When I say bakkie – what do you think? Probably Hilux, or maybe even Isuzu if you’re very Afrikaans. Uncomfortable, big, cumbersome and limited in specifications. Not really something you’d want to drive every day? You’d be spot on.
Enter the all new Ford Ranger. Yes, the Ranger has been around for a while, but it doesn’t really blip on the radar of a real bakkie driver. It didn’t compete on engines, load carrying ability, interior or reliability. Ford wants to change that, and the all new Ranger is part of the Ford Global product lineup.
The Ranger comes in standard workhorse (Single cab), Super Cab (Cab and a half) and Double Cab. The unit on test was the Ranger Wildtrak. A double cab bakkie focused less on off-road ability and more on street-cred with creature comforts. I know, a bakkie more focused on city driving sounds like the product guys at Ford are trippin’, but in reality, the majority of bakkies these days are in the hands of housewives and husbands who spend 95% of their time in city, and at the odd chance use it for “off-loading” or a trip to the South Coast, so it kinda makes sense.
The Wildtrak is only available in one model – 2 Wheel drive, (with diff-lock) mated to a 6speed manual gearbox and a brand new 3.2litre turbocharged diesel engine. Exterior changes include some really good-looking 18inch rims, running boards, and a lot of extra bod-kit modifications, (in grey), roll bar and Wildtrak stickers. The burnt orange colour on the test unit really looks the part. Since the Toyota FJ I haven’t had a car turn heads like this one. It’s massive, the new grille taking a page out of the US Ford F-150 design book and it really didn’t hurt. The Wildtrak commands presence, even from the rear where the massive hatch and Ford emblem look huge in comparison to other bakkies, except the Amarok.
Where the Ranger has really annihilated the competition is on the interior. They’ve taken the Ford Fiesta interior and used it in the Ranger. It’s all very well layer out, the same central colour screen for the radio and climate control (dual zone and automatic climate control is standard) is used. The steering wheel and instrument binnacle is also from the Fiesta and really looks the part. It looks tough without feeling “truck” like. A slightly better balance than the Amarok in my view.
There is space for 2 large drinks next to the handbrake, and a bin area under the aircon controls. Deep door pockets and a pull out tray on the right helps to store things out of the way of prying eyes, which is always a drawback to driving a bakkie.
There’s a lot of standard spec, auto lights and wipers, leather seats with orange stitching, heated windscreen, heated seats, USB &Aux plug in, steering-wheel controls, cruise-control, puddle-lighting in the doors, hill-hold assist, and THANK YOU FORD – reverse camera and reverse parking sensors. Standard. Ok, could have done with front PDC as well, but rear PDC and reverse camera makes parking this beast SO much easier. Their attention to detail has really paid off.
Some other notable mentions are no less than four 12V sockets throughout the vehicle, including one in the load bay which really makes sense considering how many owners might put a fridge / light of some sorts on the back.
Unfortunately the rear seating is still typical bakkie stuff, but it does boast class leading room in the rear. That said it’s still not comfortable for adults. There is also no window on the rear glass, which might be a drawback for those considering a canopy on the back.
It’s no off-road star (it’s not focused there so calm down) sure it’ll do what needs to get done on a trip to most anywhere (considering the ground clearance and Diff-lock), but due to the fact that there’s no low-range or 4wheel drive you’re not going to traverse the Apies river. That said, the ride is typical bakkie; the ladder chassis makes it uncomfortable most anywhere, bouncing over undulations and the rear coming out to play should you stomp on the brakes. (ABS, EBD and Stability control is standard, but uses drum brakes on the rear wheels). Steering is a huge improvement on previous Ranger, it’s light without being devoid of feel. Considering the ISUZU’s of old, this really drives closer to a car than any other bakkie on the road today. The 3.2 litre turbo diesel engine is by far the most powerful in segment too, delivering 147kW at 3000RPM and 470NM of torque at 1500RPM. It’s a big motor, and you can hear it working to get things going. It suits the car well, and does an easy job of pushing the orange hulk around town. It cruises easily at 120km/h and delivers an ok 9.7l/100km. Considering the size of the engine that’s not bad. The standard DC uses the same engine but detuned to 120kW, which must feel a little more “bakkie” like in performance, but the Wildtrak really makes moving around town a breeze with the big motor.
The gearshift is a 6speed unit, and can be a little notchy. It’s not as smooth as the Hilux, but has shorter throws and requires a firm hand to get in gear, it’s probably one of the only downfalls of the Ranger…that and the size, it really is an absolute beast to park.
Where the Ranger is bound to attract quite a few buyers is the fact that it boasts the largest load bay (1049kg and covered in polyurethane lining), highest towing capacity rating and deepest wading depth of all the DC bakkies. Not bad at all. The new Ranger, with new engines will have to prove themselves in SA, as reliability and quality are key hallmarks of a bakkie. What I found fascinating is the amount of people who thought this bakkie looked really “cool”. It appealed to a wide variety of drivers, especially younger buyers. It definitely looks the part, has shifted the segment when it comes to interior comfort and specifications and has a fantastic engine.
Pricing on the Wiltrak is R402 600 a 5 year/90 000km service plan as standard and also the only bakkie with a 5star Euro NCAP safety rating. Impressive.
In my view it comes a little too close to the Hilux. I would still never venture out of SA, in anything but a Toyota, but the Ranger comes too close for comfort. That said, if I was forced to drive a bakkie around town, I would happily hand over my money to Ford on this one.