You see, straight away we prefer the Ford Ranger to the twin-under-the-skin Mazda BT50. It looks better, has a better interior and the 4x2 XLT Super Cab driven goes better because it weighs less.
Unless you need 4x4 capability, it's a waste. The test vehicle is called a Hi-Rider because it's underpinnings are the same as the 4x4 meaning a high ride height, big wheels and tyres and heaps of ground clearance.
Explore the 2011 Ford Ranger Range
It has the so-called suicide doors that afford easier access to twin fold-down rear "pews" that can be used for short journeys or folded out of the way for additional storage.
This sort of practical thinking pervades the entire vehicle with heaps of handy stuff readily at hand. The large tray is fitted with tie down hooks but no tray liner.
As you are not buying 4x4 machinery, the Ranger Hi-Rider 4x2 is a much more affordable $43,240 when compared to a four door variant with 4x4. Funny thing is, it will go plenty of places you wouldn't expect a 4x2 rear drive ute to go - thanks to those lug tyres, high ground clearance, strong engine and excellent transmission.
It gets Bluetooth, voice control to some functions, decent audio, central locking, climate control and plenty of other stuff. The interior is pretty much all hard grey plastic but that's OK for a work truck.
Ranger comes with the full five star endorsement which means it has a brace of air bags, stability control and other safety related features. Pedestrian safety has also been taken into account as has towing, roll-over protection, and reverse parking. Much of the chassis/body is in high strength steel. It's built on the latest design ladder chassis.
Under the Bonnet
The test vehicle ran Ford's impressive 3.2-litre, five-cylinder, turbo diesel with 147kW/470Nm output. They are not huge numbers compared with some other turbodiesels but Ford obviously wanted to ensure longevity, strong pulling power and acceptable fuel economy with this unit.
It would appear they have achieved their aims though we can't tell on the longevity part yet. The auto transmission is a six speeder and the test vehicle was mechanically conventional underneath.
Not too hard on the eye, Ranger is no luxury vehicle but has enough for someone who spends a lot of time driving to be happy and comfortable. The steering wheel has multi controls, there's a decent trip computer and the audio system is pretty good for a next to base model.
Finding the right driving position is made a little more difficult by the non reach adjustable steering but the seats themselves are good and you can undertake a two or three hour drive without reservation. Some soft surfaces and different colours would lighten it up. Access to the rear seats is easy through the small "doorlets" but you have to close them first to close the main doors. We wouldn't like to go on a long trip in the rear seats.
Impressive, possibly the best driving ute on the market right now, certainly one of the biggest and with a big payload. The test vehicle would take well over a tonne in the tray and can tow 3350kg with a braked trailer. There's even trailer sway control.
That big five under the bonnet makes light work of driving this big weighty ute offering quick acceleration off the mark, heaps of mid range and smooth easy cruising. We recorded 8.5-litres/100km combined average without really trying. It gives the XLT a range approaching 1000km on an 80 litre tank.
Ride quality is good for a workin' truck - not too hard but strong enough to take a big load without flattening out. We think the test vehicle had adaptive ride height because it stayed roughly the same despite what was in the back. The front suspension is coils over struts with leaf springs at the rear. Though by no means a sporty vehicle, the Ranger feels good to drive and won't wear you out.