After an eight-year absence, the Ford Ranger was re-introduced to the North American market late last year as a 2019 model. It marked a 60-year timestamp since the nameplate’s debut on a 1958 Edsel Ranger.
The Ranger name was first used on a pickup in 1983 when Ford replaced the Ford Courier. With its return, the Ford Ranger is now mid-sized, comparable to its sibling, the Ford Explorer Sport Trac. The latter debuted in 2006 and was discounted a few years later.
The new Ranger is available as a SuperCab (2+2 door extended cab with 6-foot bed) and SuperCrew (4-door crew cab with 5-foot bed). The SuperCab’s bed is 72.8 inches long, 44.8 inches wide.
During its first tenure, the Ranger was a precursor to several Ford, Mercury and Mazda vehicles. It will have the same capacity now for the highly anticipated return of the Ford Bronco. It hasn’t been produced since 2006, but its pending reappearance was announced at the 2017 Detroit Auto Show.
The 2019 Ford Ranger debuts the truck’s fourth generation. Its 2.3-liter, turbocharged inline four-cylinder is the only powertrain. It’s matched with a 10-speed automatic transmission.
Gas mileage averages are the best in the segment, 21 miles per gallon in city driving, 26 miles per gallon in freeway circumstances. Maximum payload is 1,860 pounds; maximum towing capacity is 3,500 pounds.
As a high-end trim, the Ranger has a strong list of standard equipment and a value-priced option. Alloy wheels, cruise control, carpeted floors and improved 4.2-inch screen are part of the standard features list. The 300A equipment group package ($995) includes a leather-wrapped steering wheel, power side mirrors and an auto-dimming rear-view mirror.
The Ranger’s front seats are comfortable, albeit too soft. Overall vision is good, with minimal blind spots. Rear seats are accessible with easy-to-pull levers inside the door panels. But the rear seats also disappoint. There’s insufficient leg room for anyone who’s not petite.
One oddity: The driver’s power seat has a manual recline lever. With the vehicle’s price pushing into the low $30,000-range, it should have full power seats. Likewise, the Ranger starts with a key in a hard-to-access location far below the right of the steering wheel. It’s cool reminisce, perhaps, to trucks’ heyday. But a push-button start is warranted.
Driving the Ranger is a mixture of truck-like driving with surprisingly quiet advancement at highways speed. Every bump on the road is felt with gusto. It’s part of a truck’s character. At highway speeds, the experience calms and there’re little wind rush. Acceleration from 0-60 miles per hour is 7.3 seconds.
Safety features are strong: front, front-side and side curtain airbags, a rear-view camera and forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking. Blind-spot warning and lane keeping assist are available options on all trims.
For decades, Ford’s F Series pickups have recorded the highest sales of any vehicle. They’re strong, versatile, reliable and plush for the segment. The return of the Ranger is great; it gives buyers and another mid-sized option.
Competitors include the Toyota Tacoma, Chevrolet Colorado, GMC Canyon, Honda Ridgeline and the Nissan Frontier. Ford has a long, substantial truck history. But in this segment, little about the Ranger matches its rivals. Something is missing.
The Ranger has some strong qualities. But overall, it’s generic. It has an iconic nameplate but not the overall appeal of its predecessors. It’s too bad.