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If you’re a bloke who spends his working day lugging stuff around and generally getting his hands dirty, choosing a pickup is easy - it’s all about raw practicality. If the payload is bigger or the towing capacity higher, then that’s the truck to go for. So in bare numbers, the new class champ is this - the Ford Ranger. With a payload of up to 1,152kg (the biggest in the class) and a towing capacity of 3.35 tonnes (also best in class), the on-paper stats are already attractive to those in need of a multi-purpose working vehicle. There’s a triplet of four-cylinder diesel variants to choose from - a 2.2-litre with 123bhp or 148bhp, and a 3.2-litre with 197bhp. The 2.2 will be the big seller, and in the more powerful (148bhp and 277lb ft) tune, there’s more than enough power. The acceleration is acceptable, but what’s more surprising is how responsive it is at speed - drop it into sixth and simply use the torque. For a pickup, the Ranger is relaxing to drive. It would be even more so if the refinement were better. The Ranger is fine as a workhorse, but a lot of pickups are now bought by people looking for a cheaper alternative to an SUV. Hence why Ford offers the fancy Wildtrak spec pictured here. But the Ranger’s rattling 2.2 diesel can’t cut it against more trad SUV engines - if you want refinement, you’ll need the 3.2. It’s still not quiet, but it is - marginally - better. A pity, because elsewhere the Ranger has a good breadth of ability. A good example is the steering. It’s a revelation. Light and precise, it makes the car feel small and less intimidating. And the ride is getting there as well. It seemed like Zebedee had set the old car up, but this one rides with a lot more sophistication. It’s not perfect. But then the flatbed - and therefore the suspension - has to cope with a huge variety of loads. Not an easy task.
Which is pretty much an allegory for the car as a whole - trying to please both a carpenter and a cyclist. New Ranger is much better than old, but the lower-grade specs and engines are still the best choices. Which means it’s still more labourer than lifestyle.