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Ford Ranger 2021 review: XL Cab Chassis 4x4 GVM test


Daily driver score

3.6/5

Tradies score

4.2/5

A single-cab chassis is about the purest form of ute you can get. Traditionally, they were purpose-built for work, and work only, with very few concessions, if any, to comfort or safety.

Well, times sure have changed and the days of assuming that driving a single-cab chassis ute for any length of time would be anything other than annoying, uncomfortable and perhaps even more than a bit dangerous are well and truly over.

Contemporary utes – well, some of them – are in fact nice to drive, offer very decent levels of safety and are, dare I say it, even refined.

We recently tested a Ford Ranger XL single-cab chassis over seven days, including a load-test.

So, how did it go? Read on. 

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Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?

Our test vehicle is an XL single-cab chassis with a 3.2-litre five-cylinder turbo-diesel engine, a six-speed automatic transmission and 4WD.

Standard features include an 8.0-inch touch-screen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Standard features include an 8.0-inch touch-screen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

It has a Manufacturer Suggested Retail Price of $45,290, but it also has an optional $1600 Heavy Duty Pack, which brings its price as tested to $46,890, excluding on-road costs.

Standard features include an 8.0-inch touch-screen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, AEB, Lane Keeping Aid, Traffic Sign Recognition, and a rear diff-lock.

Usually 16-inch steel wheels are standard on this variant, but our test vehicle has the heavy-duty pack, so black 17-inch steelies on Continental CrossContact All-Terrain tyres are the go here.

It also has the Arctic White exterior paint.

Usually16-inch steel wheels are standard, but our test vehicle has the heavy-duty pack, and has black 17-inch steelies. Usually16-inch steel wheels are standard, but our test vehicle has the heavy-duty pack, and has black 17-inch steelies.

The XL 4x4 Heavy Duty Pack includes heavy-duty suspension (incorporating thicker rear springs, revised spring rates and specific ABS and ESC calibration), 17.0-inch black-painted steel wheels, 17-inch Continental ContiCrossContact A/T tyres, solid wheel nuts, and a rear view camera.
 

Is there anything interesting about its design?

Nothing really stands out design-wise about this ute – single-cab chassis utes are likely the most plain-looking of all utes, unless they’ve received a heavy dose of aftermarket treatment.

Of note is the fact the Ranger line-up is tending to look and feel a bit old now, but they still hold their own in the current market.

Single-cab chassis utes are likely the most plain-looking of all utes. Single-cab chassis utes are likely the most plain-looking of all utes.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?

This ute has the Ranger’s tried and tested 3.2-litre 3.2-litre five-cylinder turbo-diesel engine – producing 147kW at 3000rpm and 470Nm at 1750-2500rpm – and it has a six-speed automatic transmission. 

To my mind, this engine and auto combination is a much better fit here than either the 2.2-litre or 2.0-litre bi-turbo Ranger variants. The engine is nicely torquey, very lively and works well with the six-speed auto in work-day driving scenarios, even with a load. 

This ute has the Ranger’s tried and tested 3.2-litre 3.2-litre five-cylinder turbo-diesel engine. This ute has the Ranger’s tried and tested 3.2-litre 3.2-litre five-cylinder turbo-diesel engine.

How practical is the space inside?

The interior is as spartan as can be, but that’s perfectly acceptable in a single-cab chassis ute.

Just imagine cloth seats, vinyl floor covering and hard plastic surfaces everywhere and you’re on the right track. It’s all very basic, but it feels well suited to the tasks for which this ute is intended. 

The interior is as spartan as can be. The interior is as spartan as can be.

There’s storage aplenty for the abbreviated cab space with hard plastic bottle holder door pockets, a centre console with lid and two cupholders in front of it and a few smaller spaces here and there for keys and everyday debris.

There are two USB ports at the front, as well as an auxiliary 12V power outlet in the lower dashboard.

There’s storage aplenty for the abbreviated cab space. There’s storage aplenty for the abbreviated cab space.

The multimedia touchscreen is easy to use and there are dials and buttons to control the aircon fan and temperature, as per usual, as well as audio volume and station tuning.

There are steering-wheel-mounted buttons for pretty much everything else that you’d expect.

What's it like as a daily driver?

Having driven many Ranger variants, it’s safe to assume a few things will be on-point when you drive a Ranger: steering is light and precise, acceleration is generally smooth with an even-handed throttle response (with lag only infrequently evidenced), and ride and handling are pretty well sorted out.

It always feels composed and it takes very harsh road surfaces to unsettle it. 

Bonus: The 3.2-litre engine and six-speed auto make a quietly effective combination, even better than the 2.2-litre or the 2.0-litre do. 

Visibility is good in this single-cab chassis Ranger, with a clear field of vision in every direction. 

In terms of exterior dimensions, it is 5133mm long, with a 3220mm wheelbase, 1977mm wide (2163mm with mirrors extended) and 1800mm high.

This Ranger has a listed kerb weight of 1887kg

Turning circle is listed as 12.7 metres, but this Ranger never feels ponderous, however, you can sense its size – most of it tray – a bit on tighter roads, or along tight bush tracks if you’re four-wheel driving.

This Ranger rides on 17-inch steelies clad with Continental CrossContact All-Terrain tyres which seem to provide ample grip on bitumen surfaces – even on some of the very wet and rough regional roads we were on.

Overall, without a load, this Ranger does really well. 

What's it like for tradie use?

To see how this ute would perform with a load, we asked our mates at Agri West Rural CRT Bomaderry to forklift one ton of fertiliser into the tray.

This Ranger has a claimed payload of 1313 kilograms so, even with me and some equipment (first aid kit, vehicle-recovery gear etc) in the cab, it was comfortably under that. With that load onboard, the rear-end dropped 20mm and the front suspension dropped 30mm.

Remember: any payload figure has to take into account the combined weight of driver, passengers, pets, and all your gear, and, of course, any aftermarket gear you add to your ute, for example, a bullbar.

The alloy tray measures 1847mm long, 1560mm wide (so it can accommodate a 1165mm Aussie pallet). The alloy tray measures 1847mm long, 1560mm wide (so it can accommodate a 1165mm Aussie pallet).

There are no tie-down points in the alloy tray, or even any purpose-built holes to use as tie-down points, but the tray does have under-tray rails, which can serve that purpose.

To protect the rear window from load-induced damage, the tray has a cab guard, which is basically metal work designed to shield the rear glass from the load in your tray if it shifts forward.

It has drop sides so you can load from the rear or either side.

If you've ever driven a ute, it will come as no surprise that a load in the tray settles everything down – not that this ute is all over the shop when it’s unladen (it’s certainly not), but added bulk always adds composure to any ute’s ride and handling.

To protect the rear window from load-induced damage, the tray has a cab guard, which is basically metal work designed to shield the rear glass from the load in your tray if it shifts forward. To protect the rear window from load-induced damage, the tray has a cab guard, which is basically metal work designed to shield the rear glass from the load in your tray if it shifts forward.

The Ranger remains composed and some of the credit for that must be due to the heavy-duty suspension it’s been bolstered with. These packs usually incorporate thicker rear springs, revised spring rates and specific ABS and ESC calibration, so it’s a handy addition in anyone’s books, surely. 

The 3.2-litre engine in this makes a real difference to load-lugging because it gives you extra punch, the extra power and torque you need, for instance when you get onto a long gradual incline and it just keeps things trucking along with minimal fuss, and it's all under control, even through sections of exposed train tracks on country roads and sections of chopped-up bitumen.

The Ranger remains quite refined even with a substantial load onboard. The Ranger remains quite refined even with a substantial load onboard.

The six-speed auto remained clever throughout, never fussing around up or down in an attempt to make the most of the sweet spot.

What impresses me most though, is that the Ranger remains quite refined even with a substantial load onboard – and that's a pretty big deal for a single-cab chassis. 

Also of interest if you intend to go off-roading in this – it is a four-wheel drive, afterall – is the fact it has 232mm ground clearance and 800mm wading depth.

How much fuel does it consume?

It has a listed fuel consumption of 8.7L/100km (combined). 

I recorded an actual on-test fuel consumption of 11.2L/100km after more than 200km of driving, including our loaded loop.

The Ranger has an 80-litre tank.

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?

The Ford Ranger has a five-star ANCAP rating, as a result of testing in 2015.

Safety gear includes six airbags, Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) with Pedestrian Detection, Lane Keeping Aid, Traffic Sign Recognition and more.

The XL 4x4 Heavy Duty Pack includes a rear view camera. The XL 4x4 Heavy Duty Pack includes a rear view camera.

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?

Every Ranger has a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty.

Service intervals are recommended at 12 months/15,000km, 24 months/30,000km, 36 months/45,000km and 48 months/60,000km and, at time of writing, each appointment costs $299.

This single-cab chassis XL Ranger has plenty of appeal as a work ute because it’s functional and comfortable and it even manages to be pretty refined when no work ute really has the right to be.

But none of that surprises me: I’ve driven a lot of Rangers over the years – 2WD, 4WD, Hi-Riders, single cabs, space cabs and dual-cabs – and they’ve all (mostly) impressed me as nice driving utes all-round.

The optional heavy-duty pack is a nice touch, simply enhancing this ute’s claims to work capability.

$47,290

Based on new car retail price

VIEW PRICING & SPECS

Daily driver score

3.6/5

Tradies score

4.2/5