offsetting the bouncy rear for the day-to-day pottering about.
The 2.5-litre turbo diesel power source provides 107bhp and believe it or not it isn’t a speed machine. Its figures are comparable to others in its class from the same era, and when it comes to cruising comfortably the Ranger is competitive when judged beside its rivals.
There are a few genuinely sour points when it comes to living with a Ranger of this ilk, but depending on your outlook they could be either major or minor. Firstly, the rear bumper protrudes a fair few inches from the tailgate, which can make parking difficult and tricky – it may well take numerous adjustments to fit the truck into a spot. However, if you think this may be an issue, you can rectify it with the parking sensors that come with the Thunder model, and you’ll be getting much more kit with this top speccer, too.
Another issue on the road is the gearbox. It’s designed for towing, so if this is what you need the truck for then great. But if it isn’t, then you may grow tired of the short ratios between gears. As a family bus this makes it less comfortable, but if you’re going to be pulling a caravan, horsebox etc then it could be absolutely ideal.
The fuel economy isn’t brilliant, but nor is it shocking. On a mixed run you can expect to average figures in the low-thirties, with digits dropping into the twenties for stop-start traffic and possibly into the teens when towing.
The Ranger doesn’t have a reputation for being unreliable, and if you do have issues, being a Ford, spare and replacement parts shouldn’t be tasking to source out at all. However, unlike most Blue Oval vehicles, the Ranger doesn’t come with the added bonus of having competitively cheap replacement parts, with the truck’s prices on a par with more expensive Japanese counterparts.
Servicing could be an irritant however, with the intervals set at 6,000 miles or every twelve months. Compare this to almost double the distance between oil changes and almost triple between services of a similar era Hilux and you’ll start to feel like the local garage is your second home.
With all things considered, the old Ford Rangers are fantastic value. They aren’t the best outright used trucks you can buy from this time period, but it is competitive in all aspects and proved popular – meaning there are loads of options on the used marketplace. Many examples on offer are top-spec Thunder models, too, so you’ll likely be able to find a more comfortable version that suits your needs and budget. There’s not too much difference in price between an example with 130k on the clock in comparison to one with 80-odd, and there appears to be no major premium for one with full or part service history.
If you are looking for a truck that has solid working credentials and aren’t too bothered about the on-road habits, then you should have little hesitation in picking one up. Even if it’s going to double as a family wagon, higher spec XLT or Thunder trims will make things less work-focused.