2019 Ford Ranger is right-sized and capable, but not too American
The Ford Ranger left the North American market about 10 years ago. Since then, it's lived on in other markets, with most manufacturing and development happening in Australia. Now the Ford Ranger is back on US soil.
Drawing on the continued evolution of the Ranger, Ford didn't change a great deal from the versions sold in other markets for its return to North America. The 2019 Ford Ranger has a new powertrain for the US and Canada, but many of its design factors miss the mark for what Americans might expect out of a midsize pickup. Even with those differences, though, the Ranger is a great midsized offering that makes a good argument for itself.
Small truck owners tend to do different things with their pickups than do full-sized truck owners. For example, most small truck owners tow only occasionally and then usually with small trailers that aren't very cumbersome. Utility is measured not by the total weight the vehicle can carry, but instead by how much the midsized truck can fit during a typical weekend run to the hardware store. Smaller trucks are also more likely to be a daily driver and a weekend getaway option than are full-sized rigs.
For those reasons, the expectations for a midsize truck are somewhat different than they are for bigger pickups. The 2019 Ford Ranger has most of those expectations: it's sized about right for today's market, it carries enough stuff to be useful, it's capable of towing light loads, and it is available with seating for the family. The Ranger is also surprisingly fuel efficient for the class. Downsides, though, are a spongy ride quality, seating meant more for a car than a pickup, and some jerkiness from the turbocharged engine when pulling a trailer.
Americans who haven't seen a new Ranger in a few years will recognize it as a Ford. It contains elements of the bigger F-150, especially in its truck-centric gear such as tie-downs (or lack thereof), shifter, and trailer controls. Also present are things from Ford's crossover-SUV family, including steering wheel switch gear taken almost directly from the Ford Edge and Explorer, and seating that is more like that found in an EcoSport than a truck. That includes the rear seating, which doesn't offer the kind of versatility found in larger Ford trucks. Seat backs are fixed and storage underneath the seats is limited. There's also no flip-up or drop-down option to expand rear seat cargo in the crew cab model. All things that are considered de facto standards in most pickups today.
Where the 2019 Ford Ranger shines is in its exterior styling and its extremely potent and efficient drivetrain. The look of the Ranger is another mishmash of Ford's crossovers and pickups, but not in a Herman Munster way. Instead, it holds great appeal with solid body lines and a sleek and sportier look than the larger trucks, while retaining its capable-appearing nature. It's a robust feel with out being in-your-face masculine.
The engine powering the 2019 Ranger is largely new to the truck. The 2.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder has been used in other Ford products with great effect. It's a good match for the Ranger as well, being small enough to deliver solid efficiency while being powerful enough to get the job done with some panache.
The 2.3L engine outputs 270 horsepower (201 kW) and 310 pound-feet (420 Nm) of torque. The engine noise is augmented by the truck's sound system, but interestingly this gimmick actually enhances the feel of the truck, and helps add confidence when the truck is at work. The engine pairs to a 10-speed automatic transmission, which is now ubiquitous to the Ford lineup. That pairing means that the little Ranger has fast responses to the throttle, thanks to well-tuned lower gearing and the turbos pushing muscle quickly, without getting too fuel hungry. The Ranger gets up to 26 mpg (9.04 l/100km) on the highway and 21 mpg (11.2 l/100km) around town, depending on configuration.
One thing missing, astute Ford fans might note, is a lack of powertrain options for the Ranger. Ford was neither here nor there about answering when asked, but it's clear that the company will add more options with time. Rumors of a Ranger Raptor were also abundant even before the 2019 Ranger came to market. Time will tell.
The 2019 Ford Ranger Lariat FX4 package that we drove for a week had a lot of goodness about it. It's capable enough off-road to get most places with some sort of clear(ish) path and not a lot of deep mud. There is no serious off-roading package for the Ranger (yet), but aftermarket tuners have begun having a field day with the pickup, so options are growing.
The Ranger is as capable and competent off the pavement as is any 4x4 non-specialty variant from any rival. Sadly, the Ranger's interior is not as friendly for those excursions as it could be. Bouncing around off the road highlights the downsides to car-like seating in a pickup truck, even more so than does the on-road bump-and-roll that's the norm in the Ranger.
For a small truck, though, the Ranger is roomier than might be expected and will seat five (in its crew cab configuration) just fine. Adults won't be able to spread out in the back seats much, but they can ride when need be. Bed lengths for the Ranger depend on the cab chosen. The smaller cab means a longer bed (6 feet / 1.83 meters) while the crew cab four-door means a shorter bed (5 feet / 1.52 meters). Americans will also note the lack of a dampening tailgate hinge to slow the tailgate's fall when unlatched and that tie-downs are, even in the top-most Lariat package, low in the bed and not very convenient.
The 2019 Ford Ranger is rated to tow up to 7,500 pounds (3,402 kg), making it one of the best in the segment in that regard. We pulled a small 2,800-pound (1,270 kg) trailer behind the truck and found the engine to be jumpy with the extra weight. It takes a while to learn to control that and smooth out the ride, something Ford should consider as a challenge for transmission re-tuning when in tow/haul mode. The Ranger is otherwise competent when towing and showed no issues with our load. Our experience is that roughly 3,000 pounds (1,361 kg) is about the average towing load most midsize truck owners routinely pull. That's about the weight of the average small boat on a trailer, most toys (ATVs, jet skis, etc), and small camp trailers.
Our final assessment of the 2019 Ford Ranger is that, for the most part, it's a capable, well-designed midsized truck. It could use some Americanized refinement in its interior and it has a few other quirks that might put some people off. Most of that can be attributed to the difference in expectation in the Ranger's now-primary markets (Australia, New Zealand, South America) versus North America. We suspect that when the Ranger comes up for redesign, which will be fairly soon, those things will improve.
The 2019 Ford Ranger has a starting price of US$24,300 plus delivery.
Product Page: 2019 Ford Ranger